NEW ORLEANS (AP) New natural gas plants are helping boost coal output in Utah, as the state grapples with a steep drop in natural gas prices.

State officials say they expect the new gas plants will generate enough electricity to power more than 10,000 homes.

Utah Gov.

Gary Herbert announced Wednesday that the state will buy 1.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas per year through 2020.

It is expected to produce enough power for more than 12,000 Utah homes, according to the Utah Electric Power Authority.

The utility also plans to spend $1.2 million to install a solar panel on the roof of one of the new plants, which will supply solar power to homes in the community of Ashland.

The new natural gas projects will add to a booming coal industry that has already been fueled by a spike in coal production from mines in West Virginia, Kentucky and Pennsylvania.

Herbert says Utah will be the second-largest producer of coal in the U.S. in 2020.

Utah has about 4.6 million residents and 1.5 million residents in the Navajo Nation.

Tags: