OGDEN — A utility-scale solar power generating plant is planned for wide-open western Weber County.
The facility would be capable of generating 36 megawatts, enough to power around 4,000 homes, according to Mathew Niesen, a representative from Strata Solar Development, the developer. It would also be the first facility of its scale in northern Utah, joining other large plants in southern Utah.
“I love having this in Weber County,” said Weber County Commissioner Jim Harvey.
Commissioners on Tuesday approved the development agreement with Strata outlining parameters of the plans. The officials also OK’d the required rezone of the undeveloped 370-acre parcel where the facility would sit to allow for a solar power plant.
Most solar facilities of the proposed Weber County operation’s size are located in southern Utah because of the higher power-generating capacity brought on by the zone’s distinct conditions, Niesen said. But northern Utah is still very sunny, and one of the potential benefits of locating a plant here comes from the relative proximity to the population cluster along the Wasatch Front.
Getting power to users once it’s generated creates distinct issues and there are “fewer transmission constraints” in Weber County than in more sparsely populated southern Utah, Niesen said. Strata, which has an office in Moab but is headquartered in Durham, North Carolina, plans to sell the power generated in Weber County to Rocky Mountain Power or some other power provider.
“Lower voltage clean energy generated from the solar farm system will be converted to high voltage energy and will then interconnect with the regional power grid (electricity distribution network) via existing transmission lines located northeast of the development site,” reads Strata’s application for the rezone. Niesen wouldn’t disclose the planned investment in the project but said the plant should be operational within 12 to 18 months.
The solar project would actually cover 200 to 250 acres of the rural parcel where it’s to take shape, east of 7500 West, roughly in the 1700 South block of the roadway. That’s northeast of the Ogden Bay Waterfowl Management Area.
The solar arrays would reach up to 10 feet tall, rotating with the sun, according to Charlie Ewert, principle planner in the Weber County Planning Division. They would sit far from the edge of the property line, and he said those nearby would be able to see over them.
Noting concern that the facility could appear to be a body of water to flying waterfowl, the agreement between Strata and Weber County calls on Strata to install “the most wildlife friendly solar panels that the industry is producing.” Some birds, the agreement reads, “are unable to take flight if not on water.”
Increased residential development in western Weber County has been a focus of hot debate, some worried about the resulting change to the area’s rural feel as more people move in. In its application for the rezone, Strata referenced that.
“The development of the solar farm can, in a sense, protect the integrity of open space and will inhibit residential subdivision sprawl that is likely to occur over time in western Weber County,” it reads. It goes on, saying the solar farm “will be a quiet neighbor and can certainly enable the desire of the West Weber community to maintain ‘...a sense of quiet, country living.’”
Strata would lease the land for the solar farm from the property’s owners, the Willson Family Trust. Brad Willson of the Liberty area, part of the trust, said the land has traditionally been used for farming and cattle grazing and the westernmost portion of the 370-acre parcel would continue to be used for agricultural purposes.
Utah, overall, has an installed capacity of solar-generated power of 1,660.96 megawatts, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, 10th highest in the country. That’s enough to power 322,000 homes.
The trade group said one of the largest solar installations in the state is Iron Springs Solar in Cedar City in southern Utah, with a capacity of 99 megawatts.