At this month’s UCAIR partners meeting we heard from Ryan Evans the executive director of the Utah Solar Association. He gave us an in-depth presentation on the state of the solar industry in Utah as well as, the challenges and opportunities in this emerging energy sector.
Solar Energy Storage: Opportunities and Innovations – Ryan Evans, President, Utah Solar Energy Association
Mr. Evans has been involved in air quality issues in Utah for the past 15 years. First through the Salt Lake Chamber where he worked for 13 years, overseeing the Clear the Air Challenge and working on air quality policy. It was at the Chamber that he realized that air quality is not only a health and environmental issue but also economic issue. In addition to his air quality experience with the Chamber, he is a founding member of UCAIR and served on the board for more than six years.
Currently, there are over 100 solar companies in Utah. These companies employ more than 4000 Utahns, making solar the largest energy sector employer in the state. Utah is an excellent place for solar, there is a lot of open land at high elevation. Additionally, Utah is the fifth sunniest state in the country. This is reflected in the fact that 1,757 megawatts of solar have been installed in Utah, enough to power more than 400,000 homes. In fact, around six percent of energy in Utah comes from solar the fourth highest percentage nationally. The solar industry is a positive addition to the economy of rural Utah. Many large-scale solar installations are on privately owned land in rural areas throughout the state that solar companies lease from owners. These installations provide jobs and increases the tax revenues, which help rural counties.
The availability and popularity of solar has increased greatly over the last few years. When asked Utahns cite several reasons they are interested in solar including saving money, environmental reasons and emergency preparedness. An estimate 88% of Utahns want to see more solar development in the state. While more residents are interested in solar, the industry does face challenges including the net metering settlement and the reduction of state tax credits for residential solar installations. Additionally, international trade tariffs can drive up the cost of solar by making components more costly. Perhaps the biggest challenge facing solar is energy storage and transmission. Progress in being made in this area, through the development of batteries that can store energy created.
Following the presentation, partners shared what projects and initiatives they are currently working on. These included:
Royal DeLegge, Salt Lake County Health Department – They have received money from the VW settlement to expand their vehicle repair assistance program. The additional funds will allow them to offer an option to replace eligible vehicles. The Health Department will be upgrading the electric system at their offices to accommodate 20 EV charging stations and they are replacing hybrid fleet vehicles with all electric models.
Shawn Teigen, Utah Foundation – With the support of a UCAIR Grant, Utah Foundation is conducting research on telecommuting and air quality. The final report will be available to the public later this year.
Glade Sowards, Division of Air Quality – There are a few incentive programs available through DAQ, including the Wood Stove Conversion Assistance Program and Workplace EV Charging Funding Assistance Program. You can find out kore about these and other programs on their website.
Thom Carter, UCAIR –
- Intermountain Sustainability Summit will be March 19 and 20 at Weber State University.
- The Clean Air Solutions Fair will be on March 7 at the Gateway starting at 11:00.
- The Chamber will be hosting the 2020 Giant in our City event honoring Governor Herbert.
- UCAIR is not a political organization, but we do encourage individuals and members of the community to participate by turning in your ballot and voting.