President Barack Obama visited Hill Air Force Base in Utah Friday, April 3, where he announced a plan to train 75,000 new workers in solar energy. “I think everyone here at Hill understands that one of the most important aspects of national security is economic security,” he said.
This initiative is part of a plan developed by the Department of Energy and Department of Defense to create jobs and increase renewable energy production. The goal is 75,000 new jobs by 2020, up 50 percent from last year’s target. “We’ve got to be relentless in our efforts to grow the economy and create new jobs,” Obama said. “We have to redouble our efforts to make sure that we are competitive.”
Obama also spoke with local officials and leaders of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on April 2. At the closed meeting with LDS church leaders, they discussed the humanitarian efforts of the church, as well as immigration and church policy. President Henry B. Eyring, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Elder D. Todd Christofferson and Elder L. Tom Perry were in attendance.
Obama congratulated the base on its strides to use more renewable energy with the solar farm as his backdrop, but solar energy is just a small part of base initiatives to incorporate alternative energy sources. These energy sources account for nearly one-quarter of electricity demands on the base.
The base is one of Utah’s largest energy consumers, making it an ideal candidate for alternative energy pilot programs.
“We partner really well with Rocky Mountain Power,” said base civil engineer Harry Briesmaster. “We support a lot of their programs out there.”
Earlier this week the United States presented environmental goals at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The national target is to reduce U.S. emissions to roughly 30 percent of 2005 emissions in 10 years.
Obama said solar energy production has increased 20 times since he took office. These trends will likely continue, as the price of solar panels continues to drop. Briesmaster estimated the panels save the base $750,000 in energy costs each year.
U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop said Utah is an ideal place to unlock the potential of renewable energy sources but cautioned to maintain a balance. “When you’re talking about any sort of renewable energy sources, anything you do to increase the renewable energy is positive, a plus. And if you’re talking about jobs in that area, it’s a positive plus. But you also have to realize that’s not the silver bullet,” he said. “One thing about the state of Utah is that we have so much opportunity that we can provide that balanced approach.”