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).
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.
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.
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.
With the votes yesterday from Coalville and West Valley City, 19 communities in Utah have now joined Salt Lake City in passing resolutions opting into the process created under HB411, the Community Renewable Energy Act.
HB411 was made possible in part through the work between Rocky Mountain Power and Salt Lake City, Park City, Summit County, and Moab, cities that had previously committed to net-100% renewable energy. In 2016, Salt Lake City committed to becoming powered by 100% clean energy by 2032, updating the goal to 2030 earlier this year as the legislation requires.
Passing a resolution by December 31, 2019 is the first step in the public and regulatory process and allows communities to participate in further rulemaking and ratemaking at the Utah Public Service Commission. It also kicks off the process for additional public outreach, which will also allow any Rocky Mountain Power customer in a given participating community to opt-out of the renewable portfolio if they so choose.
“This is very exciting progress,” said Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski, who also serves as Co-Chair of Sierra Club’s Mayor’s for 100% Clean Energy. “The collaboration we’re demonstrating in Utah—between residents, communities, and our investor-owned utility, Rocky Mountain Power– is not happening anywhere else in the country.
“We’re showing that we can work together to tackle big problems and to seize opportunities. Twenty communities have now taken the first step in moving toward a net-100% clean electricity future as outlined in the Community Renewable Energy Act. I look forward to seeing the continued public processes unfold and I want to express my gratitude to everyone who has been involved in helping us reach this huge milestone.”
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.
In July, we said goodbye to long-time program manager Bridget Stuchly who launched and ran our local food programs for 11 years. In August, we welcomed new team member Supreet Gill. Then, last week, we moved offices from the first floor to the fourth floor in the City County Building.
Today we eat the last donut with our co-worker Tyler Poulson, who’s been with SLCgreen since 2013. He and his wife are moving out of state.
We’re a tight team at SLCgreen and while we hate to see our co-workers go (even though we know it’s for new and exciting chapters), it does give us an opportunity to reflect on all they’ve done and how our community has been shaped by their service.
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.
But we still have a window to act. That’s why it’s critical for local governments to drive policies that reduce energy consumption, catalyze renewable energy development, and transform our transportation sector.
In addition to creating our own plan, Climate Positive SLC, we need to work together to achieve the kind of change our planet and future requires.
That’s why the Mayor has taken leadership roles in a number of high-profile networks, including Sierra Club’s Mayors for 100% Clean Energy, Climate Mayors, and locally with Path to Positive Utah. She was also recently appointed to chair the Alliance for a Sustainable Future Committee of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
It’s also important, as Utah’s capital city, for us to lead locally and share the expertise and experience we have with other cities and towns. We can and must be stronger together.
That was the intention behind last week’s meeting, which was co-hosted with the Salt Lake City chapter of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby. It garnered interest from mayors and councilmembers from Utah cities and towns representing 750,000 residents which is 24 percent of the state’s total population.
SLCgreen staff member Tyler Poulson on a tour of a large solar farm in Parowan, Utah, 2015.
Check out Tyler Poulson, Salt Lake City’s sustainability program manager, on the HEAL Utah podcast! He chats with HEAL’s Matt Pacenza about several key climate and energy issues including Utah Climate Week, coming up October 8-14. Tyler also offers his take on the recent rooftop solar settlement reached between Rocky Mountain Power and other stakeholders.