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SALT LAKE CITY — Nearly 20 megawatts of solar energy due to come online in Utah in early 2017 has been sold to residential and business consumers who want to cut their monthly utility bills or become more reliant on clean energy.
Rocky Mountain Power's Subscriber Solar program is 95 percent sold out, and officials anticipate the last few blocks of power will be sold by this week or next.
"Since it was a pilot project, we were hopeful people would want to do it, but we didn't know quite how popular it would be," said Rocky Mountain Power spokesman Paul Murphy.
The solar plant near Holden in Millard County began construction in April and allows customers to use solar energy to meet some of their power needs without the installation of solar panels.
For Patrick Hansen, the new choice — which allows purchase of solar energy in 200 kilowatt-hour blocks — made good environmental sense as an option at his home and good business strategy at Kelley Stained Glass in Ogden, where he is general manager.
"It does benefit the environment, so it is a choice I believe in," he said.
After Hansen signed up for the program in August for its sustainable appeal at his home, he began examining the potential for the glass business.
"We use so much power during on-demand peak times," he said. "It will save us money in the long run."
The business manufactures tempered glass, which requires the use of ovens that consume a lot of energy during the middle of the day.
Kelley Stained Glass bought 200 of the 200 kilowatt-hour blocks, which Hansen said will move the company to energy consumption where 80 percent comes from renewables.
Although it costs him a little bit more for his personal household, Hansen said he believes it's an environmentally sound choice that allows him to avoid installation of panels.
"They're not on my roof, but I am buying solar power," he said.
Other businesses that have signed up include Este Pizzeria in Park City, where owner Carissa Devenport opted for three blocks of solar energy of 600 kilowatt-hours per month.
"When I heard about the program, I instantly thought it was a fantastic idea," she said. "I think that using renewable, sustainable energy is really, really important."
Devenport said she wishes she could afford solar panels at her home and restaurant, but until then, the subscriber program is an affordable option.
"Eventually we would like to buy more (solar energy) for the restaurant," she said.
Large energy users participating in the program include Salt Lake City, Park City, Summit County, AMSCO Windows, Deer Valley Resort and Weber State University.
The program allows consumers to lock in rates for a 20-year period at costs that can be transferred from one location to another. Residential customers can use an online tool to determine how much the program will cost or save them, while commercial customers can request an analysis.
With this round of Subscriber Solar so close to selling out, Rocky Mountain Power is already looking at issuing another request for proposals for the construction of a second solar facility.