The solar resource in Utah is simply world class. This has been established in multiple studies and government actions including the Western Renewable Energy Zones report, the Utah Renewable Energy Zones reports and most recently by the Department of the Interior’s designation of three Solar Energy Zones in the state. To date solar in Utah has been distributed in nature, meaning that it has typically taken the form of 1kW-1.5MW installations on homes and businesses to offset their load. It’s an exciting time for solar in Utah!
The wind resource in Utah has been developed to a greater extent than solar, and the state boasts two successful wind projects, a 19 MW project in Spanish Fork, and a 306 MW project near Milford. While the high-value wind resources are concentrated in the southwest portion of the state including, among others, Millard, Beaver, and Iron Counties, there are smaller pockets of prime wind resource scattered throughout the state, particularly in San Juan and Box Elder Counties, but also in isolated canyon mouths, ridges and other sites where dramatic topography produces valuable resource.
Utah is one of just a half-dozen or so states with a developable utility-scale geothermal resource, and currently is ranked #4 with respect to total geothermal production, with about 70MWs of nameplate capacity installed as of the end of 2013. OED’s partners at the Utah Geological Survey have extensively mapped the states geothermal potential, and it is immense; however, given the high cost of exploratory drilling necessary to “prove” the resource, Utah can expect to see cautious, if steady growth in this unique baseload renewable resource.
Just as in every region in the United States, Utah’s hydroelectric fleet is essentially fixed, as very little new hydro facilities are being deployed, due to the concerns of conservationists. However, there are still a great deal of opportunities for smaller applications known as “micro-hydro,” and there’s always the potential for upgrading existing facilities to improve efficiencies and lengthen the life of equipment.
Due to the breadth of potential biomass resources – woody material and other plant-based resources, solid and liquid municipal solid waste, residual material from food processing, etc. – the resources are still being quantified and assessed, as are the options for utilization. Certainly many wastewater treatment plans are already capturing methane and generating electricity to offset their load, and incineration provides a tried-and-true option for municipal solid waste; but in terms of waste utilization, we have only scratched the surface. As for plant-based materials, there are a wide variety of uses, from co-firing with coal, to generating bio-oils, or even – outside of the energy arena – to the production of plastics or soil amendments.