SALT LAKE CITY — Some of Utah’s big energy consumers will be getting a significant amount of power from a planned solar plant in Tooele County, helping them to reach their renewable energy goals much more quickly than planned.
Thanks to approval from the Utah Public Service Commission of a renewable energy tariff for Rocky Mountain Power, the project is due to come online in 2023 and will be one of the largest solar energy generators in the utility company’s system.
The six customers with commitments for the energy are: Salt Lake City, Park City, Summit County, Utah Valley University, Park City Mountain and Deer Valley ski resorts.
The Elektron Solar project is owned and will be constructed by D.E. Shaw Renewable Investments in collaboration with Enyo Renewable Energy, a renewable energy developer based in Utah.
Enyo and D.E. Shaw Renewable Investments will be responsible for generating more than 275 megawatt hours of energy in northern Utah via customer-driven solar capacity under construction beginning in 2021 and into 2022. A megawatt is a million watts of electricity.
UVU President Astrid Tuminez said the Tooele solar plant will provide more than 90% of the campus’ electricity needs and put the university soundly on the path of being carbon neutral by 2050.
UVU will receive about 23% of the project’s solar generation, said Frank Young, associate vice president of facilities planning for the university.
The campus’ energy needs demand about 42,000 kilowatt hours on an annual basis. The Tooele County plant will generate about 40,200 of those hours needed for yearly operations, he added.
“It’s really great,” Young said. “We have had an aggressive program to do energy savings and this feeds right into that.”
Salt Lake City will be the solar plant’s largest energy recipient.
“This project is the biggest clean energy achievement Salt Lake City Corp. has made to date, but it will not be the last,” said Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall. “We set the goal of generating 50% of our municipal power needs through clean energy and this will get us to nearly 90%.”
Mendenhall said the next goal is to achieve net 100% clean energy electricity for the entire community.
Lisa Yoder, Summit County’s sustainability manager, said the Tooele project will ultimately help county operations reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 30% and also help it reach its goal of 100% renewable energy seven years ahead of the target year of 2030. Summit County accounts for just under 7% of the contract total.
The project is expected to generate 100 construction jobs and provide revenue for both Tooele County and the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration, which owns the land where the project will be sited.
The school trust lands administration is reporting an incredible surge of interest in renewable energy projects, particularly solar, across the state on parcels of land it owns.
“We have two wind leases and 23 solar leases,” said Ron Torgerson, deputy assistant director for school trust lands.
“There have been a steady flow of applications for school trust lands, which is good.”
Torgerson said those 23 applications for solar don’t include two more that are under review.
The administration, which earns revenue directed to Utah schools, will get money once a lease is secured and then additional revenue after the project is operational.
The last board of trustees expert named to serve for SITLA is a renewable energy expert expected to guide the entity into new horizons that include green hydrogen generated from solar energy production.
Torgerson has oversight of the ambitious Castle Solar lease, which offers expansive development of 450 acres that will not only include the solar features, but a canal, a power substation and more.
He said it will easily be the most efficiently used parcel of land within the administration’s portfolio once complete.
Rocky Mountain Power’s partner, D.E. Shaw Renewable Investments, has an accomplished track record in the renewable energy arena. According to its website, it has invested in more than 36 wind and solar projects, including the nation’s first offshore wind farm.