Milford Flats, and the Escalante and Wah Wah Valleys, have long been considered good potential areas for solar power - but they lack transmission capability, and customers willing to help pay to build it. Jim Byrne, Utah director of the Western Grid Group, said Utah has wrestled with this issue for some time.
"So, there's kind of a 'chicken or the egg' problem - the renewable developer would like to have transmission already there and available. That doesn't exist, by and large, and that tends to make it more difficult to develop these projects."
Byrne says there have been several transmission-line proposals through or near southwestern Utah, but they've had a hard time finding backers, likely because of the expense. The Solar Energy Zones are spots where federal agencies say large solar installations would have minimal environmental effects and could be approved more quickly if developers are interested.
Now, it's up to states to entice developers to use them.
Sara Baldwin, senior policy and regulatory associate with Utah Clean Energy, says solar technology has become less expensive, and utilities are taking it more seriously. But it has also become competitive, and some states are doing more than Utah to encourage development.
"We've heard whisperings of several developers very interested in Utah's tremendous solar resource, and we're also situated in a space that can serve markets outside of Utah. But the flip side to that is, those states also have solar resources."
Baldwin says the potential for jobs in rural Utah might pique some interest in solar projects. The federal report says at each of the three Solar Energy Zones, a large development would employ well over 2,000 people during construction, and create more than 200 permanent positions.