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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

Greg Shepard, RaPower3's chief director of operations, is pictured with Johnson in 2006 as a participant in the IAUS solar lease program in an "exclusive" story released by Pure Energy Systems, a news and networking service promoting clean energy technologies.

Shepard, in a video on his company's website, describes the delivery of equipment for 150 towers at the Hinckley site that will be "the solution to the nation's energy challenge."

On the website, a 10-megawatt energy project is described as one of several in development in Millard County.

Shepard, when contacted by the Deseret News, declined to answer questions about the specifics of the project or who would get the potential power. The RaPower3 website describes "power plants" it says it has that have a far lower cost of operation than any other competing technology.

Shepard declined to answer questions about those power plants.

Millard project

In the Millard County project, officials said Johnson has three building permits but lacks the conditional use permit or business license associated with the smattering of solar towers his company erected on a patch of ground just less than five acres west of Hinckley, Smith said.

Johnson denied being out of compliance with the county's permit requirements.

"I don't know what they are saying. As far as I know, we have complied with everything they have asked us to do," he told the Deseret News. "It makes no sense for us not to comply."

But in a June 8, 2011, violation issued by the Millard County Planning and Zoning Department, officials wrote that Johnson was using the company website of RaPower3 and "continuing to recruit investors and selling your product with your principal offices in Deseret, Utah, as well as holding a convention in Salt Lake City June 27-29. We require that you have a conditional use permit and a business license to continue to do business in Millard County."

Smith said inquiries about an unrelated solar generation project have started questions anew, so the county is reiterating its demands that Johnson come into compliance by submitting the proper paperwork.

A second notice of violation was sent to Johnson Oct. 22, demanding paperwork be submitted to county officials or he could face civil and criminal penalties. An official with the county planning office said Johnson had not responded to the latest demand so the office was preparing to have him served.

Projects in 4 states

Smith said he and county officials have fielded questions from the public about Johnson's Millard County project.

"I had an investor from Las Vegas who wanted to know where the $100 million solar plant was in Millard County," Smith said. "I told him it doesn't exist."

Smith said he believes the project is being described and promoted as something it is not.

"We've been asked if it is in our county and if it is being built," Smith said. "We do not have an active solar project functioning in Millard County."

The RaPower3 website also describes a manufacturing plant that Smith said does not exist, although county documents show Johnson obtained an electrical permit for what's known as the old Oasis seed building.

Publicity question

As Johnson's company, which also goes by IAS, has been linked to various projects over the years, there is an initial burst of publicity in renewable energy forums or online business news, followed by little else.

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