The Wasatch Solar Project, an initiative of the Salt Lake City Corporation, identified major barriers to continued solar market growth and developed actionable solutions and strategies to propel Utah’s nascent solar market toward a cumulative capacity of 1,075 MW of solar PV by 2024. Though Utah has some of the most plentiful sunshine in the nation, the solar PV market is still developing. Utah’s rapidly growing population, paired with its strong solar potential, creates tremendous opportunity for solar development in the state.
Utah’s cumulative solar capacity has drastically increased thanks to the collaboration of Salt Lake City Corporation, Utah Clean Energy, and other active leaders and jurisdictions in the state. Since 2005, these partners have successfully completed numerous projects—funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office—to spur solar market growth. In 2016, Utah became the second in the nation for installed capacity.
Through the Wasatch Solar Project’s collaborative stakeholder process, new partnerships are being built to address challenges associated with continued market growth in Utah and ensure the continued success of solar development in the state.
The project team, along with a broad set of stakeholders—including key decision makers from the solar industry; local and state government officials; business and community leaders; and utility, regulatory, construction, and finance representatives—set out to create a path for continued solar price reductions, increased market penetration, and improved market certainty for Utah’s solar industry and consumers. To establish this path, the project team created a comprehensive long-term solar deployment strategy for the state; conducted a net metering cost and benefit analysis of rooftop solar; launched a replicable, statewide C-PACE financing program; and integrated solar into emergency preparedness planning for emergency facilities.
The Wasatch Solar Project Team introduced C-PACE financing to Utah in 2015. The team released final program guidelines and partnered with the Utah Governor’s Office of Energy Development (OED) to launch a statewide C-PACE program and begin offering the financing program to businesses across Utah.
The Wasatch Solar team and OED worked with lenders, law firms, and local municipalities to create a robust framework to give interested businesses access to C-PACE financing for renewable energy and energy efficiency building upgrade projects. Utah’s first C-PACE pilot, the Hunt Electric Solar Project, was completed in October 2015 and includes a 72-module 23 kW solar canopy, micro grid, and electric vehicle charging station at Hunt Electric Inc.’s West Valley City headquarters. The OED is now accepting applications from potential C-PACE projects, municipalities interested in offering C-PACE, and companies seeking to become approved C-PACE contractors.
Spring 2015 marked the beginning of a Utah Public Service Commission-led effort to develop a framework for assessing the costs and benefits of net metering in Utah. The Wasatch Solar Project team participated in a series of technical working groups organized by the Utah Public Service Commission and engaged technical experts to give presentations to the group. Working group members included local government officials, energy users, utility representatives, nongovernmental organizations, and solar industry professionals. The technical working groups addressed topics related to net metering, including:
The team presented the working group’s technical recommendations and evidence regarding an analytical framework for assessing the costs and benefits of net metering to the Utah Public Service Commission.
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The Wasatch Solar Project team also hosted a workshop for the Private Sector Preparedness Council—which increases disaster resilience by helping businesses plan for emergencies—to discuss the benefits of integrating solar in emergency planning. Representatives from Utah businesses learned about on-site solar installations and the potential for microgrids and solar+storage to increase their resilience in the event of a disaster.
Mitalee Gupta from Utah Clean Energy discusses current progress on resilient solar efforts in Salt Lake City, including CPACE and work with a local fire departments and regional healthcare service provider.
A plan to grow Utah’s solar market focused on five key areas: Solar Markets & Access, Permitting, Interconnection, Utility Regulatory Models and Solar, Storage, and Resiliency.
With support from the Solar Market Pathways project, the Wasatch Solar Project has already achieved its goal of 750 MW of utility scale solar, and expects to achieve the 2024 goal of 325 MW of rooftop solar in 2019, five years ahead of schedule. During the project period, Utah has skyrocketed from a ranking of 16th for solar capacity in the U.S. in 2015 to sixth in 2016.
Utah has overcome multiple barriers to solar adoption and has experienced significant solar market growth. Formerly a nascent market, Utah must now address challenges associated with increased solar market penetration. Utah’s challenge for the future is to ensure continued market growth, improved market certainty for the solar industry, and fairness for consumers and utilities. The solar industry, regulators, and utilities must work together to address new topic areas related to emerging solar technologies and prepare for the continued evolution of the solar market.
In 2017, four local governments in Utah – Salt Lake City, Park City, Summit County, and the City of Moab – committed to powering their communities with 100% renewable electricity by 2032. These cities will continue to work with Utah Clean Energy through the Solar Energy Innovation Network to identify strategies to achieve their renewable energy goals while continuing to ensure reliability and affordability. The Solar Energy Innovation Network will support these efforts through peer networking opportunities and technical assistance and expertise from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the Rocky Mountain Institute, and the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.