Wind power might be Utah’s best bet

By By Liz Carlston

By Liz Carlston

Huge wind turbine towers with blades the size of semitrucks are popping up in desolate locations all across the country. Utah plays host to several of these wind farms, which are capable of producing enough energy to supply thousands of homes. A one-megawatt wind turbine can generate enough electricity in a year to power as many as 300 homes, according to the American Wind Energy Association’s Web site. In the works are proposals to build hundreds of new wind turbines in Iron, Beaver and Millard counties, but you have to ask if this really is the best course of action to meet America’s growing energy needs.

According to the AWEA, the industry goal is to achieve 25 percent renewable electricity by 2025. Wind energy represents less than 1 percent, according to a recent AWEA report. Texas produces the most wind power of any state, followed by Iowa.

President Barack Obama is dumping $20 billion into projects such as the wind turbines that are supposed to help solve our energy needs as well as help sustain the environment. In terms of performance, coal is the most reliable and affordable energy source in the United States. Critics say drilling for coal damages the environment and it is becoming increasingly difficult for companies to quickly access this resource. However, we have still not found another resource that matches coal’s energy potential and performance.

As construction jobs have dried up in this sour economy, the government is looking to the renewable energy sector hoping they can capitalize on the transition into creating green-collar jobs. The wind towers are being touted as a viable substitute to burning carbon-emitting fossil fuels as the turbine’s generators capture natural energy and transform it into power.

Also attractive about this industry is that costs have dropped by 80 percent since the 1980s, which has enabled this developing industry to compete with coal- or gas-fired power plants, according to the AWEA. Suzlon Energy, the manufacturer of wind turbines in Spanish Fork Canyon, forecast that the wind energy industry will grow by 24 percent during the next five years. Nearly $500 million of Obama’s stimulus package will go toward green job training programs that will prepare individuals to become solar-panel installers, wind turbine mechanics, fuel-cell engineers or energy efficiency experts.

Although the concept of harnessing natural energy is logical and is becoming more affordable with government support, time will tell whether it will truly be a sustainable industry and energy solution. It just might be what Utah needs.

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Liz Carlston