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Published on September 15th, 2011 | by Susan Kraemer


Utah Caps Solar Quota at Just 21 Homes Statewide

September 15th, 2011 by  

What a difference it makes whether you live in a good clean-energy-policy state or you don’t.

Solar incentives in sunny but 95% coal-powered Utah are so low that the entire state has capped rooftop solar with a quota of no more than 107 KW worth of home solar systems allowed per year. At about 5 KW each (Utah homeowners likely have A/C costs to cover) that amounts to only 21 or so homes!

That is not an incentive. That is a damper on solar development.

By contrast, in New Jersey, solar homeowners can literally farm the arable land on their rooftops and earn seriously good money from utilities, for the very same power they simultaneously make to supply their own free electricity.

It is such a good deal for clean energy, it is no wonder the Koch boys were all over Governor Christie to force him out of RGGI, the regional Cap and Trade program that has made the Northeastern states among the leading states in US greenhouse gas reduction.

The irony is that Utah is a perfect state for solar, while New Jersey is… meh. Nevertheless, New Jersey, which passed progressive legislation well before the Tea Party got its teeth into the state, is the second state after California in solar installations.

Its Renewable Energy Standard is a mandate that requires utilities buy 22.5 percent of electricity from renewable sources by 2021. While New Jersey utilities don’t have sunfilled deserts like Utah, for solar; every homeowner has a roof.

Electric utilities can buy the evidence of the power being produced off each roof, a megawatt hour at a time, by purchasing Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs). Most homes have enough roof space to make at least 4 megawatt hours of power every year (that’s 4,000 kilowatt hours annually). So it is homeowners in New Jersey who have successfully reduced the state greenhouse gas missions, and have been paid good money to do it.

By contrast, Utah only has a “voluntary goal” of 20 percent renewables by 2025 for utilities. So the state’s largest utility, Rocky Mountain Power has no real incentive to encourage solar distributed generation, “which conflicts with its business model,” because DG would take energy sales away from the company, Benjamin Turner, the program coordinator for the Utah Solar Energy Association, told Energy Prospects West.

Utah gets 95% of its energy from coal And with solar incentives like this, looks like it aims to keep it that way.

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About the Author

writes at CleanTechnica, CSP-Today and Renewable Energy World.  She has also been published at Wind Energy Update, Solar Plaza, Earthtechling PV-Insider , and GreenProphet, Ecoseed, NRDC OnEarth, MatterNetwork, Celsius, EnergyNow, and Scientific American. As a former serial entrepreneur in product design, Susan brings an innovator's perspective on inventing a carbon-constrained civilization: If necessity is the mother of invention, solving climate change is the mother of all necessities! As a lover of history and sci-fi, she enjoys chronicling the strange future we are creating in these interesting times.    Follow Susan on Twitter @dotcommodity.

  • What’s to stop you from just putting them up anyhow, and not getting the credit? As long as you’re not feeding back into the power line, they’ll never know.

  • Guest

    Wrong Hans- seems you’re the one spreading misinformation! If you would have read the link YOU provided regarding RMP’s promotion you would have discovered that RMP CAPS solar incentives first come first serve. They only cover 107 kw/year for the entire State as the article and RMP point out. As the major power utility in the State, RMP should play a vital role in promoting renewables. Compared to power utilities in other States, RMP is very limiting in their incentives to wean coal from their power portfolio. Do you work there?

  • J Castanon

    Well we are just about to reach a point where we don’t need any FIT for your PV systems. I can get you PV modules now from China (I live in Shanghai, used to live in Salt Lake City) for about $1.15 per watt (order in bulk and get it for $1.09 per watt). Wait till the end of the year and it might (MIGHT!) be $1.00 per watt. Take the Federal Tax credit of 30% and your off to the races.
    My biggest worry is that China might be our next forign energy supplier instead of the middle east. Its up to the consumer to decide how they spend their money….but if you want cheap solar (PV) products China has them.
    email: j.castanon@symtechsolar for more info.

    • Anonymous

      Excellent commentary, J.

      Truthfully, it is not about whether solar costs will come down and solar will proliferate. It’s about who (which countries) will be producing the products and profiting as a result.

  • Anonymous

    It’s a battle. The goal is to get solar to grid parity before the Appalachian mountains are blown up.

  • Gregory Norminton

    The most Republican state in America. There’s nothing more to be said.

    • chacodog

      Texas in pretty Red too…but they have more on-line wind power than any other state (something like 7 gigawatts).

      It we are Red vs. Blue then nobody is for you.

      • Anonymous

        Texas is starting to have problems with cooling water supplies for thermal (coal and nuclear) plants.

        If predictions of a long term drought hold for Texas look for a lot more solar to get installed there.

        In addition, Texas is moving toward offshore wind. Turns out that they don’t have a lot of Panhandle wind on their hottest days, but there’s good wind out among the oil rigs.

        Climate change is forcing red states to go green.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for reporting this. This is an outrage. I live in Utah. Obviously the Utah desert offers an abundance of solar energy, along the Wasatch Front and elsewhere. Importantly, the solar energy would not require the huge amounts of water needed for coal fired thermal steam turbines. (we live in the desert, where water is rare , remember? 2nd driest state in the nation.) Would solar energy also result in more water available for food or other benefits? Yes. The controlling interests here repeatedly prove they care about 1 thing and one thing primarily. More Money, Right Now. Money, money, money. Now, now, now. Anything that is profitable, such as coal mining and existing electricity sources are sacrosanct. They seem to worship at the altar of profits. (Do they believe if it is profitable now, it is righteous in a biblical context, therefore must continue? Or are they just greedy right now?) The Wasatch mountains are a huge wall, and the I-15 corridor is a river of automobile pollution (literally it can be viewed that way from an upper vantage point, especially as it starts in the morning). Solar energy and electric vehicles could provide cleaner air for children, families, and life in Utah. They even wanted to bring in spent nuclear fuel here, radioactive waste, in the Tooele Valley, just for money, money, money. What in heaven’s name is wrong with the greedy creatures creating these policies? God help their children. I would gladly pay more to breathe cleaner air, and stimulate and support energy innovation we do despararately need to get off oil and reduce fossil fuel combustion. (They happily have their hands out for Federal government money for other reasons, so if that’s their excuse, it’s just deception.) At a time when our Country must inspire innovation, Utah rule makers contradict themselves, and discourage innovation regarding solar energy. What’s their agenda? I would rather live where the people are more progressive toward clean air and sustainability. (either that or save up for the inevitable sickness and cancer bills from breathing fossil fuel combustion.)

    • Anonymous

      Thank you for bringing this up. You obviously haven’t see this:


      Utah has a very large Geothermal potential, has a very large and growing wind generation system, has several large solar generation systems for commercial projects and generates hydroelectric as well. New Biofuel systems including generating electricity from garbage is up and running.

      Yes, most of the solar systems are for Commercial and not Residential.
      No, the incentive you quote doesn’t cap solar development and the 20% goal is working.

      New coal power plants have been delayed or changed and some existing are being converted to natural gas, for example at Rio Tinto’.

      There is a current proposal for a nuclear power plant.

      There are estimates that coal is being used in Utah at a rate where the current rate for power generation can not be maintained for more than between 10 years and 45 years using Utah Coal.

      The Governor’s 10 year energy plan makes room for that.


      The 2nd Milford wind farm is up and running adding 68 units to the 97 that were running.

      People care about clean air, water and land. You don’t need to argue about Co2 for renewable energy to take shape.

      • Anonymous

        Interesting points utah_1. Geothermal could be positive. Wind can be very positive (the sun heats the air everyday, and storms produce wind also). Natural gas interest comes and goes with commodity prices. However the deep shale will produce big discoveries. But the fracking issue is a toxic problem to solve, when the toxic chemicals cross through the deep boundaries to ground water resources. The natural gas will produce less pollution on combustion. How about extracting hydrogen from natural gas? How can we benefit more from the sun’s energy? None of the aforementioned items seem to help with our biggest air pollution problem. Vehicles (Automobiles and trucks for commercial purposes). Probably 1/2 million+ vehicles producing pollution along the Wasatch Front daily? What are your thoughts toward improvement there? How do you feel about nuclear power? How do you feel about radioactive waste? What are your thoughts about water consumption by the proposed nuclear power plant? (2nd driest state in the nation). KSL rightfully questioned the governor about that. He would not reply on the water issue and took an “undecided” stance. At the time he would not say he supported nuclear, but that was a couple months ago. Obviously policy makers want nuclear. How would you feel about having the nuclear waste close to you? We’re still burning petrol to drive cars. The winds carrying coal plant pollution for the most part don’t carry it into the West side of the Wasatch Front. How can we avoid the problems with nuclear? How can we achieve cleaner air please? (I’m seriously asking how…). How can we get more Solar Energy production in Utah please?

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