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Salt Lake City’s Largest Renewable Energy Project Has Broken Ground

by SLCgreen Clean Energy Intern Monica O’Malley

Salt Lake City Corporation has been using renewable energy to support government operations since 2005, when the Public Utilities Department started turning methane into energy at the city’s wastewater treatment plant. Since then, the City has steadily added to its renewable energy profile. By installing solar panels on over a dozen city facilities, becoming the largest subscriber to Rocky Mountain Power’s Subscribe Solar program, and establishing the Salt Lake City Solar Farm, Salt Lake City is able to source roughly 14% of its municipal electricity from renewable energy sources.  Although 14% is certainly an accomplishment, it does not fulfill the City’s ambitious goals of achieving 50% renewable electricity for municipal operations by 2020 and 100% by 2030.  After taking small steps towards these goals for so many years, Salt Lake City is finally ready to run. 

On October 18th in Tooele County, the City and partner communities including Park City, commemorated its largest renewable energy procurement ever with the official groundbreaking of the 80 Megawatt solar farm known as the Elektron Solar Project. The project will support the energy needs of 6 major customers, including three local governments (Salt Lake City, Park City, and Summit County), Utah Valley University, and two ski resorts (Deer Valley Resort and Park City Mountain).

Representatives from Salt Lake City and other organizations stand in a large muddy field with shovels at the Elektron Solar Project groundbreaking event. They are all in colorful windbreakers and white Elektron Solar hardhats.
Salt Lake City helps break ground for the Elektron Solar Project.

Elektron Solar Project Will Take Salt Lake City to 50% Municipal Renewable Electricity Goal

With this extraordinary project, Salt Lake City will reach and likely exceed its 50% renewable energy goal for municipal electricity.  When the solar farm is up and running in 2023, it will power between 50 and 90% of the City’s municipal electricity consumption. Because electricity generation is responsible for over 50% of Salt Lake City’s municipal GHG emissions, the Electron Project will greatly reduce city emissions, helping to achieve the City’s emission reduction goals and improve air quality. 

Not only does the Elektron Solar Project enable Salt Lake City and other customers to achieve its municipal renewable energy goals, but it does so with an extremely modest price increase that falls well within the normal year-to-year variation. It was determined that if the Elektron Solar Project was operating in 2019, the City would have been able to source almost 90% of its electricity consumption from the project while seeing its electricity bill increase by less than 2%.   

The Elektron Solar Project’s 80 Megawatt solar farm serves as an example of how successful future large-scale renewable energy procurement can be.  An upcoming Community Renewable Energy Program will give Salt Lake City residents and businesses the option to source up to 100% of their total electricity consumption from renewable energy sources like solar and wind.  Because there are not enough solar farms and wind turbines in Utah to meet this high demand for renewable energy, the Program will require more renewable energy procurement.  Though every renewable energy project is different and will entail different costs, the Elektron Solar Project shows that utility-scale renewable energy procurement is not only possible, it’s affordable. 

The Elektron Project is an impressive milestone in the City’s race to reach 100% renewable electricity for government operations.  We look forward to seeing how this Project progresses as it paves the way for other large-scale renewable energy investments that support the City’s transition to clean energy. 

Salt Lake City Sustainability Department's Sophia Nicholas, Debbie Lyons, and Christopher Thomas stand at the groundbreaking event wearing large green reflective vests, white hardhats, and holding large shovels.
Sustainability Deputy Director Sophia Nicholas, Director Debbie Lyons, and Senior Energy & Climate Program Manager Christopher Thomas at the Elektron Solar Project Groundbreaking event.
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