Got a renewable-energy project? Rocky Mountain Power wants to help

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Rocky Mountain Power once again is looking for a few good alternative-energy projects to fund.

From now through May 31, the utility will be accepting applications to support small, community-based solar, wind and low-impact hydroelectric projects in Utah, Wyoming and Idaho — projects that it hopes can be used to help educate the public about the benefits of renewable energy.

The company has given assistance to such projects under its Blue Sky program since 2006, and last year alone provided nearly $1.8 million to fund 20 renewable energy in Utah.

Under the Blue Sky program, consumers pay a premium on their monthly bills — $1.95 for each 100 kilowatt-hour block of Blue Sky energy they buy — so they can be assured that they are supporting the production of electricity from renewable resources. When a customer commits to buying Blue Sky power, Rocky Mountain Power promises that a similar quantity of electricity generated from wind farms or other renewable resources will be put onto the regional distribution grid.

"Although all of the projects we funded under the Blue Sky program last year in Utah were solar-power systems, there are other technologies available," said utility spokesman Jeff Hymas.

He said projects based upon the production of electricity from wind, biomass, landfill gas, low-impact hydro and geothermal energy will be considered. "We want to encourage those who apply to determine what type of alternative-energy project best suits their needs."

Last year in Idaho, for example, the company provided $46,900 for the development of a small hydropower plant by a nonprofit irrigation company that provides water to more than 450 water-shareholders in the Preston area, Hymas said.

In addition to generating 500-kilowatts of electricity, the plant is part of an irrigation piping project that is expected to conserve more than 3.3 billion gallons of water a year, reduce pumping energy use and improve water quality.

Kevin Emerson of Utah Clean Energy, which worked with Rocky Mountain Power to develop its Blue Sky initiative, said one of the program's strengths is the funding it has provided for projects developed by schools, churches and other nonsprofits that ordinarily would not have had the resources to pursue such endeavors.

"The Blue Sky program has come a long way," he said. "And the projects it has funded have helped the idea grow of using renewable sources to generate electricity. And that is good because it is going to take all types of solutions for Utah to have a clean energy future."

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