A multi-million dollar solar farm being built in central Utah will deliver 300 megawatts of power to thousands of homes in sunny California.
The sun-rich state of Utah will be home to a 300 megawatt solar panel farm, called ECG Utah Solar 1, that will have 800,000 panels covering almost 2,000 acres. Developers say the project will create 200 jobs and power an estimated 80,000 homes.
However, this power won’t be enjoyed by Utahns, but by residents of California in order to help the Golden State achieve its Renewable Portfolio Standard that requires the state to get 33 percent of its power from renewable energy sources by 2020.
“We are excited about the opportunity to develop ECG Utah Solar 1 in Utah which will benefit several groups including the Utah school children, Millard County’s economy, Utah’s economy and the California utilities in their achieving the state RPS,” said Josh Case, CEO of Energy Capital Group, the company behind the project.
Many states become more concerned with global warming and have mandated that utilities get an increasing amount of power from renewable energy sources. California has the most progressive mandate that requires state utilities to get 33 percent of their power from green energy sources by 2020.
ECG plans to export power from Utah to take advantage of California’s mandate, but argues that rural Utahns will enjoy the economic benefits of having the project built in their state.
Jeffrey Barrett, the manager of infrastructure and incentives for the State Office of Energy Development, said that it’s a win-win for both states. Case added that many question the
“I get asked that a lot. ‘Why would Utah be sending power to California?’” Case said. “The utilities in Utah get cheaper power from coal, and the avoided cost structure isn’t there that a project would make sense here…yet.”
However, Utahns may want to stick with coal or low-priced natural gas, rather than moving to solar energy, since it’s far more expensive than its fossil fuel competitors.
In 2011, Utah had the fifth lowest energy cost in the U.S. and got most of its power from fossil fuel sources — mostly coal and natural gas. Only 4.7 percent of its power came from renewable energy that year — mostly from wind and hydropower.
That same year, California ranked first in net electricity generation from renewable energy sources. However, the state has also suffered from high energy costs.
In 2010, state residents paid about 13 cents per kilowatt hour of electricity on average — the eleventh highest in the country — while 12.4 percent of California’s power came from renewable sources, not including hydropower.
Electricity rates have spiked since then, going up to 17.5 cents per kilowatt hour in July 2013, the sixth highest in the country.
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