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 commemorated its largest renewable energy procurement ever with the official groundbreaking of the 80 Megawatt solar farm known as 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.
In 2019, Salt Lake City set an ambitious goal of reaching 100% renewable electricity by 2030. Transitioning to clean energy will help the City reduce its carbon footprint and build more climate resilient communities. Last week, Salt Lake City took an exciting step towards reaching our climate goals.
The Utah Public Services Commission recently approved an application that allows Rocky Mountain Power to purchase the output from a large new solar farm to be built in Tooele County, Utah, on behalf of six large customers, including Salt Lake City Corp. This solar project, which will be among Rocky Mountain Power’s largest, will provide renewable energy to Salt Lake City Corporation, Park City, Summit County, Utah Valley University, Park City Mountain and Deer Valley ski resorts.
For Salt Lake City, this project will help meet nearly 90% of the City’s municipal electricity needs by 2023.
This means that Salt Lake City’s government buildings and operations will primarily source its electricity from renewable energy. This substantial shift to renewable energy is projected to increase in the city’s electric bill by less than 2%.
Next Steps Towards Community-Wide Renewable Energy
Moving Salt Lake City’s internal electric consumption to renewable energy is a first step towards community-wide renewable energy. In 2019, the Utah State legislature passed HB411, the Community Renewable Energy Act. This law establishes a legal pathway for communities serviced by Rocky Mountain Power to create a net-100% renewable electricity portfolio.
Salt Lake City recently “flipped the switch” on its latest municipal solar installation on the roof of the Sorenson Multi-Cultural Center. The 360-panel array was funded in part by a grant from Rocky Mountain Power’s Blue Sky customers and will generate about 34 percent of the amount of electricity the Sorenson Community Campus consumes annually. This amount of solar generation is equivalent to burning about 129,000 pounds of coal annually.
The 115-kilowatt system was installed as part of the Campus’ larger two-year renovation project.
Through its Blue Sky program, Rocky Mountain Power agreed to fund 41 percent of eligible project costs, up to a maximum of $140,000. The remainder of the solar installation is being funded by the Salt Lake City Sustainability Department.
“We are thrilled to unveil this impressive solar array at Salt Lake City’s flagship community center serving our Glendale and Poplar Grove residents,” Mayor Erin Mendenhall said. “We’re committed to bringing the benefits of clean energy to all areas of our city and we extend our deepest gratitude to Rocky Mountain Power and its Blue Sky participants for making this possible.”
Blue Sky is an opt-in program that gives Rocky Mountain Power customers the opportunity to financially support renewable energy development. Since 2006, Rocky Mountain Power’s Blue Sky customers have voluntarily supported wind and solar energy generation in the region. Blue Sky has provided more than $11 million in funding to community-based renewable energy projects.
The Sorenson Community Campus includes both the Sorenson Unity Center and the Sorenson Multi-Cultural Center. The Sorenson Unity Center, located at 1383 S 900 W, houses a fitness center, computer labs and technology center, classrooms, a theater space, art galleries, and more. It offers many community programs, including donated dental services, tax prep assistance, early Head Start, and afterschool and summer programs run by Salt Lake City’s Youth & Family Division.
The Sorenson Multi-Cultural Center offers many youth and adult programs and houses a swimming pool, boxing gym, drop-in childcare, and basketball gyms.
“The installation of a solar array on the Sorenson Campus is a great complement to our educational offerings and community programming,” said Ken Perko, Associate Director of the Division of Youth and Family Services. “Patrons will be able to see the impact of solar production from a cost-savings and energy efficiency standpoint, allowing us to provide direct connections to our environmental education programs.”
“Organizations like the Sorenson Center play a crucial role in our communities and we are grateful to our Blue Sky customers for making renewable projects like these possible,” said Bill Comeau, Rocky Mountain Power Vice President for Customer Solutions.
The Sorenson solar installation is the latest clean energy project for Salt Lake City. The City has installed solar on over a dozen buildings, purchased 3 MW of Subscriber Solar from Rocky Mountain Power, and is working to source at least half of its municipal electric consumption from renewable sources. The City is also partnering with Rocky Mountain Power to achieve net-100 percent clean electricity for the whole Salt Lake City community by 2030. Twenty-two other Utah communities are also currently participating in this initiative.
Participate in a survey that can help determine future rates, and the future of the solar industry in Utah.
We love clean energy! And rooftop solar is no exception.
Also known as “distributed solar”, this is the on-site solar energy that powers businesses and homes with panels installed on rooftops or mounted on the ground. Regardless of the location or size of array, distributed solar is an important step towards a clean energy grid.
These on-site arrays not only save money, they help reduce air pollution and carbon emissions.
Now, home and business owners with rooftop solar have the opportunity to show just how important their solar is. The Utah Public Service Commission is set to evaluate the credit residential solar customers receive for the energy exported to the grid. To help demonstrate the impact of clean solar power to our communities, the organization Vote Solar is conducting a study of rooftop solar in Utah.
If you have rooftop solar, you may have recently received a letter from Rocky Mountain Power about this topic. The letter references signing up to participate in the study. What this entails is allowing your solar array details and usage data to be shared with the non-profit Vote Solar— not with Rocky Mountain Power.
The study will analyzethe benefit that rooftop solar provides to the overall grid. Sign up here.
This has been a contentious topic for several years, and was a key issue in a rates compromise brokered two years ago. (Read more on the SLCgreen blog and in the Salt Lake Tribune).
The data from this survey– and the next phase in the ratemaking– could have significant impacts on the future of the solar industry in Utah. That’s something we all should care about!
The need to continue investing in clean renewable resources is critical and benefits our environment, economy, and public health. The average 5 kilowatt solar installation helps home owners and businesses save 50 percent on their energy bills (resulting in $700 savings per year) and prevents 12,159 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions.
A fair evaluation is critical to determining future rates for rooftop solar owners. Among other impacts, the rate structure could have ripple effects on the solar industry in Utah and the 6,000 solar jobs it supports. So if you have rooftop solar, we encourage you to consider signing up to join the study.
Salt Lake City is excited to host the Solar Power International (SPI) Conference this week, running from September 23-26th. The conference focuses on all things clean energy, bringing together companies and professionals involved in the industry to engage with each other about solar energy and its development.
The SPI Conference was first hosted in 2004, and has since grown alongside the growing solar industry. The conference provides a time and place for those involved in the progression of solar energy, energy efficiency, and energy storage to exchange ideas, share knowledge, and create connections within the industry.
Mayor Biskupski will be participating in the conference, discussing the state of solar in our city and our ambitious carbon plan, Climate Positive SLC.
Other SLCgreen staff will be participating on panel discussions and attending the series of events.
Did you see the news about Salt Lake City’s grand opening of Fire Station 3 last week?
We are thrilled our fire crews have a new home base from which to work, rest, and recover.
Station 3 is the second Net Zero fire station in the country behind Station No. 14, and Salt Lake City is home to the only two Net Zero energy fire stations in the U.S!
Net Zero means the Station will produce as much energy as it consumes on an annual basis. It’s also expected to become certified as LEED Gold, which means it meets a range of holistic sustainability benchmarks, including material management, waste diversion, water conservation, energy efficiency, renewable energy, and more.
Salt Lake City’s internal Comprehensive Sustainability Policy (6.01.02) specifies that all new municipal construction should be evaluated to meet Net Zero energy standards (if over 10,000 square feet), as well as LEED Gold.
Station 3 is one example of Salt Lake City’s commitment to sustainability, as well as the 100 percent renewable-energy goal described in our Climate Positive 2040 plan. The thoughtful design features are anticipated to result in long-term environmental and economic benefits for our city and the surrounding areas. Read more
One of SLCgreen’s goals is to inspire action locally and nationally around climate change. Mayor Biskupski is a leader of several national coalitions to do exactly this– including the Sierra Club’s Mayors for 100% Clean Energy and the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Alliance for a Sustainable Future committee– and we’re privileged to support her work at that level.
It’s also critical to organize locally and we’ve put together workshops and meetings with fellow local governments to discuss how Utah can be a leader on climate and air quality.
Solar panels and the Wasatch Mountains. Shot on the roof of Salt Lake City’s Public Safety Building.
Sixteen local governments from Salt Lake City to Provo, Moab to Park City, Cottonwood Heights to Heber, and more joined us in calling for increased cooperation to mitigate climate disruption. Read more
September 14, 2017: Mayor Biskupski announces the completion of rooftop solar installations on seven city buildings, totaling 756 panels and 320,000 kW/year.
On Thursday at Fire Station 10, Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski, Fire Chief Karl Lieb and Tyler Poulson from the Sustainability Department discussed the City’s recent investment in solar power on seven separate municipal facilities, including five fire stations.
This latest round of installations doubles the total number of Salt Lake City municipal sites with solar energy to 14 separate facilities. When combined with the City’s recent enrollment in the Rocky Mountain Power Subscriber Solar Program, the total amount of renewable energy projects equals roughly 12 percent of annual electricity needs for City government facilities.
The locations receiving solar installations thus far in 2017 include Fire Station 1, Fire Station 4, Fire Station 7, Fire Station 10, Fire Station 13, Regional Athletic Complex and Pioneer Police Precinct. In total, 756 solar panels were added and they will provide between 17 percent and 92 percent of onsite annual electricity needs, depending on the facility. Read more
On Monday, the Governor’s Office of Energy Development issued news that a significant agreement had been reached between parties previously at odds over how to move forward with rooftop solar development in Utah.
The main point of contention was how to compensate rooftop solar owners for the excess electricity they sell back to the utility. In November 2016, Rocky Mountain Power proposed a change in their rate structure that could make it more difficult for homeowners to afford solar panels.
Because Salt Lake City is committed to advancing clean energy and supports the growth in rooftop solar, we opposed the proposed changes to the rate structure. In other states, notably Nevada, where similar changes have taken effect, the solar industry has imploded.
At about the same time, the Governor’s Office of Energy Development stepped in, outside of the formal Public Service Commission process, to try and broker an agreement on this thorny issue. Read more