If you follow public meetings within Emery County, it is likely you have heard this name many times over the past three years. So, what is the San Rafael Energy Research Center (SRERC)? Who is funding this project? How does Emery County benefit from this project?
As we all know, Emery County has been long reliant on coal mining and energy production in order to thrive and survive for as long as anyone can remember. We are proud of our hardworking coal heritage! Unfortunately, with the ever-changing trends in energy requirements and regulations worldwide, we are forced to recognize the need to diversify our energy resources and production methods in order to remain a contributor in the energy industry. With this thought, the Emery County Commissioners began their quest to diversify our economy. The result of this work is the San Rafael Energy Research Center.
In 2019, Emery County purchased the Energy West Warehouse and property located at 800 North Highway 57 (Coal Haul Road) in Orangeville to begin the creation of an innovative energy research facility right here in the heart of Coal Country. The goal of the San Rafael Energy Research Center is to stabilize existing jobs in our region, create new jobs, and conduct innovative energy research, such as molten salt reactors, hydrogen, supercritical CO2, carbon fiber research and production, medical isotope research and production as well as combustion research on coal and other mixed fuels.
From the beginning of this project, Emery County Commissioners have understood the necessity of not further burdening Emery County tax payers. The intent of this facility is to help our area stabilize and grow our energy sector jobs, not hinder with increased taxation. The Emery County Commission Office has worked diligently to submit applications for grant funding on behalf of the San Rafael Energy Research Center.
To date, we have applied for and been awarded approximately $15 million dollars in grant funding to construct/renovate the SRERC and purchase equipment to furnish the research labs and combustion facilities. We currently have applications for over $30 million dollars in additional grant funding going through review processes and are eager to continue to move forward with the SRERC project. We currently have research projects underway at the research center that were awarded through the Economic Development Administration (EDA) and Department of Energy (DOE).
We were quick to gain important partners and support in this project from both private sector companies, such as Alpha Tech and ZenoPower, as well as support and funding from government partners, such as the Utah Community Impact Board (CIB), Utah State Legislature, Governor Spencer Cox, Governor’s Office of Energy Development, Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity and the Southeastern Utah Association of Local Governments. We have continued support from educational institutions, including Utah State University, Brigham Young University and the University of Utah. We currently have a contract in place with a company called Apha Tech to perform advanced molten salt energy research and medical isotope research in the near future.
So, how does Emery County benefit from the creation of the San Rafael Energy Research Center? Not only do we expect the SRERC to help stabilize the current energy jobs in our region and our position within the energy production industry, we expect it to support a growing industry in advanced energy sources. We are excited for the chance Emery County has to lead the country in future energy research and efficient coal energy production techniques. We are excited about the opportunity for educational diversification, which further allows our children and grandchildren to return home to work and live in the land they love.
We anticipate the nuclear/molten salt research at the SRERC to become operational by summer of 2022. The combustion portion of the SRERC has been functioning and running tests for Pacificorp, DRAX Global, located in the United Kingdom, and for Brigham Young University’s Coal First Program. The SRERC will become fully operational over a number of phases as current users and leadership seek to expand the work being done, and as interest and community involvement grow along with the project.
The Emery County Commissioners envision the San Rafael Energy Research Center as a leading global energy research facility that will not only change the future of Emery County, but have an effect on the energy industry worldwide.
An upcoming lunch and learn open house and presentation by Dr. Andrew Fry, Dr. Matt Memmott and Dr. Jeremy Pearson is coming on May 18, 2022. Emery High students will tour from from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. with a light lunch provided. A public open house/lunch and learn will take place from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. on the same day. Lunch will be provided courtesy of Get’n Our Smoke On.
For more information on the pubic open house or to register, contact Patsy Stoddard with the Emery County Business Chamber at (435) 749-9025.