Three new utility-scale solar projects will be installed by SunEdison in southern Utah with a capacity of 210 MW, which could be enough to power about 36,000 homes. All together, SunEdison has about 570 MW of solar energy under development there. It already operates 306 MW of wind power in the state.
The extra 210 MW for SunEdison represents an enormous surge in solar power for
Utah. According to SEIA, this southwest state only has about 18 MW currently. That capacity puts it slightly below average among U.S. states for solar power. When the new solar projects are installed, Utah will rapidly ascend the rankings.
The state’s population is about 2.9 million, and it has a strong solar potential, so it shouldn’t be that difficult to move towards energy independence. On one of its websites, the state of Utah wrote that there is a theoretical potential of 826 GW for solar power locally. That figure is only for utility-scale solar.
If we use the figures associated with the SunEdison’s projects, 210 MW of utility-scale solar could power about 36,000 homes, with adequate sunshine. So one gigawatt could power roughly 180,000 homes under the same conditions. Even with 100 GW of solar power, that could be enough for 1.8 million homes, or perhaps the entire state of Utah. Again, that is only for utility-scale solar. So, is it possible theoretically to provide electricity for every resident of Utah with solar power? It appears so, and to make the electricity more consistently available, there is the emerging energy storage industry.
Will energy independence for Utah happen quickly? Probably not, but 100% renewable energy does seem like the general path that could be forged. Solar power costs have dropped dramatically in the last six years and may decrease significantly more in the next two.
Utah also has a theoretical wind power capacity of over 9,000 MW. Wind power and solar can complement one another for a stable, renewable energy mix.
So, yes, it does appear that Utah could run on 100% renewable energy one day.