In April, Rocky Mountain Power, which serves customers in the Salt Lake City, Utah area, began construction of a 20 megawatt solar farm in Holden, Utah. Holden borders the Fishlake National Forest, so it’s an area unsuitable fora a conventional power plant. “Since it was a pilot project, we were hopeful people would want to do it, but we didn’t know quite how popular it would be,” said Rocky Mountain Power spokesman Paul Murphy.

Much to RMP’s delight, the program is 95% sold out and the utility expects the remaining shares will be spoken for in a few weeks. Response has been so positive, RMP is already looking at issuing another request for proposals for the construction of a second solar facility.

Here’s how the program works. Residential and commercial customers can purchase solar power from the Holden facility in 200 kilowatt-hour blocks at a fixed price. The program allows consumers to lock in rates for a 20 year period. The agreement can be transferred from one location to another. Rooftop solar systems are not portable. There is an online tool that allows residential customers to determine how much the program will cost or save them, while commercial customers can request an analysis.

Not everyone will reduce their current energy bill but they will be protected against future price increases. Patrick Hansen lives in Ogden, Utah and has purchased blocks of power for  his home. Although the subscription program costs him a little bit more for his personal household, Hansen said he believes it’s an environmentally sound choice that allows him to avoid installation of panels. “They’re not on my roof, but I am buying solar power,” he said.

Hansen is the general manager for Kelley Stained Glass in Ogden. After he subscribed to the program for his home, he decided it made good sense for the business as well. The business manufactures tempered glass, which requires the use of ovens that consume a lot of energy during the middle of the day. “We use so much power during on-demand peak times, it will save us money in the long run,” he says. He adds, “It does benefit the environment, so it is a choice I believe in.”

Other businesses have signed up, including Este Pizzeria in Park City. Owner Carissa Devenport opted for three blocks of solar energy of 600 kilowatt-hours per month. “When I heard about the program, I instantly thought it was a fantastic idea,” she said. “I think that using renewable, sustainable energy is really, really important.”

Devenport said she wishes she could afford solar panels at her home and restaurant, but until then, the subscriber program is an affordable option. “Eventually we would like to buy more (solar energy) for the restaurant,” she said.

Large energy users participating in the program include Salt Lake City, Park City, Summit County, AMSCO Windows, Deer Valley Resort and Weber State University.

Source:   Photo credit: Rocky Mountain Power