Hydropower converts the energy of flowing water into electricity. The amount of electricity generated is determined by the volume of water and the amount of "head" (the height from the turbines in the powerplant to the water surface) created by the dam. The greater the flow and head, the more electricity is produced.
Albeni Falls Dam holds back the Pend Oreille River and can produce power with a head of eight to 33 feet. Intake gates allow water to flow into the dam the turbines inside the powerhouse. As the water falls through a penstock it rotates a turbine, spinning a steel shaft that turns the generator's rotor. Large electromagnets are located around the outside of the wheel-like rotor frame. As the rotor turns, the electromagnets establish an alternating magnetic field that penetrates the stationary copper conductors in the coils of the generator stator. As the individual copper conductors in the coils are subjected to the alternating magnetic field, electrical energy is produced. The rotor has the magnetic poles, which generate electricity when they spin around the copper windings in the generator's stationary stator.
The powerhouse is capable of producing 42,000 kilowatts of electricity when generating at full capacity. Initially it is carried to the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) switchyard near the dam. BPA distributes and sells electricity produced at federal power plants in the Northwest to public and private utilities. Power generated at Albeni Falls is transmitted through the BPA grid to many regional locations, not only Idaho but also Washington, Oregon, Montana, California, Wyoming, Utah and Nevada.