Top Cities for Solar Energy in Utah (2021)
Solar power represents one of the best, most reliable forms of renewable energy. Homeowners who install solar panels can harness the sun's energy and convert it to usable electric current. In the process, they can curb or even eliminate their dependence on utility companies, and dramatically scale back their ecological impact.
Solar energy tends to be most advantageous in states that get consistent sun exposure year-round, such as Utah. Naturally, communities throughout the Beehive State have shown an admirable commitment to solar power. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, Utah installed the tenth-most solar of any state in 2020, and the ninth-most during the first quarter of 2021. But what are the top cities for solar in Utah? Let's investigate.
Top 10 Cities for Solar in Utah
When narrowing down the 10 cities leading Utah's charge toward clean energy, we looked at sources including solar power generation data from the Energy Information Administration, maps from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the latest Shining Cities report from Environment America.
Based on this data, the following are the top cities for solar in Utah:
- Salt Lake City
- Park City
- St. George
- Castle Valley
1. Salt Lake City
According to the Shining Cities report, Salt Lake City is one of the brightest "solar stars" in the nation. The report ranks the city No. 11 in the country for per-capita solar installation, or watts of DC current per person. It's also one of more than two dozen Utah municipalities that have pledged to use net-100% renewable energy by the year 2030.
Provo, south of Salt Lake City, is consistently ranked as one of the best places to live in the entire U.S. — and it's certainly a good place for solar enthusiasts. NREL maps show that consistent year-round sun exposure makes Provo well-suited for residential solar installation.
3. Park City
Park City is another municipality that has pledged to use 100% renewable energy by the year 2030, and it has a separate goal of using 100% renewable electricity for all city operations by 2022. To incentivize homeowners to go solar, the city has waived all building permit and site inspection fees for new solar installations.
4. St. George
Located close to the Arizona border, St. George is a city filled with sand dunes, desert vistas and, of course, plenty of sunlight to keep solar panels humming. In fact, the city gets an average of 255 sunny days per year — 50 more days than the average U.S. city.
This ski hub and outdoor mountain town is another municipality taking steps toward solar adoption. Ogden City Council recently voted to enter Utah's program to transition to 100% renewable energy by 2030.
Another snowy, ski-lovers paradise, Alta is also part of the pledge to use net-100% renewable energy by the year 2030. It has already installed nearly 100 solar panels on ski patrol structures, ski shops and government buildings.
7. Castle Valley
Castle Valley, just east of Utah's iconic Arches National Park, is another solar leader. In 2017, Castle Valley became the first city in the state to use 100% renewable energy, generating all of its electricity through solar panels and renewable energy credits from Rocky Mountain Power.
Orem is home to the corporate headquarters of Blue Raven Solar, one of the top solar companies not only in Utah, but in many other parts of the U.S. as well. As a municipality, it has also pledged to use 100% renewable energy by 2030.
The gateway to Zion National Park, Springdale is a more tourist-driven town. But it has signed on as a participant in Utah's program to transition to 100% renewables by 2030. Inside the park, photovoltaic panels have already been installed on the south-facing roof of the visitors center, and the Zion Lodge has a solar array and a thermal solar water heater installed as well.
Logan, located in the northern part of the state, has its own net metering program that residents are able to enroll in after installing solar panels. It also has a Green Power Program, which allows Logan City Light & Power customers to purchase "green blocks" of renewable energy at a rate of $2 per 100 kWh.
Where Solar Panels Work Best
There are a few factors that can make a city particularly well-suited for solar installation. Of course, the most important factor is the amount of sunlight the city gets from season to season. Utah's cities tend to fare pretty well in this regard, even the more mountainous and snowy locations.
Something else that makes a city well-suited for solar power is high energy costs. If a city has expensive electricity, then homeowners tend to save more money by switching to solar. By contrast, if utilities are already low, solar savings will be more modest.
Average Utah Electricity Costs
The average household monthly consumption of electricity is 727 kWh in Utah, while the average monthly residential electric bill is $75.63. This is by far the lowest rate of any state in the region, well behind neighboring states such as Arizona ($126.09 per month), Nevada ($106.83) and even New Mexico ($80.04).
Utah Solar Tax Incentives
Utah residents have a number of financial incentives for investing in solar power beyond their month-to-month utility savings. Specifically, Utah offers a residential solar tax credit. However, this credit is phasing out, which means the value of the credit isn't as high as it used to be.
For installations completed in 2021, the maximum tax credit will be $1,200. In the year to come, the tax credit will be capped at $800. In 2023, it will go down to $400. After that, unless the state's legislature extends the credit, the program will be phased out completely.
Also note that Utah offers net metering, which means that if your solar panels generate more electricity than you really need, you can feed it back into the power grid in exchange for credits.
Federal Solar Tax Credits
In Utah, as in the rest of the country, homeowners can also claim a 26% tax credit when they install a residential solar system. This credit exists to make solar installation more affordable and more widely accessible.
Utah Solar Regulations
Though Utah does not have a ton of solar regulations to be aware of, there are a couple that are worth noting:
- Senate Bill 154 limits the power of homeowners associations to restrict solar installations within their communities.
- Utah also has laws to protect solar easements, which are written agreements between property owners to protect long-term access to sunlight.
Final Thoughts: Top Cities for Solar in Utah
Utah is a city leading the charge toward solar in the U.S., but there's always room for improvement. If your city didn't make our top list of solar stars in Utah, there are a few ways to raise your area's solar profile. These include:
- Installing a solar PV system on your own roof
- Educating your neighbors about the benefits of solar energy
- If your city has not already joined Utah's commitment to 100% renewable energy, contact your elected officials to urge for stricter goals