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Utah embraces trio of renewable energy firsts

Published: Friday, April 4 2014 6:24 p.m. MDT

Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, Ted Wilson of Utah Clean Air Partnership and Cody Stewart, Gov. Gary Herbert's energy adviser, unveil an electric vehicle charging infrastructure at the Salt Lake County government center in Salt Lake City on Thursday, April 3, 2014.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah turned a page in the renewable energy handbook this week, embracing a triad of "firsts" that is positioning the state for a future with fewer carbon emissions.

On Thursday, state officials joined Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams and the Utah Clean Air Partnership to unveil the state's first electric fast-charging station for public use along the Wasatch Front.

The direct current charging station has a 480-volt rate that is able to charge in 10 to 40 minutes and is a key step along the way to boosting the infrastructure for electric vehicle owners, McAdams said.

Earlier in the week, Scatec Solar announced plans to start construction later this year on an 80-megawatt solar plant in Iron County — a first in that area. When complete, it will deliver power to PacifiCorp and be the state's largest commercial solar field.

And Wednesday, Utah Clean Energy was picked by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to operate one of six new regional wind energy resource centers in the nation.

In the case of the local nonprofit advocacy organization, it will operate the Four Corners Wind Resource Center, guiding a consortium of industry, government and other groups to promote development of wind energy resources against a best-practices backdrop.

The hat trick in renewable energy signals a new momentum for some.

"This says to me that market forces are moving forward," said Samantha Mary Julian, director of the Utah Office of Energy Development. "We have been seeing one activity after the other. It is really cool and exciting. Utah is starting to take hold of renewable energy efficiencies and clean transportation."

Julian's office has been an integral partner in these efforts and worked with Wisconsin-based ABB to secure the charging station at the Salt Lake County Government Building, 2001 S. State, and two others slated to come online in the downtown area near The Leonardo.

The Utah Office of Energy Department is also a state partner for Utah Clean Energy's wind resource center, which is on tap to launch in May.

Sarah Wright, executive director of Utah Clean Energy, said the center will serve the southwest region, delivering information on challenges facing wind development, educating communities and policymakers and working to overcome cross-boundary issues.

“By providing fact-based information on wind energy development, the Four Corners Wind Resource Center will ensure that stakeholders and decision-makers understand the technology, costs, impacts and benefits of adding wind energy to their portfolios and communities,” Wright said.

"Our goal is to make wind energy more affordable and accessible, while ensuring that decision-makers at all levels have the information they need to make sound decisions,” she said.

On the solar front, a project delayed by the economy's nosedive in 2009 is now moving forward in Iron County. The Utah Red Hills Renewable Energy Park will generate 210 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year, enough to power 18,500 homes.

Scatec Solar inked a 20-year power purchase agreement with PacifiCorp, which means Utah customers will be among the beneficiaries of the solar-delivered power.

The project is a ground-mounted photovoltaic solar facility being developed on 650 acres of land in Parowan, with construction slated to begin later this year. Once operational, it will be Utah's largest utility-scale solar field.

And last week, Rocky Mountain Power announced it is building a 2-megawatt solar farm in Utah.

Elsewhere in solar development, First Wind, which operates a 306-megawatt wind farm outside of Milford in Beaver County, launched its Seven Sisters projects consisting of seven solar sites in Beaver and Iron counties. Those sites will also sell energy to Rocky Mountain Power via long-term power purchase agreements and generate enough power for 4,000 homes.

In neighboring Millard County, ECG Utah Solar 1 is a planned 300-megawatt solar project 1 mile from the Intermountain Power Plant outside of Delta.

The project, on school trust lands, has completed its permitting stage. Power purchase agreements are being negotiated for the delivery of energy to southern California. Once built, it will eclipse any other solar generator in Utah, powering 80,000 homes.

Email: amyjoi@deseretnews.com, Twitter: amyjoi16

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