Salt Lake area embracing Solar Energy

Solar panels atop a building in the Gateway in Salt Lake City.  Photo by Flickr user  Mike Renlund.
Solar panels atop a building at the Gateway in Salt Lake City. Photo by Flickr user Mike Renlund.

It has been a good week for solar energy enthusiasts in Utah.  In just one week four significant solar projects were either announced or completed:

  • The I.J. & Jeanné Jewish Community Center, in Salt Lake, celebrated its new $100,000 solar panel installation.   The solar panel project includes a  2.08 kilowatt array on the main building and a 20.08 kilowatt array on the roof of the center’s indoor pool.
  • St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, in West Valley, unveiled the church’s new 76 solar panels that are expected to cut the church’s energy bills in half.
  • The Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation revealed plans to construct a large solar project at the Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns.  The project includes over 3,000 solar panels that will be built on top of a canopy located just south of the Olympic Oval building.  The panels are expected to generate more than 1 million kilowatt-hours per year.
  • The Utah National Guard officially switched to solar energy in a ceremony that celebrated the installation of 1,400 new solar panels on the roof of the National Guard headquarters in Draper.

The first three organizations received grants through the Rocky Mountain Power’s Blue Sky renewable energy program.   St. Stephens and the I.J. & Jeanné Jewish Community Center are two of 10 religious organizations to receive the Blue Sky grant.  St. Stephens received additional funding from Utah Interfaith Power and Light, a collaboration of congregations that encourage the use of clean energy.

The Olympic Oval received a $200,000 grant from Salt Lake County to help fund the $1.39 million project.

It is not a coincidence that the weekend’s announcements of new solar projects came from churches, community centers and the public sector.  Solar energy projects are becoming increasingly more common, especially among local governments and community organizations.   A 2011 study by the U.S. Department of Energy’s laboratory on renewable energy, estimated that nearly 70 percent of energy savings from solar energy have come from municipal buildings.

Salt Lake County has proven that solar energy is a priority.

“The future we choose for the Kearns community includes clean energy to help power the Olympic Oval, a treasured community asset,” said Salt Lake County Mayor, Ben McAdams in a press release.

Apart form providing partial funding to the Utah Olympic Oval, the county installed a large solar panel array on top of Salt Lake’s Salt Palace Convention Center in 2012.  The 1.65 mega-watt hour array consists of  6,000 plus solar panels that generates nearly 20 percent of the Convention Center’s energy.

Solar energy is becoming more affordable.  The average price of a solar panel has declined by 60 percent since the beginning of 2011.  With lower costs and higher energy savings more organizations will be announcing new solar projects over the next few years.

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