Utah’s first utility-scale solar energy plant amps up to deliver

IRON COUNTY — Eight years of hard work and vision came to fruition Thursday upon the completion and commissioning of Utah’s first, fully-functional, utility-sized solar power plant Utah Red Hills Renewable Park located in Parowan.

Left to right: Swinerton Renewable Energy Vice President George Hershman, Scatec Solar ASA EVP Power Production and Asset Management Torstein Bernsten, Scatec Solar North America Luigi Resta and Array Technologies President Thomas Conroy show off the solar fields at the new Utah Red Hills Renewable Park, Parowan, Utah, Dec. 10, 2015 | Photo taken by Carin Miller, St. George News
Left to right: Swinerton Renewable Energy Vice President George Hershman, Scatec Solar ASA EVP Power Production and Asset Management Torstein Bernsten, Scatec Solar North America Luigi Resta and Array Technologies President Thomas Conroy show off the solar fields at the new Utah Red Hills Renewable Park, Parowan, Utah, Dec. 10, 2015 | Photo taken by Carin Miller, St. George News

Investors, developers and government officials from across the globe and Utah gathered to celebrate the completion of the project with food, music and tours of the facility — despite threats of storm clouds on the horizon.

“This is a pioneering project,” Scatec Solar North America Luigi Resta said. “We did open up a market and it should have positive benefits for many of the counties and the communities with both job creation, new tax benefits and ultimately, hopefully, at low avoided cost prices of (energy).”


Read more: Solar power plant in Parowan on schedule for December opening


As a result of this project, Resta said, there are a multitude of new solar energy projects currently under development in Southern Utah that will add an additional 500 to 800 megawatts through a variety of developers, creating additional employment for trained workers in the field.

When beginning to develop Utah Red Hills Renewable Park, Resta said, one important goal was to create jobs in the locality of the development, rather than bring in outside workers to build the project. A task that Swinerton Renewable Energy Vice President George Hershman followed through on with integrity, Resta said.

Solar fields, Utah Red Hills Renewable Park, Parowan, Utah, Dec. 10, 2015 | Photo taken by Carin Miller, St. George News
Solar fields, Utah Red Hills Renewable Park, Parowan, Utah, Dec. 10, 2015 | Photo taken by Carin Miller, St. George News

“They have remained committed to what I asked them to do two years ago,” he said. “Which was to hire locally to build the project — which they have done to the utmost quality.”

At any given time during the construction of the 632-acre solar field in Parowan, an average of 200 workers were employed by Swinerton Renewable Energy, Resta said, and 91 percent of those employees were from Iron County and the surrounding Southern Utah area.

“It is true that these are short-term construction jobs,” Hershman said. “But with consolidation of solar in areas like this, that trained workforce, a number of those people that were trained and working on this plant are building other plants right within the area.”

Solar fields, Utah Red Hills Renewable Park, Parowan, Utah, Dec. 10, 2015 | Photo taken by Carin Miller, St. George News
Array Technologies tracking system that allows solar panels to follow the sun, Utah Red Hills Renewable Park, Parowan, Utah, Dec. 10, 2015 | Photo taken by Carin Miller, St. George News

Continuing development of solar projects helps create long-term work for Swinerton Renewable Energy workers who now have skills and knowledge to apply in the field no matter who is developing the new projects, he said.

The 340,784 solar panels are attached to racks that are supported by 53,923 piles that are 10-feet deep in the ground, Hershman said. Each rack is connected to a tracking system allowing the panels to follow the sun’s movement in the sky, ensuring the most possible energy can be absorbed.

Once energy is collected, Resta said, it is transferred through 80 inverters that collect the energy stored in the panels and delivered to the transformers that help to distribute clean energy to the public.

Developers discuss the final completion of an 8-year endeavor in solar fields at the Utah Red Hills Renewable Park, Parowan, Utah, Dec. 10, 2015 | Photo taken by Carin Miller, St. George News
Developers discuss the final completion of an 8-year endeavor in solar fields at the Utah Red Hills Renewable Park, Parowan, Utah, Dec. 10, 2015 | Photo taken by Carin Miller, St. George News

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the new plant will reduce carbon emissions by 145 tons annually, Resta said, making solar renewable energy sourced from the new plant, a clean resource for power in the communities serviced by it.

The Utah Red Hills Renewable Park project is an exciting new venture for the state, Governor’s Office of Energy Development Renewable Energy Development Coordinator Blake H. Thomas said.

“This is a very exciting project,” Thomas said. “To be the first utility-scale solar project in the state – which required cooperation with local stakeholders, with international partners and with the utilities.”

Iron County Commissioner Alma Adams takes a moment to address the crowd at the commissioning for the new Utah Red Hills Renewable Park, Parowan, Utah, Dec. 10, 2015 | Photo taken by Carin Miller, St. George News
Iron County Commissioner Alma Adams takes a moment to address the crowd at the commissioning for the new Utah Red Hills Renewable Park, Parowan, Utah, Dec. 10, 2015 | Photo taken by Carin Miller, St. George News

It is the governor’s position that “an all-of-the-above” energy policy is the most conducive to forwarding the progression of a sustainable future in energy production in the future, he said.

“So, there’s an integration of our resources that historically have provided affordable and reliable energy,” Thomas said. “And we are now seeing today the new energy sources and I think it’s a combination of the both of those that will bring the most benefit to Utahns and Utah ratepayers.”

The project has been a blessing to the Parowan community and will continue to bless the Iron County community as a whole for years to come through tax benefits that will fund a variety of future endeavors, Iron County Commissioner Alma Adams said.

“What a marvelous thing that we have such a great solar generation potential here, and so the companies have come,” he said. “I must say that we are extremely proud and pleased to have this right here in Iron County and in the valley of the ‘Little Salt Lake.’”

See photo gallery below, click on image to enlarge then use left-right arrows to cycle through gallery 

Email: cmiller@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

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7 Comments

  • wilbur December 12, 2015 at 9:43 am

    It would have been nice if Ms. Miller had mentioned the rated Kw power of this array. It would appear it is 340,768 X 300W (est. per panel) = 102,235,200 Watts. A 100Kw daytime power station. Hmmmm.

    Chinese panels, most likely.

    And the price premium customers must pay for its’ output?

    (Also, how many window washers will be employed there full time?)

    • Joyce Kuzmanic Joyce Kuzmanic December 12, 2015 at 9:54 am

      Wilbur, I expect you’ll find the kind of detail you’re suggesting in our earlier report on the Scatec Solar plant in Parowan, here:
      http://www.stgeorgeutah.com/news/archive/2015/05/06/ric-solar-power-farm-in-parowan-on-schedule-for-december-opening/#.VmxQyBorJdA
      I hope that helps and appreciate your interest. 🙂
      ST. GEORGE NEWS | CEDAR CITY NEWS
      Joyce Kuzmanic
      Editor in Chief

      • wilbur December 12, 2015 at 10:39 am

        There is no mention of rated output of this plant (full sun, zero degrees of incidence) in either article, only breathless “yearly output totals”, “tons of coal and CO2 avoided”, etc.

        Can we have a science major review these reworded press releases to be sure to include the most basic of information, at least?

        (If I had the panel manufacturers P/N, I could compute it for you.)

        • Joyce Kuzmanic Joyce Kuzmanic December 12, 2015 at 12:16 pm

          Not a bad suggestion, wilbur – although in fairness to our reporters, these are not reworded press releases, they did go to the site and report what information was made available to them.
          I do like the idea of a science major weighing in on this kind of story as much as I like a complaint with a suggestion attached. It’s a good one, thank you! 😀
          JK
          EIC

    • .... December 12, 2015 at 10:51 am

      Shut up Wibur LOL ! get out from the front of your computer and get a life. window washers make some good money. they don’t sit in front of their computers and cry all day like you do. Btw tell Mr Ed I said hello

      • wilbur December 12, 2015 at 12:38 pm

        You are a nasty, nasty man, at the very least, and as educated as I think you are, at best.

  • .... December 12, 2015 at 2:17 pm

    Shut up Wilbur. You’re a nasty.nasty man. at the very least and as uneducated as I know you are. did you break out your crying towel today ?

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