LAYTON — It was cloudy Tuesday, yet Smith's Food and Drug President Jay Cummins was beaming as he cut the red ribbon for the second-largest solar panel roof system in Utah.
The Smith's Distribution Center in Layton will generate 1.8 million kilowatt-hours of sustainable electricity, saving 20 percent of the center's energy usage.
"We're doing this because we have a commitment to being a good corporate citizen and using good, sustainable practices throughout all of our areas of operation," said Marsha Gilford, vice president of public relations for Smith's.
The installation of the solar panels culminates six months of work. Gilford said the savings the company hopes to see in energy costs at its distribution center will affect Smith's stores in seven different states.
"The benefits that we see in savings will be passed along to customers," she said.
About 20 years ago when Laura Nelson, the executive director of energy development for the governor's office, came into the energy scene "full throttle," there was no way to carry out a project like the distribution center's, she said.
"Whether you all know it or not, you have helped us today to realize some of our objective around energy efficiency and conservation where solar power is really key," Nelson said.
Through Utah's innovation, Nelson said that the prices of renewable power for residents have dropped from $4.95 per 100 kilowatt-hour block to $1.95.
Incentives offered by Rocky Mountain Power for the implementation of solar panels, known as the Utah Solar Incentive Program, have also helped make renewable energy affordable for many Utahns, said Bryan Hardy, project manager for the solar panels.
We're doing this because we have a commitment to being a good corporate citizen and using good, sustainable practices throughout all of our areas of operation.
–Marsha Gilford, VP of Smith's PR
"With the incentive from the Rocky Mountain Power company, it would cost about $6,000" to install solar panels on a typical residential home, Hardy said.
For the distribution center's 4,066 panels, Rocky Mountain Power gave Smith's a $836,000 incentive, with payments made in increments over a five-year period.
Cody Stewart, policy adviser for the governor's office, said Tuesday's event also highlights renewable energy in Utah and he could not think of a better place to be during Energy Week.
"Utahns are generally forward-looking people," Stewart said. "We think about the future and it's natural for us to think about the next generation. … I think it's important to recognize that the future doesn't just happen, that it's not just some amorphous thing that appears one day and we are there. The future occurs because of individuals that make millions of individual decisions day after day — decisions (like) Smith's and Rocky Mountain Power deciding in the last few years … to move forward with this project. And because you moved forward with this project, it's going to help Utah and future generations for years to come."
Gilford said that the benefits of solar power are not all tangible. Cleaner air and cleaner water could result from more businesses adopting renewable energy.
"We are pleased to be in grocery retail by utilizing solar power for the benefit of our customers," Gilford said.
Katie Larsen is a Deseret News intern and print journalism senior at Utah State University who graduates in December. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org