A proposal to develop a wind farm spanning parts of Benton and Pettis counties took another step forward this month, as a renewable energy company signed on to conduct wind testing to determine whether the site would be suitable for such a use.
A group of farmers and property owners from northern Benton County and southern Pettis County recently entered into an agreement with Iberdrola Renewables, an alternative energy company whose North American division has headquarters in Portland, Ore., to conduct wind testing at the site of the potential wind farm.
Paul Copleman, communications manager for Iberdrola, said the company does not have a timeline in place to begin the testing, but it plans to eventually install a meteorological tower in the area. Once in place, wind resource data from the first tower would be compiled over at least a year, Copleman said, and if the results are favorable, additional towers would be added as testing continues over the next several years.
“Generally what we’re looking for when doing an initial evaluation of any site is some understanding for the wind resource and some apparent ability to connect a potential project to the transmission grid,” Copleman said. “We just really got started in what could be anywhere from a three- to five-year process.”
The proposal for the wind farm started gaining support in February, when dozens of farmers and property owners gathered to discuss putting up their land for the development of wind turbines. After additional meetings in the following weeks, the group formed a board to take the lead in negotiating a contract for the wind study and site evaluation.
Cole Camp farmer Mark Chamberlin, one of the property owners who helped spearhead the proposal, said since the group secured a deal with Iberdrola, the company has taken the lead in the project, reaching out to other property owners in the area who had not attended the initial planning meetings to see if they would include their land for the site.
“We did a lot of the legwork for it and helped bring them to the community,” Chamberlin said. “Now we turned over our paperwork to them, and they have taken over the project.”
Copleman said it was too early to release how many property owners have signed on for the testing or how many acres of land have been included for the site, because they are still in the preliminary stages of the development process.
“We’re definitely in a position where we’re just starting to lease land, so whatever we have we’ll be hoping to build on … This is very early in what is a process that, if it goes well, will be multiple years, will be very transparent and have plenty of opportunity for public input,” Copleman said.
Despite wind mapping estimates available through the Missouri Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Energy that raise some questions about whether the location’s wind resources could sustain a wind farm, Copleman said Iberdrola wanted to conduct its own studies before assessing the site’s potential for a wind farm.
“We look at those maps as a guide, but we certainly want to do our own research for any area we look at,” Copleman said. “They are useful, but lack the level of detail we would require for our own site.”
Luke Jernigan, who assisted the farmers and property owners in developing their proposal, said he is hopeful the outcome of the testing will be positive, because the potential for a wind farm in the area could provide a significant boost to the local economy.
“They put so much into the economy: construction and development, jobs, taxes and energy,” Jernigan said.
Chamberlin said those involved with the proposal were excited to see it progress to the testing phase, but they understand it will take many years and favorable results before any turbines could be erected in the area.
“We’re real happy with the way it turned out, but now they have to do a lot of studies,” Chamberlin said. “We think we got a good shot, but we have to cross all our t’s and dot our i’s before they build anything here.”
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