Google Backs Norwegian-Developed Solar Plant in Utah

The Utah Red Hills Renewable Energy Park, a 104-MW solar photovoltaic (PV) plant under development by Norwegian firm Scatec Solar at Parowan in southwest Utah, closed financing on Jan. 7 thanks to an investment from Google in the $188 million project. It will be the largest PV plant in Utah when completed.

Google has poured more than $1.5 billion into 18 renewable energy projects around the world with a total capacity of 2.5 GW—among them POWER’s 2014 Plant of the Year, the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in California. Though the company has made a commitment to minimize its carbon footprint and power its enormous, power-hungry data centers with renewable energy, it is also investing in these projects because of the potential returns. Google will be the tax equity investor in Red Hills, which means it will receive the project’s tax incentives in addition to a portion of the income.

According to Scatec, the site has excellent solar irradiance, in part because it is situated at an elevation of about 8,500 feet (Figure 4). The project will sell its power to PacifiCorp subsidiary Rocky Mountain Power under a 20-year power purchase agreement and is expected to come online by the end of 2015.

Scatec Solar Model
4. High power. The Red Hills Renewable Energy park, under development at a site in southwest Utah and shown here in this photo mock-up, will comprise 325,000 solar photovoltaic modules. Courtesy: Scatec Solar

Despite the state’s impressive potential, Utah has lagged well behind other western states in solar energy deployment, largely because it has only a voluntary renewable energy standard. It currently has about 18 MW of installed solar PV capacity, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, a small fraction of that operating in neighboring states such as Nevada and Arizona.

Thomas W. Overton, JD

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