Utah Skies Looking Brighter For Ikea
For a growing number of companies, there’s green on the horizon in Utah — and not just because of its business-friendly climate. Increasingly, they’re drawn to the state’s sunny skies, which are becoming more and more a viable source of renewable energy.
The most recent development is a coming solar farm tucked in the northern corner of the state. The holding company Ingka, which operates 367 IKEA furniture and home furnishing stores around the world, announced earlier this week it’s taking a 49% stake in the plant, along with another in Texas.
The deal illustrates the shift major companies across the political spectrum are making as they move towards renewable energy. That mirrors a larger trend nationwide, as the country now produces 40 times more solar power than it did a decade ago.
Ingka is the second of at least two major companies to plant solar flags in Utah, including Facebook, which is currently building its own solar plant in Iron County.
Located in rural Rich County near the Idaho border, the new Sage Power Plant is the smaller of the two plants that Ingka is investing in. Its roughly 636,000 solar panels will be enough to power about 12,000 homes, said Kate Bowman, the renewable energy program manager at Utah Clean Energy.
The energy generated by the panels will be sold to PacifiCorp for distribution once the plant comes online, IKEA’s Paul Mills said in an emailed statement. The company expects to be online by the end of the month. Mills noted Ingka will receive a portion of the sales, but did not receive any tax incentives.
IKEA and its partners have invested heavily in renewables in recent years. Last year, the company announced plans to use only recycled and renewable materials in its products by 2030. The company has also installed solar panels in a majority of its stores, including Salt Lake City. The two solar farms, however, will be the company’s first off-site solar projects.
IKEA isn’t alone. Almost two thirds of Fortune 100 companies now have some kind of renewable energy policy in place. Companies from Budweiser to Gap, Inc. have invested in both solar and wind power.
Bowman says it’s a shift from years past, and cites a few reasons why it’s happening now, starting with cost. In the past decade solar panels have become exponentially cheaper -- and more efficient -- while the federal government and the state are now offering tax breaks to anyone looking to install panels. The federal incentives are set to decline starting later this year.
At the same time, traditional energy sources are getting riskier. Bowman notes there are a lot of potential costs associated with carbon - like a potential carbon tax - and oil prices are notoriously volatile and at the whim of global events.
With the corporate push towards going green, there is a lot at stake for Utah. Bowman says that as one of the sunniest states in the country, there is plenty of solar to go around. And while the state is currently ranked 10th in the country in its overall solar energy capacity, that is a major jump from its ranking last year at 27th.
“There’s some questions about the transition to renewable energy resources that we still have to answer and figure out,” Bowman said. “But overall, whether you’re a solar developer or large company or just a resident in Utah, I think it’s good for everyone.”