Utah is about to become a hub for wind energy information in the Four Corners states, with financial assistance from the U.S. Energy Department and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
Sarah Wright is director of Utah Clean Energy, the nonprofit that will head up the information clearinghouse for wind energy, the Four Corners Wind Resource Center.
“The West and the Four Corners states have amazing potential for wind development, and that’s pollution-free, fuel-free energy,” she says. “But there are a lot of barriers, and this resource center will educate, will make sure that policy makers and regulators have the most accurate information so that we can develop this vast potential.”
The potential benefits to rural Utah could be especially big, according to Wright. She points to the First Wind project in Beaver County. It generates 300 megawatts of wind power. It’s more than doubled the county’s tax base and created 8 to 10 jobs.
Someday up to 9000 megawatts of wind power could be part of Utah’s energy portfolio. And Wright says the new center is aimed at helping people make the best use of wind resources.
“The regulators will get technical information about how to integrate wind into our portfolios,” she says. “Landowners will get information about how they might negotiate a lease agreement with a wind developer. County commissioners will get information about jobs and economic development and also the potential impacts from wind development. So, it will be really targeted to the audience.”
Wright says rural Utah landowners can use the center to see if their land would be suitable for a small turbine.
The online resource center is expected to launch next month. The state Office of Energy Development is also involved in the project.