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Are Utahn's solar projects just pie in the sky? Claims raise questions in Millard County, elsewhere

Published: Saturday, Dec. 21 2013 4:50 p.m. MST

This solar "tree" is one of several that were put in west of Delta in Millard County, part of a solar project that has never received a license to operate. Millard County officials want the company to cease activity.

Courtesy photo

DELTA — For more than a decade, a Utah company has been touting its "revolutionary" low-cost solar technology, with projects announced in four states.

But those four projects have yet to generate any significant power, despite detailed announcements and news stories about planned multimillion-dollar solar plants.

The failure to produce any significant solar energy has several people asking questions about the company's proposals and the technology itself, and it has some officials wondering if the man behind the effort is trying to generate interest — and money — at the expense of a community's trust.

In Millard County, officials there say they are frustrated over their dealings with Neldon Johnson and his company International Automated Systems because of his failure to obtain necessary permits and licenses associated with his solar project, despite demanding them since 2011.

"(Johnson) has really been quite hostile with us," said Millard County Commissioner Daron Smith. The claims of a power-producing solar installation generate buzz about its investment potential, he said, but the claims leave county officials confused about what is happening in their own community.

Johnson is founder, CEO and president of IAUS, which has partnered with at least four companies in promising breakthrough technology that will change the renewable energy market. He has built several tall solar towers west of Delta near Hinckley.

But county officials say little is known about those towers.

Despite Johnson's claims of revolutionary technology, representatives of the Utah state energy office and the national Solar Energy Industries Association said they are unfamiliar with the technology and don't know how or whether it works.

In the past, IAUS and Johnson have caught the attention of federal regulatory officials because of claims he made about other kinds of technology that never came to fruition. A complaint by the Securities and Exchange Commission was filed against him and IAUS in 1998, and a federal court order bars him from violating any section of the law that deals with securities fraud or any type of fraud or deceit.

Johnson settled the SEC complaint, and the government wanted him to pay $2.5 million from the profits he made plus interest, but the payment was waived because of his unspecified "financial condition," court documents state.

Even Johnson agrees that none of the projects have generated any major power over the years — beyond a demonstration project in 2006 in Mesquite, Nev., that he said was successful.

Over the years, there have been multiple announcements promoting Johnson's IAUS solar technology — similar to announcements and press releases he disseminated in the mid-1990s regarding other types of IAUS computer technology. Such publicity for that technology drove up stock prices and earned him more than a million dollars in profits.

There have been many press releases over the past decade promoting Johnson's latest "breakthrough" solar technology, but Johnson told the Deseret News that neither he nor anyone affiliated with his company, IAUS, were behind those press releases. Yet company officials' names and phone numbers appear on several of the press releases as someone to contact for more information — and several of those press releases are posted on the company's websites.

IAUS and RaPower3

For the past several years, IAUS has partnered with Utah company RaPower3, described on its website as a renewable energy company. Documents filed with the state indicate a close relationship between the two companies. RaPower3's registered agent is Neldon Johnson, and its website states that it is exclusively licensed to use the IAUS "industry-changing solar technology."

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