Blue Sky program shines on five Utah projects
The Salt Lake Tribune
By Patty Henetz
Rocky Mountain Power directs cash to environmentally friendly enterprises
A charter school in Kearns is the first school in Utah to have a solar photovoltaic array on its roof, gathering sun power to pump into Rocky Mountain Power's electricity grid, thanks to a grant from the utility's Blue Sky renewable energy program.
Entheos Academy's solar power project, which since January has generated 159.6 kilowatt hours of electricity, is one of several projects funded with the utility's Blue Sky wind power revenues as a way to return Utah customers' commitment to renewable power to the state.
In Utah, more than 20,000 residential and business customers buy renewable energy through the program, which purchases wind power from generators in Washington, Oregon and Wyoming. But as the customer base has grown in Utah, so has interest in seeing some of that money fund renewable projects here, said Rocky Mountain Power spokesman Jeff Hymas.
To Andrea Smith, a parent who is volunteering at the brand-new Entheos Academy during its Feb. 5-March 6 Solar Energy Month, having the solar collectors on the roof is a way to teach students how to measure the effects of their energy choices, and to see how generating solar power could help offset the 700 kwh of electricity used in the average household per month.
"The end goal is to have them walk away saying, 'I can make a difference.' Just to be more mindful that they can stop wasting energy," said Smith, whose husband's company
built the system with the Rocky Mountain Power grant. "Yes, they're just kids, but kids can make a difference."
Park City, Moab, Westminster College and the Tracy Aviary also received renewable energy project grants from the Blue Sky funds, and Rocky Mountain Power committed to purchasing renewable energy credits known as green tags from Wasatch Wind's Spanish Fork Canyon wind project.
Wasatch Wind, the state's first commercial-scale wind farm, is scheduled to start full-scale production next year.
The credits it sells to the utility will be folded into the Blue Sky program, which allows customers to pay an extra $1.95 per 100 kwh of electricity as a way to encourage wind power development and offset the effects of coal-fired power, the main suspect in global warming. More than 90 percent of Utah's electricity comes from coal.
Utah residents' purchase of Blue Sky blocks has grown 21 percent over the past year, utility officials said. Increasing subscriber numbers have let Rocky Mountain Power lower its original 2000 price of $4.75 per 100 kwh, Hymas said.
Blue Sky customers also helped buy more than 100 solar panels on the roof of the Salt Palace in September. That project also involved Salt Lake County, Salt Lake City and the Salt Lake Million Solar Roofs Partnership spurred by the nonprofit organization Utah Clean Energy.
Sara Baldwin, spokeswoman for Utah Clean Energy, said her organization helped spread the word about Rocky Mountain Power's Utah-specific grants program.
"We're pleased that local renewable energy projects are being funded by local Blue Sky purchasers," she said. "It's a great circle."
Dave Eskelsen, spokesman for PacifiCorp, Rocky Mountain Power's parent company, said the companies want to have more than 400 megawatts of new renewable power online before the end of the year and 1,400 MW from renewable sources in the 12,000 MW total generating mix by 2015.
Revenues from Rocky Mountain Power's voluntary Blue Sky renewable energy program are paying for five community-based solar and wind power projects:
- Moab received $100,000 to build solar arrays on the roof of the city's Arts and Recreation Center and swimming pool.
- Park City received $100,000 to build three small wind turbines to help power the city's ice arena.
- Westminster received $100,000 for a solar array on its new Health and Wellness building.
- Tracy Aviary received $50,000 for a mix of renewable energy sources for a technology demonstration and education projects.