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SALT LAKE CITY — Surrounded by solar panels on the rooftop of Salt Lake City’s Public Safety Building, Mayor Jackie Biskupski announced Tuesday that the city has committed to purchasing three megawatts of solar power through Rocky Mountain Power.
The three megawatts of power, equivalent to 9,000 solar panels, will be purchased through the Rocky Mountain Power Subscriber Solar program, a project initiated to provide consumers with affordable solar energy.
“Today is a really bright day in Salt Lake City,” said Cindy Crane, Rocky Mountain Power CEO. “Salt Lake City has once again shown its pioneering spirit by being one of the first to sign up for Rocky Mountain Power Subscriber Solar program. They’ve also made a significant and substantial commitment to renewable energy over the long term.”
There is no additional cost that will be invested in the change to solar energy, as the switch is budget neutral.
Around 75 percent of the city’s carbon footprint is associated with electricity use, said Vicki Bennett, Salt Lake City's director for sustainability.
“With all of our programs, our commitment to solar power is not simply a reflection of our environmental stewardship values,” Bennett said. “While we definitely embrace all of the positive green attributes of renewable energy, we also invest in this technology because of what it means for local jobs, community resiliency and current and future social justice.”
Salt Lake City has a goal to have 50 percent of the government operations powered by renewable energy by 2020. Earlier this year, Biskupski challenged the city to find ways to become 100 percent powered by renewable energy by 2032.
“I think it’s very realistic,” Biskupski said of her sustainability challenge. “Rocky Mountain Power is showing up for us. I’m very pleased with the working relationship we have going on.”
With the three megawatts of solar energy, Biskupski said that the amount of renewable energy the city uses would jump from 6 percent to 9 percent. She also announced plans to continue to install solar panels on city buildings this year, including several fire stations. There are currently 4,000 solar panels in place around Salt Lake City.
Two businesses also committed Tuesday to the Rocky Mountain Power Subscriber Solar program, Kiitos Brewing and Mountain Yoga Sandy.
“We're really excited to be able to influence not only our immediate students but the citizens of the south valley,” said Alex Wheeler, founder of Mountain Yoga Sandy. “We are so proud to be able to do 100 percent of solar power, as we’ve done wind power programs for quite a few years.”
Kiitos Brewing plans on opening a brewery in downtown Salt Lake City in the next few months, and founder Andrew Dasenbrock said he is excited to participate in the solar energy program.
“We’re looking forward to powering our brewery 100 percent off solar power and we’re extremely excited this program is getting up and running very soon,” Dasenbrock said.
According to the Subscription Solar program website, Rocky Mountain Power has purchased a solar plant with an output of 20 megawatts in Millard County. Consumers can sign up in blocks of 200-kilowatt hours to offset their usage on their bills.
The program will lock in customer’s electricity rate in place for 20 years while the company works on the solar project. There is no impact from this program on other consumers’ electricity bills.
To encourage consumers to commit to the program, the mayor mentioned her budget proposal to freeze the city’s solar permit fee, which would cost the city around $60,000.
“In many cases, you may save money and no matter what, you will be helping the city and our community,” Biskupski said.
Based in Salt Lake City, Rocky Mountain Power is a part of Pacificorp and serves over 1.1 million clients in Utah, Wyoming and Idaho. The company says it operates 72 generating plants, including coal-fueled, hydroelectric, natural gas, wind and geothermal facilities.
Rocky Mountain Power plans on making Subscriber Solar available for residential customers by the beginning of June.
“As much as today is about celebrating clean solar power that will now be powering a large proportion of our city’s operations, it’s also about being able to create a new renewable energy opportunity of our residents and businesses,” Bennett said.