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Wind power: Milford leads the way

Published October 6, 2008 8:42 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2008, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The Dutch were on to something when they built windmills to pump water out of the polders. Down in Milford, Utah, too much water has rarely been a problem, but, as in The Netherlands, the weather and terrain in Milford Valley do produce reliable wind, and modern windmills can harness it to generate electricity.

That's the basis for the Milford Wind Corridor project, which would generate 300 megawatts of electric power, enough for 247,000 homes. An outfit called FirstWind LLC proposes to spend $400 million to build 159 turbine towers in the valley and transmit the juice to California via a substation built for the Intermountain Power Project.

As a source of renewable energy, it's hard to see a down side. The Bureau of Land Management has found no significant environmental impact in its assessment. One might argue that the huge turbines, which are 262 feet tall, are ugly, but compared to the air pollution that coal-fired power plants produce, that strikes us as an excellent trade-off. Of course, wind isn't as reliable as a coal fire, although longtime residents of Beaver County might dispute that point.

As it happens, the Milford Valley is one of only two valley wind corridors in the southern Rocky Mountain region that the Department of Energy identified in its atlas of wind energy resources. The valley is a wind tunnel between two large desert basins, so it's just the place for a wind farm.

This wind power will find its way to California because that state has passed one of the most ambitious renewable energy standards in the country. It requires electric utilities to increase their supplies from renewable energy resources by at least 1 percent of their retail sales annually, until they reach 20 percent by 2010.

We hope that Utah takes similar steps to wean this state from its reliance on coal-fired power. The Legislature has made a start by creating tax credits for producers of renewable energy, and Gov. Jon Huntsman has signed on to the West Governors' Association goal of developing 30,000 megawatts of clean energy by 2015 from traditional and renewable sources.

Wind energy must be part of that diversified portfolio.