By Governor Gary R. Herbert
Here in Utah, we value independence and self-sufficiency, and understand the benefits of having local control over resources and costs. While internet retail giant eBay is a relatively new partner of the state, it sees eye-to-eye with Utahns on this point, and that was the primary motivator as the company set out to build a 665 kW solar photovoltaic array on the roof of its Topaz data center facility in South Jordan. The system, which includes 2,375 panels covering 72,000 square feet, will produce 924,013 kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, taking care of roughly 10% of the facility’s overall energy needs.
The State of Utah’s Office of Energy Development (OED) was proud to support this project. Fluctuations in energy costs have an enormous effect on facilities like this one, which use significant amounts of electrical power, and so fixing a portion of those costs for the 25+ year life of the solar photovoltaic system helps to provide an extra measure of stability for the company. By facilitating this project, the state has helped to steady future energy costs for eBay, making the company’s long term commitment to Utah an ever surer bet. This is the sort of partnership that enterprising states who value economic development form on a day-to-day basis, and as is made clearer almost daily in national media outlets, Utah is at the head of the pack.
Now while I recognize that the cost of solar is still high, those costs have dropped in recent years, and dozens of small solar businesses throughout the state are capitalizing on improving market conditions and on Utah’s world class, natural solar resources to create jobs and growth.
It’s important to note, however, that job growth in a niche area like solar installation is just a small part of the overall jobs picture. Just this week the Associated Press reported that Utah is seeing a 24% increase in permits to build new homes, and that a good deal of that growth can be attributed to new oil and gas jobs being created in the Uintah Basin. This is good news for Utah. I would like to tip my hat to the many state and local employees, including the OED, who work tirelessly to create growth across the energy sector, for companies as disparate as SPG Solar, who installed the panels at eBay, to Gasco Energy, who’s latest 1,298 wells just got approved for Duchesne and Uintah Counties.
Lately it seems that each new month holds new economic promise for our great state, and my team and I continue to be bullish on Utah’s economic future.