Solar Power in Emery County – Competitive or Compatible?

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By Julie Johansen

According to Rocky Mountain Power Media Spokesman Dave Eskelsen, it’s a complicated process to dispatch renewable energy, as the power company must maintain the consistent power demanded by its customers. When wind or solar power is transmitted, it cannot be controlled as consistently because of environmental influences.

In an interview with Eskelsen, he explained that PacifiCorp (parent company to Rocky Mountain Power) is bound by the Public Utilities Regulatory Policy Act (PURPA) to purchase the intermittent power (solar and wind) produced by smaller renewable energy companies if the companies meet all the regulations to produce power.       

Currently, Pacificorp has two permitted sites in the Carbon/Emery area for solar power, one in Ferron and one in Wellington, but at present the company has no immediate plans to develop either site. PacifiCorp builds according to demand with the least cost and risk factors governing its expansion decisions. Presently, the company has one solar project near Holden in Millard County.

Although the transmission process is complicated, Eskelsen said, “Renewable energy power is compatible, not in competition with electricity produced in our area.” He also said that tax abatements are driving the number of applications for PacifiCorp to purchase solar or wind power in the area.

Onyx Renewable Partners has submitted an interconnection request to PacifiCorp to transmit solar power on its transmission lines. This is the first step of many to begin a solar project. This solar project would be located in Moore on property owned by Castle Valley Ranch and would produce 400-500 megawatts of power.

According to Luigi Resta, Executive Vice President, Utility Solar Development of Oynx Renewables, ”Solar power would not be in competition with PacifiCorp’s electric generating plants, but rather in cooperation with them. Solar power is compatible with conventional electricity, they work very well together.”

One advantage Onyx Renewables would bring to Emery County is increased new incremental tax revenue. Also, construction of the project would require about 300 employees and when built, would provide 10-20 permanent jobs. Prior projects developed by this team have shown them to use 93% local sub-contractors and work forces. This project is expected to do the same.   

The location of this project in proximity to the power plants, acres available and proposed tax abatement are all advantageous to the project. The tax abatement would be necessary in order for the power to be sold at a competitive price. The company reports that roughly 3% of its revenue can be paid in taxes in order to offer power at these competitive rates. Several entities in Utah, such as Deer Valley, Salt Lake City and big data centers are requesting green power.

At the present time, there are 18 solar projects in Iron County and several others in Beaver. The further south these projects are built, the more sun is available, producing more power per installed unit. The development slogan of Onyx Renewables is “In the state, by the state and for the state.” Resta has previously constructed and operated a couple of large projects in Utah.  Onyx Renewables has a history of 12 years in the state and believes it is important to have local stakeholders supporting the projects.

“Although energy production is complicated, the projection for Emery County is ultimately a mixed economy with various energy resources,” Resta stated.

Enyo Energy is another company that has submitted a request to PacifCorp for renewable energy but representatives were unavailable for comment at press time.

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