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

Johnson told the Deseret News that he's never sent out any press releases, and neither has his company — even though the press releases promote his company, his technology, accurately describe his former career working for AT&T and include quotes from him or his son, Randy Johnson, who is vice president and secretary of the company, according to its stock business statements.

"IAS has never put out any kind of press releases on the project itself," Neldon Johnson said. "Other people may say whatever they choose to say about them, I don’t have any control over that."

An Internet search shows announcements dating back more than a decade, such as:

• In 2002, the IAUS bladeless turbine solar technology was extolled in a Hawaiian venture that could also generate hydrogen power and green methanol in a project that was celebrated at the time but never came to pass. The press release lists Randy Johnson, and a telephone number for IAUS as a source for more information. The Hawaii Office of Energy Development said no such project came to fruition using the IAUS bladeless "propulsion" turbine.

• In 2006, a press release said a new solar thermal project in Nevada would use IAUS technology. The deal was described as a 100-megawatt, $150 million purchase and installation contract signed by IAUS. Nevada Power officials said no such plant exists. Neldon Johnson recently said, "I am not aware of the press release, I am not aware of the project."

As of this week, the press release remained on the IAUS website.

• In 2008, describing his Millard County solar project to news reporters, Neldon Johnson said a California consortium had already bought into it, and it soon would be producing power.

"These panels are built out of rogue plastic, and that is about as cheap as you can get," he said, also noting "no pollution, no CO2 to worry about, and everybody is happy, and we're coming in for a better price than coal."

Yet no power is being generated, according to Smith and state energy officials.

• In 2009, Neldon Johnson's IAUS solar technology was part of a deal inked between another company and the city of Needles, Calif., to propel that community to be the nation's first solar-only city. City officials said the solar project never got off the ground in part because of questions over the technology and a proposed price increase that the city rejected.

Johnson said the failure of the Needles project rested with the other company because it could not generate the capital, but news accounts at the time also say that it was IAUS's intent to "construct, own and operate," a 5-megawatt solar electric power plant outside the city.

"We went down there and we told Needles what we had to offer and Needles was excited about what we had to offer, but the company that was doing it did not have any capital. They were trying to raise money, and they never did," Johnson said.

The company declared bankruptcy in December of 2011. Details about the Needles project remained on the IAUS website this week.

In 2012, a PRWeb release about a solar company, SOLCO Energy, and the IAUS technology said the sound of bladeless turbines spinning "green power" in the western desert of Utah is "fiscal music to the ears" of companies' CEOs. The press release also links to a KSL story that aired in 2008 describing the towers in Delta and the promise of power.

The Utah Governor's Office of Energy Development said it knows of no such project.

Neldon Johnson said he was not aware of the press release sent out in 2012 yet says he is the manager of the company that markets his product. The state Division of Corporations identifies SOLCO Energy's registered agent as LaGrand Johnson, who is also chief financial officer of IAUS and its general manager of research and development.

Project questions

In Millard County, Smith said the towers were never granted the building permits with an eye to being a major power source producer, but as an experimental prototype.

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