About 165 miles south of Salt Lake City, 80-foot blades from 165 wind turbines spin above the desert near the railroad town of Milford.
Off in the distance, steam from the Blundell geothermal plant billows into the air. South of Milford, two methane digesters convert hog manure from Circle 4 farms into electricity. Across the county, hydroelectric plants in the Beaver Mountains generate electricity for the City of Beaver, one of the state’s first cities to be electrified. South of Milford, the recent permitting of four solar farms by First Wind will complete the county’s renewable energy portfolio. Then, Beaver County will be the only location in the nation, and perhaps the world, where five different types of renewable energy are commercially produced within a 50-mile radius of each other.
More than 100 years ago, prospectors scoured the mountains and deserts of Beaver County looking for gold, silver and other metals. Wild mining towns like Frisco boomed west of Milford, only to evaporate into the desert when mining went bust a decade later. Today, renewable energy developments are flourishing where mining operations failed. The resources are delightfully more plentiful than anyone could ever imagine, and now, modern-day prospectors are scouring the desert for additional renewable energy locations.
“It’s a unique situation not found anywhere else in the United States or overseas, to my knowledge,” says Andy Swapp, founder of the Southwest Utah Renewable Energy Center, which offers renewable energy training in Milford. As a self-described “old-fashioned shop teacher” at Milford High School, Swapp wanted to be sure the claim was accurate, so he wrote to the U.S. Department of Energy to ask if there were any other locations in the United States with similar renewable energy portfolios. About a month later he received a response from Dr. Christopher Avery, a science and technology policy fellow in the DOE. “Given the vast renewable power resource potential out west, I am skeptical Milford is the only place with all five of those power technologies collocated,” Avery noted. “That said, I don’t see any evidence you are wrong. And even if there are other sites, I am certain they would be relatively rare. So regardless, you should absolutely be bragging about it.” (…)