Blog Post

Renewable energy: The best things in life are free

By: Thomas Holst

Renewable energy in Utah has grown rapidly over the last decade.  Renewable energy sources include solar, geothermal, wind, biomass, and hydropower.  In contrast to fossil fuels, renewables have little or no carbon footprint and have been embraced by some states, most notably California, in an effort to slow climate change caused by greenhouse gases.

How have Utahns taken to using renewable energy?   The straightforward answer involves geography, state and federal tax incentives, and concerns for the environment.

Geography.  A land corridor stretching from Tooele county in the north to Washington county in the south is highly prospective for solar, geothermal, and wind projects.  Statistics verify Utah’s unique potential for capturing renewable energy.  For example, Utah is one of only seven states to have geothermal projects; these are located in Beaver and Millard counties.  Further, Utah has been cited by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory as one of the top seven states with the greatest solar potential1.  Utah’s solar projects are located in Millard, Beaver, and Iron counties.  Finally, wind projects are located in Tooele, Utah, San Juan, Millard, and Beaver counties.

Tax Incentives.  Utahns have responded to government tax incentives to invest in solar energy.  Applications for solar tax incentives jumped from 153 in 2009 to 7,400 in 20162.   Ninety-eight percent of the tax credits were for rooftop solar.

On the utility side, in addition to tax incentives, technological advances have reduced the cost of a photovoltaic plant, also known as a solar park, by 80 percent since 20093.    Utility solar accounts for nearly half of the state’s renewable energy.

While no official numbers exist for how much solar energy is captured and used by Utah homeowners, the electricity demand from utilities has remained flat over the last few years.  Prior to the tax incentive p