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Renewable energy making strides, but fossil fuels will remain vital

Some participants in the renewable energy workshop look at a solar driven electric covered tricycle that the rider drove to the Sandy campus of Salt Lake Community College from Cottonwood Canyon on Monday morning. The rider said that he averaged about 23 miles an hour and that the cells generate about 40 volts, which is enough to power the vehicle.

Sun Advocate publisher

The standbys of coal, oil and natural gas will be with us for a long time, but the new world of modern renewable energy is moving rapidly to fill some of the gaps that will appear in the future. And eventually, renewables will provide a good portion of the energy in this country.

That was the word at the Utah Renewable Energy Business Summit held Monday at the Sandy Campus of Salt Lake Community College as 400 people gathered to talk about where the renewable energy business is headed. Attendees came from all parts of the state and from 17 other states as well.

"There has been a debate in our state about carbon based energy versus renewables," said Lieutenant Governor Greg Bell in one of the opening addresses. "It comes down, however, to two things; conservation of what we have and the management of carbon. We want Utah to be progressive and intelligent, but anything we do must make economic sense."

A number of people from the Castle Valley area attended the conference, which was aimed at helping those that want to get into renewable energy, conservation or related industries. And while most of the booths at the conference had to do with solar, wind, geothermal and related industries, the traditional suppliers of energy were a big part, including PacifiCorp and Questar.

"PacifiCorp is taking a backseat to no one when it comes to renewables," said Richard Walje, the president of Rocky Mountain Power. "We have been progressive in our thinking and are not taking a backseat in this. We are second in the country in the number of wind turbines we are utilizing."

The conference, sponsored by the Utah Governor's Office of Economic Development, featured expert speakers from the areas of finance, law, design/engineering and operations in many aspects of renewable energy. But the modern development of renewables is actually outpacing many of the traditional energy policies that have been around for a long time.

"I know of no other issue or area of expertise where after all the debate and talking is done that one concept has not emerged as the best or the most dominant option people want to follow," said Bell. "We have emerging technologies where one may not dominate the scene, but instead they will blend with each other."

The morning sessions were largely a merry-go- round of state and federal agencies and private concerns that can help entrepreneurs along in their renewable energy businesses. Altogether 19 various presentations were given to the general group on everything from grants and financing to manufacturing expertise.

The afternoon was filled with workshops on wind, solar and geothermal operations, financing and supply manufacturers.

"This is part of our new vision for the state," said Spencer Eccles, executive director of governor's office. "Five years ago we set out to be the best performing business state in the nation. Many have named us number one now. In fact we were the only state in the union in 2009 that actually increased our exports. Utah has the state, academia and private industry working together like no one else. I think we have a secret sauce that no one else has."

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