July 22, 2014

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Solar Project Launched at Utah Olympic Oval

By Rachel Madison

July 22, 2014

Kearns – A new, large-scale solar array project is underway at the Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns, where more than 3,000 solar modules will be installed to generate more than 1 million kilowatt hours annually.

Colin Hilton, president and CEO of the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation, announced the project as the first of many collaborative conservation projects between the foundation and many community partners.

“This project is a story of noteworthy collaboration around similar interests and creative solutions to reduce the facility’s operating costs,” Hilton said. “The Olympic Winter Games in 2002 highlighted the benefits of working together on common causes, and this project emulates that same spirit.”

Partners in the project include the State of Utah, the Utah State Division of Facilities Construction and Management, BacGen Technologies, SolarCity, Rocky Mountain Power, Salt Lake County and the Oquirrh Parks and Recreation District.

 “We initially looked at how we could apply solar panels on the roof of the structure, but didn’t find the efficiencies that we wanted,” Hilton said. “That eventually led us to the idea of putting our name in the hat of Rocky Mountain Power’s solar renewables project application process. We did it on a whim of hope, and lo and behold, we were awarded the single largest Rocky Mountain Power grant for solar projects. We received a $564,000 grant toward a project for which we just had a vision. Along with that grant was a deadline of 18 months to complete the project, so that sent our staff and I into figuring out how to get it done.”

The foundation went on to partner with the Utah DFCM and Salt Lake County to get the project underway, picking up other community partners along the way. Salt Lake County’s Office of Township Services committed $200,000 to the project.

“Of the project’s $1.4 million cost, we’ve raised over half of that from grants and contributions from community partners,” Hilton said.

A total of 3,108 solar modules will be installed on parking canopies in the Utah Olympic Oval’s south parking lot. The 800 kilowatt system will generate more than 1 million kilowatt hours of energy on an annual basis. All of the solar panels used in the project will be made in the United States.

“The solar array will provide us with approximately 20 percent of our power needs for this facility,” Hilton said. “It adds to the oval’s history of promoting environmental practices. This was the first LEED certified building of its kind back in 2001 when it was opened. This project is a smart return on investment. Factoring in the Rocky Mountain Power incentive and contributions from our partners, we will save on average over $100,000 a year on our power bill and over $3.7 million over the life of the [20-year] project.”

Chad Ambrose, renewables program manager at Rocky Mountain Power, said he’s excited that the solar panels will reduce the overall cost of doing business for the Olympic Oval, because he sees an opportunity for the funds saved to go toward “helping propel the next future Olympic athletes.”

Hilton said another aspect of the project will be education. A display in the front lobby of the oval will provide visitors with up-to-date information on the direct energy production coming from the solar modules as well as its offsets.

“Instead of talking about the future of clean energy, we’re here seeing it take shape right now today,” said Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams. “This is what it looks like when so many work together to make good things happen.”

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