Solar is going to happen here, and this is an enormous project that we all hope will be a success. —Jeffrey Barrett
PROVO — The project is a few years out and permits are left to obtain, but the Utah Office of Energy Development is more than a little lit up over a planned solar project for Millard County.
If Provo-based Energy Capital Group can successfully negotiate power purchase agreements and get plugged in, it will deliver one of the country's largest utility-scale solar projects — and the first for Utah.
"They are in the early stage of development, but I feel good about it," said Jeffrey Barrett, the infrastructure and incentive manager for the Utah Office of Energy Development. "They have everything lined up and are going down the right paths."
Josh Case, CEO of Energy Capital Group, said Tuesday the project reached a milestone in moving further up the line for an interconnection study.
In May, the company secured a lease to 1,754 acres from the School Institutional and Trust Lands Administration for a field of single-axle tracking panels to follow the sun's course in the sky.
Case and his crew have been working with Millard County to secure a conditional-use permit and are also going through the state application process for Utah Alternative Energy Development incentives.
The $600 million project, dubbed Solar 1, would ultimately create 200 construction jobs and generate enough energy to power 80,000 homes. It would hook into the Intermountain Power Plant at Delta and include a high-voltage, direct-current line that goes directly to California because of market conditions driven by state requirements.
A report released Tuesday by the American Council on Renewable Energy notes that Utah, unlike other states in the region, does not have a mandatory renewable portfolio standard. There is a voluntary renewable portfolio goal of 20 percent by 2025, and the state is home to three solar zones dubbed ideal for large-scale development and expedited permitting by the federal government.
Although it came from a small starting point, Utah saw its solar capacity grow by more than 127 percent in 2012.
Barrett said he believes the timing has tipped in favor of solar development in Utah.
"Solar is going to happen here," he said, "and this is an enormous project that we all hope will be a success."
The solar development that exists now in Utah consists of smaller scale projects that are installed to offset energy consumption — such as the Salt Palace Convention Center, which generates 1.65 megawatts, and IKEA with its generation of just over 1 megawatt, Barrett said.
In June, Infinia began testing its first block of solar thermal generators at the Tooele Army Depot, where the array of 429 units will have an installed capacity of 1.5 megawatts. When operational, it will provide 30 percent of the base's power needs.
"To date, no one has done a project to sell solar on large scale to a utility," he said. "There have been a handful of projects that have been proposed, and they are in various stages of development."
Case said he is hopeful that Solar 1 will be in operational within two to three years.