'Wind Uprising' examines rough road to renewable energy in Utah

By Travis Poppleton

For the Deseret News

Published: Thursday, Sept. 8 2011 3:18 p.m. MDT

A new documentary coming out of the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University addresses renewable energy — an issue both major political parties have sympathy for, private business sees opportunity in and many citizens view as a common-sense solution for our rapidly growing energy needs.

“Look at the U.S. with these wide-open spaces and enormous wind resources,” Randy Swisher, past executive director of the American Wind Energy Association, says in “Wind Uprising.”

“There’s almost no limit in terms of what wind can do in this country," he said.

Despite interest in the cause and vast resources in this country, Sarah Wright, executive director of Utah Clean Energy, states that “The energy industry has been the slowest industry to innovate."

Big oil companies and wealthy lobbyists are often blamed as the culprits for slowing the nation’s renewable energy efforts, but “Wind Uprising” suggests that the obstacles are often closer to home, and sometimes bring with them complicated social issues.

“We need to slow down,” says Randy Watts, mayor of Logan. “Look at the infrastructure of all these people working in coal mines. That’s their life.”

Focusing on the story of Utah’s first commercial-scale wind facility in Spanish Fork, Utah, “Wind Uprising” follows the personal efforts and sacrifices of Tracy Livingston, founder of Wasatch Wind, and Christine Watson Mikell, then energy engineer for the Utah Energy Office.

As they work towards their dream of bringing renewable wind energy to the state of Utah, difficulties arise each step of their journey, with investors, politicians and concerned residents.

“We felt that this was something that directly impacts us,” Spanish Fork resident James Reese says in the film. “We live right in the shadow of these monolithic, huge windmills.”

The film considers the weight of local politics on future innovations in the state of Utah, but also paints a vision of a cleaner, greener state that might one day lead the country in profitable energy alternatives.

The running time for “Wind Uprising” is only 32 minutes in length, but it asks questions that will be discussed for years.

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