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Wind Power in Utah Part II

By Ross Chambless

Salt Lake City, UT –
Wind Power in Utah, Part 2: Host:
Right now, a wind energy boom is playing-out across the Western U.S. In Utah, and in other States, energy companies are prospecting for the windiest lands. Not only has wind energy become the most profitable source of renewable energy - it's pollution free. For 2 years now, Utahns have had the option of buying wind power through Utah Power's Blue Sky program. Ross Chambless reports on part 2 or this 2-part series.

Sounds of Avenues Street Fair

Sarah Wright is standing behind a green table here at this neighborhood street fair. Nearby, candidates for the upcoming election are giving out buttons and bumper stickers. But Wright is pushing her own campaign for wind power.

track 2 did everyone get a pinwheel who wants one?' 9, 16, Avenue Street Fair track 5: these are stickers, electricity causes a lot of pollution (talking to kids).

Track 1: 4:50: Most of us don't consider that electricity generation is the largest source of industrial air pollution in the country.

And 90 percent of the electricity in Utah is produced by coal. Electricity use in the average Utah household produces about 20,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions each year. These CO2 emissions are the leading contributor to global warming and air pollution along the Wasatch Front.

When Scottish Power purchased Utah Power in January of 2000, they also purchased 50 megawatts of electricity from several wind-generating sites near Rock Springs, Wyoming. This purchase gave Utahns a choice in reducing the valley's pollution, by paying a few extra bucks on their monthly utility bill for whatever percentage they choose 2 dollars and 95 cents gets you 100 kilowatt-hours 700 powers an entire household. A dozen other States have adopted this idea, called Green Pricing.

Wright talking about the program

Here curious passersby listen to Wright explain Blue Sky,' or Utah Power's Green Pricing program. She holds up a pamphlet full of colorful charts illustrating how buying one block, or 100 kilowatts a month of wind, can help clear-the-air.

5:30: If you buy one block a month for a year, it's the same as not driving your car 18 hundred miles, or planting a third of an acre of trees, that's with respect to preventing your impact to global warming. So it's a pretty simple way to minimize your impact.

Close to 4,000 customers have signed-up, and the number is growing. And while that's still less than half of one percent of current Utah Power users, the company says customer support for Blue Sky has been greater than expected. The company added 3 additional megawatts early last year, and says they'll soon be buying more wind power to match customer demand.

Blender sound

Lysia Hand, a Blue Sky customer, operates her blender after a long day at work.

Track 6: I purchase wind power because I want to do what I can to create a sustainable community, and I just believe it's a good thing to do. Wind is pretty natural. It's always going to be there, and so if we had more people doing it, it would probably be better for our environment and our communities.

Still, if Utah wants to more fully enjoy the financial, as well as environmental benefits of wind power, it'll have to be produced in Utah.

Morning wind sounds Train cars rumbling on tracks

Train cars rumble out of Spanish Fork Canyon, bringing coal from Southern Utah. The tracks are just a hundred yards from Robert Pittelli's Chevron gas station But it's not coal that's on his mind.

Gas station sounds

This is an arial photograph the city provided me of my property (fade)

Pitelli says for ten years he's noticed the wind blowing heavy from the canyon, every morning Customers often asked why he didn't have a windmill So, after a little research, Pittelli realized he had everything he needed: good wind nearby utility lines and lots of land. He even found that the turbine he needed would be no louder than 50 decibels - similar to an electric toothbrush or to the sound of wind itself. He says he spends 24 to 28 thousand dollars a year on electricity, and the wind turbine would greatly reduce those expenses.

2:00: These electric lines are the only ones that feed me and one other property 2:14: So putting up a tower, only a 10-foot square tower, and it's self standing, there's no guide wires when you look at it, what wrong with being here? (sound of truck)

So far, Pittelli says his struggle has been with the City. Emil Pierson is Spanish Fork's Planning Director.

if it fell over, it would fall into the street, or on his gas pumps, or possibly onto his gas station.

But despite his concerns, Pierson says wind energy could be a viable energy source for some rural Utah communities.

Wind turbine sounds from Camp Williams

Stand-up: I'm standing beneath Utah's only large-scale wind turbine, here at Camp Williams, just south of the Point of the Mountain. It's hardly louder than a whisper This turbine produces 225-kilowatts of electricity - enough to power 70 Utah households a year. But the wind generators in Wyoming are much larger. Their turbine blades are comparable to the wingspan of a Boeing 747. Rows and rows of these towers fill the Wyoming desert, turning wind into electricity But some are concerned about what that would do to the landscape. The thought of garnishing Utah's mountainsides with oversized Pinwheels may upset some people. Dean Davis, with Windward Engineering, says some may not find the turbines aesthetically pleasing.

6:10 Wind Energy has to be cautious, I think. It can have an environmental benefit, and it can have environmental groups behind it, but if you start putting it out in Red Rock country for example, I don't think that flies, you're not going to have Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance saying, this is great.'

Wind power is also trying to shake the negative image generated by bird killings at Altamont Pass and Palm Springs, in California. But Christine Watson says improved technology and better planning has changed all that.

27:00: Those turbines were put up in a time when with a tax credit, all they needed to do was get them in the ground. It didn't matter what they looked like, how they sounded, what they killed, just get them in the ground

Watson says turbines go much slower now, and they're sited away from bird migratory routes. But she says as developers prospect the West, landowners may not care about appearances, when paychecks start arriving. Besides tax credits for landowners, royalty payments ranging from 2 to 4 percent of a project's gross revenues, can sometimes near 40 to 50 thousand dollars a year. Not only does wind power represent an opportunity for landowners, the Bureau of Land Management is streamlining the process to make public lands more inviting for wind power. State and Federal governments would split the profits from wind energy projects on BLM land. Most of the State's share would go to the county where the project is located. But public school officials are also maneuvering to cash in on the wind. Kim Christy is Assistant Director with the School Trust Lands Administration.

1:55: In three areas of the State, we have invested significant dollars for test resources and towers, to find out what the potential of wind energy development might be on some of our lands. 3:50: We're pleased to report that at least preliminary data that were seeing now, puts our Trust Lands in a very favorable posture.

mixed sounds disc: track 24: 1:00 - 2:00: wind sounds

Back in Utah County along Highway 6, Engineer Dean Davis gazes towards the mouth of Spanish Fork Canyon. Three prototype wind turbines, towering 40 feet, are sampling the wind's energy But Davis says their spinning turbine blades are catching only a fraction of that energy. Short of stopping the wind altogether, he says it's impossible to harness all the energy from this wind. But if he could, Davis says, the possibilities would be endless.

(Disc 2: track 2: 8:35): It's phenomenal for me to think. The energy coming down this canyon every night, just ball-parking, certainly would run all of Utah County. But I wouldn't be surprised if it could run the whole State of Utah. The amount of energy if we could capture it.

For KUER News, I'm Ross Chambless.

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