Small Solar Gets Big-Utility Customer Backing

Rocky Mountain Power is a division of PacifiCorp and part of MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company, so it’s a company that deals in power on a massive scale. Megawatts. Gigawatts. Tetrawatts! But off on the side it has a consumer-supporter program called Blue Sky, where it works in small increments to boost clean energy.

The company’s latest Blue Sky moves will put $1 million into small-scale solar energy installations. The amount will be divided between a dozen community-based projects in Utah, ranging in size from a distributed 60 kilowatts (kW) at the Utah Transit Authority’s Airport TRAX Line, down to a 7-kW array at the city of Moab Animal Shelter. Distributed generation is the creation of electricity from many small sources, as opposed to one large, coal-fired power plant, for example. The term is most commonly associated with solar power, although it can work for wind power as well.

blue sky program, rocky mountain power

image via Rocky Mountain Power

Rocky Mountain’s Blue Sky program has supported the development of community-oriented renewable energy projects for six years now. This program offers blocks of 100 kilowatt-hours of renewable power at a premium of $1.95 per block per month over and above a customer’s normal electricity bill. Customers purchase said blocks, and Rocky Mountain Power in turn buys renewable energy certificates, or RECs, on their behalf.

Enrollment in, and withdrawal from, the Blue Sky Program, is available anytime, and Rocky Mountain Power does not profit from either the purchase or the power itself. The Blue Sky Program, formerly applicable only to wind energy, operated in states where Rocky Mountain Power provides electricity—Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Wyoming, all within the Western Electricity Coordinating Council. The solar program is only applicable in the state of Utah.

The solar projects are in various degrees of completion, from design phase to delivery (of electricity) and range across a wide spectrum of organizations, from the above-mentioned animal shelter and public transportation to schools like the Maria Montessori Academy in North Ogden and Weber State University in Layton. The largest single-site (nondistributed generation) solar installation is at the Cedar City Fire Department Station, for 23.26 kW, and the smallest installations—including the above-mentioned Montessori school—are Quest Academy, North Davis Preparatory Academy, Hawthorn Academy and North Star Academy, all at 9.9 kW apiece.