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Utah conference focuses on renewable energy

Published: Tuesday, April 19 2011 2:43 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Developing affordable, stable energy resources is one of the state's key competitive advantages, according to Gov. Gary Herbert a featured speaker Tuesday at the Utah Renewable Energy Conference.

Utah enjoys the fourth lowest cost for energy generation in the nation, he said. The event focused on increasing awareness among businesses, consumers and families of renewable energy today.

"For Utah's future — for its economic growth, well-being and quality of life — energy development and sustainability is really a key part of what we can do in Utah," Herbert said.

He said the state would work to transition from a primarily carbon-based energy portfolio to one that includes a greater mix of nontraditional renewable sources.

"The public is demanding affordable, cleaner fuels," he said. Making that happen will take ingenuity from the private sector and innovative researchers to develop options that will help the state reach its short-term energy goals and meet its long-term energy needs, Herbert added.

Last month, the governor unveiled a 10-year strategic energy plan that combines using the state's abundant natural resources such as coal, along with increased development of alternative and renewable fuels such as wind, solar and geothermal, as well as considering a nuclear power component.

The 42-page report stated that accomplishing the state's energy goals would require developing resources thoughtfully through careful evaluation of resource potential, impact on economic development, the natural environment and human health, along with weighing physical and regulatory constraints.

The plan included a 10-point plan of goals and mentioned using a combination of fossil fuels, renewable alternatives and nuclear power and was developed by an energy task force that included industry, academic, environmental and government leaders who gathered public input statewide.

Renewable energy is the key to our economic growth and the key to getting us out of our rut, said Wendolyn Holland, senior adviser to the assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy, who was the opening keynote speaker at the daylong event. Being a good steward of the environment is an important part of renewable energy, but just as important is economic growth. Companies that switch to renewable energy increase profits within a 10-year period.

The conference, organized by the Utah Solar Energy Association and the Utah Technology Council, included legal panels, demonstrations and information sessions that discussed various ideas regarding renewable development.

Some local companies also displayed products such as solar power charging systems, as well as geothermal heating and cooling systems. The advances in technology have helped Utah greatly in its efforts to supplement energy needs with renewable resources statewide, said Levi Belnap, executive director of the Utah Solar Energy Association.

"We have large wind energy projects, we have large solar projects that are being developed right now (and) we have geothermal projects," Belnap said. "All the technologies that people talk about are here in Utah and happening right now."

Email: jlee@desnews.com

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