What Do Solar Farms Mean for Emery County?


A controversial subject across the nation over the years has been the push for renewable or “green” energy production and use. It has created a love/hate relationship of renewable versus fossil fuel energy, and created many heated discussions and differing opinions. That being said, many citizens in Emery County have been left wondering why they are seeing solar farms being established right here in Coal Country.

A couple of years ago, many private landowners and citizens in Emery County started receiving phone calls voicing interest from privately owned companies seeking land to lease in order to establish solar farms. With the insistent push for renewable energy from current national administration, there are significant financial incentives for renewable energy production.

Once these private companies and private landowners entertained and completed negotiations to lease private and Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration land, they approached the local taxing entities to seek incentives to bring the revenue generating projects to Emery County.

So, what is an incentive and what does it mean for Emery County and the company receiving the incentive? An incentive is a reimbursement on property taxes in order to entice businesses to come to an area. This means the company will pay 100% of their required property taxes and then receive a percentage of those taxes back from each participating taxing entity.

In the case of the solar farms in Emery County, those entities are Emery Water Conservancy District, Emery County School District and Emery County. All of these entities sit on the Community Reinvestment Agency Board, which governs the creation process, incentives offered and other decisions regarding the solar farms in Emery County. Each taxing entity’s governing board is responsible for discussing and selecting its own incentive amount. In the case of the solar development in Emery County, all of the taxing entities chose the same incentive amount.

The statewide average incentive given to solar developers is 75%. The Community Reinvestment Agency Board felt that if solar farms were to be constructed here in Coal Country, they should be held to a higher standard and be expected to be better community partners. After much consideration, each of the entities on the Community Reinvestment Agency Board eventually elected to offer an incentive in the 40% range, which is significantly lower than the state average.

While solar farms do not create an abundance of jobs, they do create high tax revenues. Over the next 20 years, which is the current lifespan of the solar farms, Emery County is going to receive approximately $90 million in property tax revenue from the solar farms in Emery County. This revenue will be split between Emery County, Emery County School District and Emery Water Conservancy District. The current projects will provide substantial tax revenue and are anticipated to aid in the future financial stability of Emery County.

These projects do not affect the current operations or lifespan of the two coal fired plants in Emery County. The solar companies are only allowed to apply to transmit power on the excess capacity of the current transmission lines, not the capacity used by the two coal fired plants. Further, these projects allow Rocky Mountain Power to meet their customer’s demand for renewable energy. The Emery County Commissioners also ensured that there was a strict decommissioning process at the end of the 20 years. Or, if the solar companies continue to operate, the incentive will go away for the next term.

Below are the established and proposed solar projects within Emery County:

Hunter Solar: Constructed just outside of Clawson Town near Hunter Power Plant, Hunter Solar is a 100mw solar development that covers roughly 1,319 acres of land. This solar farm is currently online and producing energy.

Castle Solar: Currently under construction and located outside of Huntington, Castle Solar is proposed to be a 40mw establishment that covers roughly 600 acres of land. Construction is expected to be complete near the end of 2022.

Green River Energy Center and Pivot 13 Solar: Located near Moore and Castle Valley Ranch is the Green River Energy Center and Pivot 13 Solar. They are proposed to be a combined 400mw production and 200mw storage site covering approximately 5,000 acres. Construction is expected to begin in 2023.

Hornshadow Solar: Located near Castle Dale is Hornshadow Solar, an approximately 300mw production and 100mw storage project on approximately 2,500 acres. Construction is expected to begin in 2023.

“These projects must make a formal application to Rocky Mountain Power (PacifiCorp) for access to the utility’s transmission network,” shared David Eskelsen, spokesperson for Rocky Mountain Power and PacifiCorp. “The utility conducts engineering studies to determine access requirements, which often includes construction of additional infrastructure to accommodate the additional generation. Project developers are often responsible for funding the additions required to interconnect with the utility network. Once those steps are completed, Rocky Mountain Power negotiates a contract with the project developer, and the contract requires the approval of the Utah Public Service Commission.”

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