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'A wonderful first step': Project to help Salt Lake City, Park City reach 100% renewable energy

A group of community leaders and energy executives break ground on a new solar farm near Grantsville on Tuesday. The facility will help get Salt Lake City and Park City get closer to 100% net renewable energy in the near future, according to the mayors of the two cities.

A group of community leaders and energy executives break ground on a new solar farm near Grantsville on Tuesday. The facility will help get Salt Lake City and Park City get closer to 100% net renewable energy in the near future, according to the mayors of the two cities. (Salt Lake City Corporation )



Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

GRANTSVILLE — Leaders of multiple municipalities joined energy companies Tuesday in breaking ground on a new solar farm that will help in the growing quest to move to clean energy sources in the near future.

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall and Park City Mayor Andy Beerman were among the leaders who helped ceremonially break ground on the Elektron Solar project, an 80-megawatt solar farm northwest of Grantsville in Tooele County. The land will sit adjacent to land considered a toxic superfund site by the Environmental Protection Agency.

D. E. Shaw Renewable Investments is constructing the project and will own it. Hy Martin, its chief development officer, said the solar farm will "deliver cost-effective clean power" to Utah's energy grid. Once the project is completed, which is expected to be in 2023, the facility will be one of the largest solar generators connected to Rocky Mountain Power's Utah grid.

"It's a wonderful first step toward cleaning up our air, cleaning up our water and addressing our climate," Beerman said.

Salt Lake City and Park City are two of the six customers that have invested in the project. Summit County, Deer Valley and Park City Mountain resorts, as well as Utah Valley University, also invested in the project, according to Rocky Mountain Power.

But the solar farm represents a monumental step for Salt Lake City and Park City because both have goals to switch to renewable resources to run city operations in the near future. Mendenhall said Tuesday that the solar farm will help Utah's capital city cross the finish line in that goal.

"This is the biggest step forward that we've ever taken in Salt Lake City's history toward all goals of 100% net renewable energy," she said.

City officials project the solar farm will source close to 90% of the annual electricity demand for its buildings. These include libraries, public utility buildings, police stations, city hall and the Salt Lake City International Airport. Park City's goal is to reach that for its buildings next year before the solar farm goes online.

Both cities aim to switch 100% of their community's total energy needs to renewable sources by 2030, which the mayors of both cities say will be aided by the solar farm.

Beerman said Park City's journey began in 2005, as climate activists pointed out the dangerous future ahead for Park City with climate change's threat to the state snowpack. At that point, experts told Park City officials that the renewable energy goals they wanted to set were "impossible" but the city set the goals anyway.

Summit County Manager Tom Fisher added that the growing threat of forest fires and watershed protection are other reasons that finding solutions to combat climate change are important in the region.

Through meetings with Rocky Mountain Power and the Utah Legislature, they were eventually able to get a bill passed allowing municipalities to switch to community-scale renewable energy sources. Beerman said there are now more than a dozen Utah communities that have signed on to go to renewable sources in the future.

"Accomplishing the seemingly impossible again and again gives me hope and confidence for our future," he said. "Addressing climate change and building stronger communities will take persistence, grit and a willingness to tackle the impossible."

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