Salt Lake City and Partners Get Closer to Ambitious Clean Energy Goals With Ground Breaking on 80 Megawatt Solar Farm
Salt Lake City celebrated a huge milestone in its goal of sourcing nearly 100 percent of municipal electricity from clean energy sources by joining partners in breaking ground on an 80 megawatt Solar Farm Tuesday morning.
Mayor Erin Mendenhall joined Rocky Mountain Power; renewable energy developers D. E. Shaw Renewable Investments (DESRI) and Enyo Renewable Energy; Swinerton Renewable Energy; and five other large customers to officially break ground on the 80 Megawatt (MWac) solar farm in Tooele County known as the Elektron Solar project.
“Today we celebrate one of Utah’s most significant renewable energy collaborations,” said Mayor Mendenhall. “Not only will it be among the largest solar farms connected to Rocky Mountain Power’s Utah grid, it’s unique because of all of the partners that came together to make this happen.”
The Elektron Solar project is the result of collaboration between six customers that aggregated their demand for renewable energy into a Request for Proposals (RFP) hosted by Rocky Mountain Power for a large solar farm.
Elektron Solar was selected through the RFP process, and the Public Service Commission approved Rocky Mountain Power’s application last year. The application made use of the Schedule 34 Renewable Energy Tariff, allowing large customers of Rocky Mountain Power to work through the utility to source renewable energy to meet the organizations’ clean energy goals.
The six customers include three local governments (Salt Lake City, Park City, and Summit County), one higher-education institution (Utah Valley University), and two ski resorts (Deer Valley Resort and Park City Mountain).
Each customer has an aggressive clean energy goal that will be met through the project.
Vicki Bennett’s remarkable 20-year career with Salt Lake City Corporation reflects the changes in local and national work to protect the environment and act on climate. As director, Vicki has overseen SLCgreen’s work to reduce carbon emissions, improve city-wide waste diversion, support air quality initiatives, ensure that the City is prioritizing community sustainability, and direct equitable policies related to food security and energy. Under Vicki’s direction, Salt Lake City has become an internationally-recognized leader in sustainability.
After 20 years, SLCgreen’s beloved director is retiring. Vicki leaves an outstanding legacy, and she will be deeply missed by her friends and colleagues in the City. Her retirement gives us an opportunity to take a look at Vicki’s many accomplishments, and how our community has been shaped by her dedicated service.
Vicki became the Environmental Manager for Salt Lake City Corporation in 2001, a role meant to help regulate chemical use and reduce environmental pollution in the city. However, environmental work was quickly shifting towards addressing climate change. Vicki’s role expanded into sustainability, a field that connects equity and economic stability with environmental protection.
Thanks to Vicki, SLCgreen grew into one of the first sustainability departments in the country. As a Environmental Manager, Vicki served on Governor Huntsman’s Blue Ribbon Advisory Council on Climate Change in 2007. During Mayor Ralph Becker’s administration, Vicki was placed in charge of a new Sustainability Division. SLCgreen eventually became its own department under Mayor Jackie Biskupski.
The realities of climate change became more and more apparent over that time. As a result, Vicki’s work shifted from climate mitigation to long-term adaptation and resilience. In the changing landscape of climate action, Vicki has continued to shape a vision of sustainability that supports the most vulnerable in our communities and activates our residents to participate in climate work on all levels.
Vicki’s steady leadership and stalwart commitment to advocacy has positioned Salt Lake City as an international leader in climate action. Vicki’s legacy is one of collaboration and dedication to connecting with others in order to make positive changes.
When world governments called on countries to commit to emissions reductions in the Kyoto Protocol, Salt Lake City was one of the first cities to join. Examining energy efficiency and tracking carbon emissions was the first step in addressing Salt Lake City’s sustainability goals.
Vicki’s ability to connect with people locally and around the world has helped Salt Lake City focus on critical sustainability initiatives. In Utah, she is a founding member of the award-winningUtah Climate Action Network, a group dedicated to collaborating on climate action in Utah. Vicki also helped launch the Urban Sustainability Directors Network, an organization dedicated to “connecting local government practitioners to accelerate urban sustainability.”
Salt Lake City Passes Joint Resolution Establishing Electrified Transportation Goals
Salt Lake City’s new Electrified Transportation Resolution, a joint resolution between Mayor Erin Mendenhall and the City Council, establishes a joint commitment to incorporate and promote clean energy transportation technology as an important solution in reducing carbon emissions and pollutants that impact air quality.
The resolution includes goals of electrifying modes of transportation that have historically relied on gasoline, diesel or natural gas. Through the resolution, the City commits to expanding electric vehicles for its internal fleet and to working with external partners to electrify public transit and smart mobility platforms such as rideshare and car share. Through expansion of electric vehicle infrastructure, the City aims to encourage greater adoption of electric vehicle technology by the public and non-government fleets.
“As our city continues its push toward better air quality and environmental resilience, distilling our goals for electric transportation and committing to shifting our fleet is the right move,” Mayor Mendenhall said.
“This is another solid step toward the City’s ongoing commitment to use cleaner energy and reduce pollution,” said City Council Chair Amy Fowler. “Both government and private industry must continue to take every action possible to enable clean fuel usage.”
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.
Earlier this spring we experienced a period of clean air due to lock-downs put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, Salt Lake City’s summer air quality has been recently impacted by smoke from nearby and regional wildfires, as well as from higher ozone pollution that is typical in the summer.
Bad air quality threatens everyone’s health, particularly those with sensitive respiratory systems. The effects of bad air even have the potential to make COVID-19 even worse.Your lungs are already irritated and inflamed due to pollution, and this makes them more susceptible to infections like COVID.
Ironically, the pandemic – coupled with rising temperatures caused by climate change – are also behind the record number of human-caused fires in Utah. The feedback loop linking pandemic, fires, and bad air is disturbing, but there are ways we can take actions to help protect the air.
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.