Day 9: Milford

It was bittersweet to say farewell to Bob Inglis, Tom, Logan and crew this morning in Cedar City. They headed back to Salt Lake City, and I rode out to the west deserts of Utah (with Pete filming and supporting). Rain refreshed, riding on quiet roads, and observing the stark “basin and range” country, it was a great ride to Milford.

The Milford area (in Beaver county) is teeming with renewable energy projects. There is the Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy (FORGE) (here’s a good article about the project from Deseret News), the 240 MW Escalante Solar Project, the 306 MW Milford Wind Corridor Project, and the 3.2 MW Blue Mountain Biogas facility that processes methane from pig manure. More are in process, and they’re very large scale.

Noah returned to support the tour, and attend meetings. We had an very insightful afternoon meeting with a county commissioner and mayor that was full of positive thoughts and genuine concerns that pertain to local impacts. The positive is that renewable projects help fulfill county and town budgets by providing a stable tax base. A few examples of concerns: (i) how can small county/city landfills handle the construction waste from setup (and some-day the decommission) of renewable energy projects? (ii) the influx of added economy during setup of a renewable is wonderful, but uneven. (iii) how to manage solar projects that can compete with long-standing grazing rights on public lands, (iv) grid capacity issues — is there room for additional load on existing transmission lines. Despite these concerns, it appears that the enthusiasm for renewable energy projects is very high.

Geothermal in particular is of interest, because of the vast geothermal reserves in the area, the potential to re-deploy a workforce dedicated to the gas and mining industry for project setup, the “baseload” electricity that it can provide (e.g., like a coal fired power plant), and the very small surface land footprint it requires.

My take is that it is critically important to meet face-to-face with these extremely dedicated, hard-working, local government officials. Our discussions were forthright but respectful, interspersed with laughter and personal stories, and mutual curiosity. We’re so grateful that they made time for us during their ever-busy schedules and lives. There is much to follow-up on, and I look forward to future meetings.

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