TECHNO: What technology does this site’s current energy-system infrastructure consist of? How does it function, and dysfunction? What sorts of energy-related problems are imagined to be in/solvable with or through the development of new technologies?


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James Adams's picture
June 25, 2019
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By the early 20th century, the unpredictability of the Colorado River was seen as the primary “natural barrier” to development, and the early entrepreneurs saw that the river was both the key and the biggest threat (Swearingen 2010). The rocky canyons and ravines that had been cut into the Edwards Plateau above Austin offered ample choice locations to create reservoirs for controlling the flow and supplying water and power to its developing urban areas. The first failed attempt to dam the river was undertaken as early as 1890. Austin’s elite business class arranged the financing of this $1.4 million dam through municipal bonds and hailed the dam as the engineering feat of the century. With the promise of electricity and a steady water supply, they were certain that it would bring Austin into modernity. However, this rhetoric did not hold water. In 1900, the first rise of the river since the dam’s construction completely destroyed the dam, caused $9 million in property damages, and killed 47 residents (Busch 2017). A few more private dams were built over the years, but these too would all succumb to the river’s turbulence. The first long-lasting infrastructural development to enable Austin to break free of its liquid boundaries wasn’t achieved until 1911 when a steel bridge was constructed followed by a trolley line. While the bridge rendered crossing the river less risky, and therefore successfully enabled the development of Austin’s southern neighborhoods (Swearingen 2010), this did nothing to help control the river and secure the water supply in times of drought. Developers were well aware that Austin’s growth would depend on an extensive system of dams, but there was simply not enough money to finance such an endeavor. Thus, a truly adequate system of water-management infrastructure would have to wait until the shift in economic philosophy that inspired the New Deal. Lyndon B. Johnson, a native Texan that quickly learned to master New Deal politics, managed to garner federal funds for the construction of numerous dams north of Austin, along with many other important infrastructural projects (Bush 2017). Two of the most important dams were the Tom Miller Dam (completed in 1940) and the Longhorn Dam (completed in 1960). These infrastructural successes garnered Johnson much fame and recognition and launched his political career (Sansom et. al 2008).

Today, Austin is a site of energy technology innovation. Austin Technology incubator has a strong energy focus, providing “niche management”. Pecan Street provides a means for incubated technologies to test and verify their innovations. From their website: “Pecan Street is the only organization or company that combines expertise in the ‘Internet of Things,’ high-velocity data acquisition, big data analytics, and lean product development to drive disruptive innovation for water and energy.”

Neak Loucks's picture
June 24, 2019
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Energy production in southern Utah is varied, but tends to be grouped together. For instance there are many solar generating areas around Cedar City along with a couple geothermal plants, petroleum and natural gas based plants around St. George, coal plants in the middle of the state, and a smattering of hydroelectric plants throughout southern Utah. There is a wind park in Monticello in southeast Utah. Closer to Salt Lake is primarily natural gas and hydroelectric plants. The UNEV pipeline runs the length of the state, from Salt Lake City (where it connects to the Chevron pipeline that runs further north) to Las Vegas, NV.