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Resource Profile: Solar Energy in Utah

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In 2009 the State of Utah commissioned the Utah Renewable Energy Zones Phase I report, an extensive assessment of the various renewable resources available for development.  Below is a summary of the UREZ findings on solar energy:

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This analysis Utah’s theoretical potential for deriving electric power from solar resources. Utah’s solar resources are clearly abundant. The analysis identified 6,371 square miles of land that has a theoretical potential of about 826 gigawatts (GW) of utility-scale capacity. The solar analysis used several criteria to shape the methodology: (1) measurements of Direct Normal Irradiance (DNI), with a threshold value of 6.0 kilowatt hours per meter squared (kWh/m2)/day or greater, (2) screening out steeper areas (slopes of 3% or greater) unable to accommodate a large solar collection field, (3) screening out environmentally sensitive areas such as national parks, wilderness areas, wetlands, etc., that are not available for development, and (4) applying proxy technology, of a 50 megawatt (MW) parabolic trough concentrating solar thermal power plant, to estimate electrical energy capacity.

Major findings from the solar assessment are:

• Sixteen thousand five hundred (16,500) theoretically potential 50 MW solar REZ areas (1 km square zones) were identified (826 GW).

• The geospatial distribution of the quality of the solar resource follows a simple north to south trend.

• Southern Utah has the higher quality resources (6.5 kWh/m2/day or greater), while northern Utah has a slightly lower quality solar resource (6.0 kWh/m2/day or less).

• The prime solar Renewable Energy Zone (REZ) areas constitute less than 1.5% of the identified sites, while the majority of the sites (43.2%) have a lower resource potential.

• The total area of the solar REZs is 6,371 square miles.

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