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Uinta Brewing puts the gust in its gusto

Brewery is first in state to run solely on wind power

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Uinta Brewing Co. is going for the gusto.

The company's new brewery has become the first in the state to be powered entirely using wind energy and becomes the state's largest buyer of breeze power.

President and founder Will Hamill said the company's priorities include making quality beer but also making decisions that affect the state and local community.

"It is a choice and an effort to reduce pollution and waste," he said during Tuesday's official opening of the brewery and the Uinta Brewhouse Pub. "We feel that we have done our part here and always aspire to do better at that when the opportunity arises. . . . Here we reuse and recycle the best we can."

The company will buy all of its power generated from wind energy through Utah Power's Blue Sky Program. Under the program, one 100-kilowatt-hour "block" of renewable energy costs the customer $2.95 per month in addition to regular energy charges.

Uinta, which makes six beers at the brewery at 1722 S. Fremont Drive (2375 West), is buying 213 blocks.

"There is a 40 percent upcharge, but we believe this is a direction Uinta Brewing wants to go," Hamill said, adding that he hopes other businesses participate in the program. "I think that would be wonderful. I challenge them."

Sarah Wright, coordinator of the Utah Wind Power Campaign for the Land and Water Fund of the Rockies, said the Uinta purchase, compared with generating the power by conventional means, will prevent the release of 357,120 pounds per year of carbon dioxide and is the equivalent of not driving a car 348,400 miles per year.

"Uinta Brewing Co. is leading the way for Utahns — leading us toward a clean, sustainable energy supply," Wright said.

Salt Lake Mayor Rocky Anderson said international media in town for the Olympics misunderstand some of Utah's alcohol laws but should understand that the city has a "more than 3.2 percent commitment to the environment."

"Uinta Brewery has led the way with its 100 percent commitment to Blue Sky power," he said. "Now we call on our entire community to make a similar commitment.

"By paying just a little more for an hour of electricity, we can encourage new development of alternative-generation technologies and ensure a healthier, cleaner environment now and in the future."

The Blue Sky Program now has 2,859 participating customers in Utah who are buying 4,521 blocks each month.

"This is a great day for us. We consider it a bellwether event," said Gary Rutledge, Utah Power's community relations manager.

"What it represents is the first time a Utah Power industrial account has chosen to solely rely upon renewable energy sources for the production, generation, distribution and support of their product. We think that is a significant and bold move by Uinta Brewing."

Christine Watson, an engineer in the Utah Energy Office, said institutions and cities across the country are making commitments to buy wind power. The state office previously had been the largest such buyer in Utah.

"Uinta Brewing has now taken the lead from us to show local businesses that you can do well by doing the right thing, that you can purchase wind energy and still be profitable in your business," she said.

The cost of generating power from wind has fallen 80 percent in the past two decades but still represents only 1 percent of the country's power supply. Wright said that figure easily could be 15 percent and could be a major factor in cutting emissions from power plants, the largest pollution source in the country.

PacifiCorp, which operates as Utah Power in Utah and Idaho, receives wind power from a pair of Wyoming facilities: a 50-megawatt project through a 20-year purchase agreement and a 41.4-megawatt facility.

A nonregulated affiliate, PacifiCorp Power Marketing Inc., will buy power from the 265-megawatt, 450-turbine Stateline Wind Project on the Washington-Oregon border. PPM will buy and market the entire output of the project over a 25-year period.

PacifiCorp has said its goal is to have 1,000 megawatts of new renewable power generation online by 2005 through wind and geothermal energy. It owns and operates the 26-megawatt Blundell Geothermal Plant in Utah, which uses naturally created steam to generate electricity.

"And now Utah Power has given us the power of choice," Wright said of the Blue Sky Program. "We can now choose pollution-free, wind-generated electricity for our home and business use."

Wind power is gaining momentum in Utah. More than 350 people attended the state's first-ever wind power conference in October, and wind energy officials are following that up with an informational meeting Jan. 17 at the Tooele County Courthouse. Tasco Engineering of Lehi has announced plans to build the state's first wind farm south of Tooele.

More information about the Blue Sky Program is available by calling 1-800-842-8458 or visiting the Web site at www.utahgreenpower.org.

E-mail: bwallace@desnews.com