July 2, 2012

Cover Story

Built to Lead

Perhaps no Utah governor in modern memory comes to the office with a broad...Read More

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Flying High on Wings of Fiber

Biotech Pioneers


A New Code

Made—and Played With—in Utah

Head of the Class

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Under Construction

A Power Trip

GOED's Toolbox

More than Meets the Eye

Derek B. Miller

Jeanette Herbert

Spencer P. Eccles


A Power Trip

From Coal to Windfarms, Utah is Home to Abundant Energy Sources

Amy K. Stewart

July 2, 2012

Though the cost to get renewable energy up and running can be steep, it pays off nicely in the long run as far as financial benefits and environmental appreciation. For example, it takes money and years to create a wind farm—to manufacture the product, find the land, get the lease and deliver that power. But the power delivered is clean and effective, making it worth the initial investment.

And though much of renewable energy depends on uncontrollable factors, Utah’s wealth of traditional energy combined with the State’s advancements in renewable energy creates a balanced mix of reliable resources.

“We need power all the time,” Julian says. “The wind only blows at certain times. The sun only shines a certain percent of the day. It’s [because of] the cost, the time that we need baseload resources [like coal and natural gas].”

Julian explains that Utah continues to innovatively plan for the State’s future energy consumption needs. “How can we decrease land use—while increasing the power supply? How can we harness the wind better? How can we get more sun power into the solar panels in our buildings? That technology is still being worked on…I’m sure, as renewables get better and are easier to harness and less costly, we will be using them more and more.”

Energy Innovators
Efforts to harness energy in Utah received a boost in 2006 when the Beehive State launched its USTAR (Utah Science, Technology and Research) initiative. The main goal is to recruit and support, with State funding, innovative teams and research facilities at Utah State University and University of Utah in order to create technology that can be commercialized through new business ventures.

“Utah is very much an energy state, and there is a climate of innovation with a sophisticated workforce,” says Alan Walker, Director of the Technology Outreach and Innovation Program for USTAR, and Senior Advisor to the Director of the Energy and Geoscience Institute at the University of Utah College of Engineering.

Renewable energy is among the research focuses for USTAR. USU researchers are seeing success in scaling the production of biofuels from algae and biomass to commercial levels. USU is also emerging as a leading research center for electrified roadways and other paradigm-shifting technologies. At the U of U, nanotechnology and other experts are developing more efficient solar and geothermal approaches.

USTAR is reaching out beyond the research universities to every corner of the State.

“The landscape of Utah, as far as energy goes, helps provide an environment of success here for companies and businesses,” says Perry Thompson, Associate Director of USTAR’s Southern Utah Technology Outreach and Innovation Program and OED’s Special Projects & Rural Outreach Coordinator.

An example of a regional USTAR energy project in the works involves a solar-powered water heating system that, instead of being installed on top of a roof, is actually placed in the attic, according to Michael O’Malley, Marketing Director for USTAR and the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.

“Why install extensive solar panels up on your roof when you can capture the heat that naturally resides in your attic—especially if you live in southern Utah—and use that resource to reduce the amount of energy you use to heat your water,” O’Malley says. “It’s a simple but brilliant idea.”

The entrepreneur, who is a plumber, used a grant provided through USTAR to work with Dixie State College. A team of students developed prototypes, refined the business plan and took the product to market. “It is innovative efforts like this that show Utah’s famed entrepreneurial spirit is at home in the energy marketplace,” O’Malley says.

Utah’s Energy Resources
22 million tons—amount of coal mined in Utah in 2009 (Utah Geological Survey)
82.5 percent—the percentage of Utah’s electricity that’s fueled by coal (Utah Geological Survey)
40 percent—the amount of Utah’s coal that’s exported to other states or countries (Utah Geological Survey)
10th place—Utah’s ranking among states for proven oil and gas reserves (U.S. Energy Information Administration)
400 million barrels—the amount of Utah’s proven crude oil reserves (U.S. Energy Information Administration)
116 million barrels—the amount of Utah’s proven reserves of natural gas liquids (U.S. Energy Information Administration)
13 percent—the amount of Utah’s BLM lands that are leased for oil or natural gas extraction (BLM)
$2.5 billion—the total sales value of the oil and gas produced in Utah in 2009 (Utah State Tax Commission)
27,741—the number of jobs derived from energy and mineral development on Utah lands managed by the Department of the Interior (Department of the Interior)
77 billion barrels—the estimated amount of recoverable oil in Utah’s oil shale deposits (Utah Geological Survey)

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