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300-megawatt solar plant crosses regulatory threshold in Millard County

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 18 2014 5:28 p.m. MST

A conditional use permit outlining operational requirements for what would be Utah's first utility-scale commercial solar field was issued Tuesday to a Provo-based company.

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FILLMORE — A conditional-use permit outlining operational requirements for what would be Utah's first utility-scale commercial solar field was issued Tuesday to a Provo-based company.

Energy Capital Group received a go-ahead endorsement by the Millard County Commission for its 300-megawatt solar project called ECG Utah Solar 1.

"Energy Capital Group is very pleased to have another project milestone achieved," said Josh Case, Energy Capital Group's chief executive officer. "ECG looks forward to deepening our relationship with Millard County as the project continues to progress."

The $600 million project is on 1,754 acres leased from the Utah School and Institutional Trust Land Administration and includes a transmission easement to the Intermountain Power Project about a mile away.

Utah Solar 1 plans to tap into the Intermountain project switchyard, where a high-voltage transmission line, the Southern Transmission System, goes directly to Adelanto, Calif. The project will be considered an in-state or in-state equivalent for meeting California's renewable energy standard of 33 percent because the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is the "balancing" authority at the Millard County switchyard.

Energy signed the SITLA lease in May 2013 and completed the required biological and cultural studies on the land that same summer. It is now receiving bids from engineering and construction firms.

The conditional-use permit granted by Millard County outlines certain requirements for Energy Capital Group, such as site vegetation protection, storm water control and what measures will be used to keep dust under control during its construction phase. The company has said more than 200 people will be employed by the project when the solar field is being constructed, which is still unsettled pending the negotiation of a power purchase agreement.

Last week, the world's largest solar thermal power project — the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating system — opened in Nevada. The 392-megawatt project is delivering power to southern California.

Elsewhere in Utah solar developments, a legislative committee Tuesday deferred action on a measure that would have made it easier for small businesses and residential customers to purchase renewable energy.

HB110, sponsored by Rep. Kraig Powell, R-Heber City, would allow cities or counties to be a "contract customer" for the benefit of residents or small businesses.

Chris Thomas, executive director of HEAL Utah, said the bill would allow greater flexibility in the renewable energy market for those who are interested.

"People want more options," Thomas said. "They want to be able to support renewable energy."

The Solar Energy Industries Association also weighed in on what it said was an "innovative" piece of energy legislation.

"By permitting this previously stifled demand for renewable energy to be expressed in the marketplace, Rep. Powell's bill will create opportunities for the development of renewable energy production facilities across the state of Utah," said Carrie Cullen Hitt.

In a letter submitted to the House Political Subdivisions Committee, Hitt said the association's members want to get in a market in Utah that is poised to take off.

"Thousands of customers want to buy renewable energy but can't," she said.

Under the measure, cities and counties could "aggregate" customer demand and purchase renewable energy on behalf of residents and businesses.

The bill was supported by Summit County and Salt Lake City but met with opposition from Rocky Mountain Power. Lawmakers did not advance the measure but agreed to study it during interim.

Utah currently has 21.2 megawatts of installed solar photovoltaic capacity, which includes rooftop solar, off-grid solar and the St. George SunSmart project. A megawatt is generally considered enough to power 1,000 homes.

Email: amyjoi@deseretnews.com

Twitter: amyjoi16

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