LADWP May Be Buying Utah Sun

The Intermountain Power Plant in Delta, Utah, soon to be joined by 2..75 square miles of solar panels. | Photo: Doc Searls/Flickr/Creative Commons License

A planned 300-megawatt solar facility to be built in the shadow of the coal-fired Intermountain Power Plant (IPP) north of Delta, Utah, will likely provide power to Los Angeles' municipal utility, according to backers. The proposed Utah Solar 1 power plant will be able to take advantage of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power's (LADWP's) high-voltage Path 27 transmission line between the IPP and a substation in Adelanto to send power to southern California.

The facility would take advantage of something else, as well: LADWP's plans to divest itself of coal-fired energy from the Intermountain Power Plant by 2025.

The project would be built by Energy Capital Group (ECG) on 1,754 acres of public land held in trust by the state of Utah for the benefit of its public schools. Lease payments made by ECG would go in part to fund those schools.

The solar facility would put out significantly less energy than IPP, with a maximum rated capacity of 300 megawatts -- well under IPP's 1,900, and producing only during daylight hours to boot. So it's not quite right to think of ECG Utah Solar 1 as a replacement for IPP.

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Still, it's symbolic of the growing movement away from coal and toward renewables. "We are excited about the opportunity to develop ECG Utah Solar 1 in Utah," said ECG's CEO Josh Case in a press release. "[The project] will benefit several groups including the Utah school children, Millard County's economy, Utah's economy and the California utilities in their achieving the state RPS [Renewable Portfolio Standard]."

Though it secured the lease of the state school lands in May, ECG has yet to secure all the necessary permits to build the plant, which Case told the Deseret News he hopes will be operational within three years. As it stands now, barring unforeseen obstacles to the project, Utah Solar 1 would be the Beehive State's first utility-scale solar generating facility. The state's next-largest solar arrays are in the 1-to-1.5-megawatt range, built to offset power use by big consumers such as the Tooele Army Depot rather than selling power to utilities.

About the Author

Chris Clarke is a natural history writer and environmental journalist currently at work on a book about the Joshua tree. He lives in Joshua Tree.
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