Utah's First Utility-Scale Solar Energy Plant Amps Up to Deliver
IRON COUNTY — Eight years of hard work and vision came to fruition Thursday upon the completion and commissioning of Utah’s first, fully-functional, utility-sized solar power plant Utah Red Hills Renewable Park located in Parowan.
Investors, developers and government officials from across the globe and Utah gathered to celebrate the completion of the project with food, music and tours of the facility — despite threats of storm clouds on the horizon.
“This is a pioneering project,” Scatec Solar North America Luigi Resta said. “We did open up a market and it should have positive benefits for many of the counties and the communities with both job creation, new tax benefits and ultimately, hopefully, at low avoided cost prices of (energy).”
As a result of this project, Resta said, there are a multitude of new solar energy projects currently under development in Southern Utah that will add an additional 500 to 800 megawatts through a variety of developers, creating additional employment for trained workers in the field.
When beginning to develop Utah Red Hills Renewable Park, Resta said, one important goal was to create jobs in the locality of the development, rather than bring in outside workers to build the project. A task that Swinerton Renewable Energy Vice President George Hershman followed through on with integrity, Resta said.
“They have remained committed to what I asked them to do two years ago,” he said. “Which was to hire locally to build the project — which they have done to the utmost quality.”
At any given time during the construction of the 632-acre solar field in Parowan, an average of 200 workers were employed by Swinerton Renewable Energy, Resta said, and 91 percent of those employees were from Iron County and the surrounding Southern Utah area.
“It is true that these are short-term construction jobs,” Hershman said. “But with consolidation of solar in areas like this, that trained workforce, a number of those people that were trained and working on this plant are building other plants right within the area.”
Continuing development of solar projects helps create long-term work for Swinerton Renewable Energy workers who now have skills and knowledge to apply in the field no matter who is developing the new projects, he said.
The 340,784 solar panels are attached to racks that are supported by 53,923 piles that are 10-feet deep in the ground, Hershman said. Each rack is connected to a tracking system allowing the panels to follow the sun’s movement in the sky, ensuring the most possible energy can be absorbed.
Once energy is collected, Resta said, it is transferred through 80 inverters that collect the energy stored in the panels and delivered to the transformers that help to distribute clean energy to the public.
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the new plant will reduce carbon emissions by 145 tons annually, Resta said, making solar renewable energy sourced from the new plant, a clean resource for power in the communities serviced by it.
The Utah Red Hills Renewable Park project is an exciting new venture for the state, Governor’s Office of Energy Development Renewable Energy Development Coordinator Blake H. Thomas said.
“This is a very exciting project,” Thomas said. “To be the first utility-scale solar project in the state – which required cooperation with local stakeholders, with international partners and with the utilities.”
It is the governor’s position that “an all-of-the-above” energy policy is the most conducive to forwarding the progression of a sustainable future in energy production in the future, he said.
“So, there’s an integration of our resources that historically have provided affordable and reliable energy,” Thomas said. “And we are now seeing today the new energy sources and I think it’s a combination of the both of those that will bring the most benefit to Utahns and Utah ratepayers.”
The project has been a blessing to the Parowan community and will continue to bless the Iron County community as a whole for years to come through tax benefits that will fund a variety of future endeavors, Iron County Commissioner Alma Adams said.
“What a marvelous thing that we have such a great solar generation potential here, and so the companies have come,” he said. “I must say that we are extremely proud and pleased to have this right here in Iron County and in the valley of the ‘Little Salt Lake.’”