Nature made Utah one of the most promising states in the US for generating electricity from the sun, along with other western states such as Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico and Texas. From a relatively low level of development, solar photovoltaic systems in the state have grown rapidly in recent years; 2009 and 2010 both saw growth rates of 200% or greater.
Nationwide 2012 was also a strong year for growth in solar electricity generation. By the end of the third quarter the total installed for the year, 1992 megawatts, already surpassed the total for the whole year of 2011. One megawatt in installed capacity can power between 250 to 300 homes.
Utah’s largest solar photovoltaic installation is on the roof of the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City. It was installed in May of 2012 and is rated at 1.65 megawatts.
In April 2012, the Bureau of Land Management identified hotspots on public lands in the western states ideal for solar-powered electricity because of weather patterns, lack of management conflicts and access to existing power lines. Three of these hotspots are in Utah with potential to generate more than fifty percent more electricity than a major thermal power station like the Intermountain Power Project near Delta.
Although solar photovoltaic installations produce power only while the sun shines, this form of energy is seen as increasingly complementary with wind power which usually peaks during night hours and electric cars which when connected to a smart grid can act as a sponge to take excess charge during peak generating hours. The solar or wind power generated in residential settings is called distributed because it doesn’t require long-distance transmission. Distributed generation helps to make power grids more robust by relieving some of the dependence on long-distance transmission lines.
Solar Power for You
Power generated by the major utilities in Utah is still dominated more than 80% by coal-generated electricity. Solar photovoltaic (PV) systems are a way for consumers to offset their carbon footprints and increase their autonomy while voting with their pocket books for cleaner energy. With prices for solar PV panels falling continuously and a range of attractive incentives, now is the time to take a second look. For many Utah consumers who opt for solar PV panels, it’s possible to sell back to the utility any excess power you generate.
Keep an eye on your mailbox and your e-mail inbox for news about an exciting new program to be launched soon by the Sierra Club. Even if you don’t think you’re in the market for solar PV panels, you can get a quote and see how much you might be able to save on your power bill.