Almost all electricity used by Salt Lake City’s government will be generated by renewable means by 2023 when a massive solar farm is expected to connect to Utah’s power grid.
Several large energy users partnered to support the 80 megawatt farm — called Elektron Solar — which will generate enough electricity to power the equivalent of about 15,000 homes for a year.
Developed by D.E. Shaw Renewable Investments (DESRI), the solar farm will run energy through Rocky Mountain Power to Salt Lake City as well as Park City, Summit County, Utah Valley University, Deer Valley Resort and Park City Mountain.
“The Elektron project is historic in the coordination required to bring the clean energy facility to fruition,” said Hy Martin, chief development officer of DESRI. “DESRI is thrilled to develop and own a project that makes use of lands previously considered unable to be developed, and celebrates the creative thinking by all involved.”
The solar farm, south of Rowley in Tooele County, will create electricity for at least 25 years after completion, Martin said in a news conference at the groundbreaking in October.
Buying solar power will only cost Salt Lake City about 2% more than traditional energy, Mayor Erin Mendenhall said, and the project will cover about 80% of the electricity for municipal buildings.
Other project partners have also said Elektron’s power generation will be able to cover the vast majority of their power needs.
“It is a wonderful first step toward cleaning up our air, cleaning up our water and addressing climate [change],” Park City Mayor Andy Beerman said.
The project was made possible by legislation passed in 2019 that provides a framework for municipalities to work with utilities to develop renewable energy sources.
Summit County Council Chairperson Glenn Wright said he worked with the Utah Association of Counties to lobby for this law.
“It’s a passion of mine,” Wright said, “and it’s incredibly important for Summit County.”
Salt Lake City had goals for reaching renewable energy before the law was signed, but reaching 100% net renewable energy goals would have been an arduous task as a solo municipality, Mendenhall said.
“It’s so exciting and validating that this is not a fringe conversation anymore,” Mendenhall said. “You can have this conversation from an economic point without having to take a partisan stance.”
The impact of solar farm collaboration extends beyond municipalities.
UVU associate vice president Frank Young noted the solar farm helps the campus reach its carbon neutral goal.
“We want to be good stewards of the property and help the air to be cleaner in Utah County,” said Young. “We want to show our students that we are serious about sustainability.”