JASPER, Mo. – Dozens of farmers have signed leases and the largest wind farm operator in the world is continuing to conduct tests that could lead to a $270 million wind farm being built in northern Jasper County.
Three representatives of Iberdrola Renewables, a company that operates 46 electricity-generating wind farms across the U.S. met with about 37 farmers and other residents of the Jasper area on Wednesday to update them on progress on the proposed wind farm and answer questions the residents might have.
Jeffrey Reinkemeyer, project leader for what are being called now the Cripple Creek Project east of Jasper and the Fox Branch Project west of Jasper, said the company is about a year into a process that could last another five years or more before dirt is turned to install the massive wind turbines.
“We’re very early in the project,” Reinkemeyer said after the meeting. “We’ve had one met tower on each site in place for a year. Those are meteorological testing towers, which really are more like the thumb in the air, testing the wind. Based on what we’ve seen from that, we’re comfortable enough to move to the next step which is to get more met towers in and start signing up more land.”
In general, the turbines would be spread over land between Baseline Road and the Barton County line on the east and west sides of Jasper.
Reinkemeyer said the plan at this time is to build a wind farm capable of generating 150 megawatts of electricity, enough power to supply approximately 40,000 homes.
That’s comparable to the Elk River Wind Power Project, a 7,000-plus acre electricity generating wind farm owned by Iberdrola, located in the Flint Hills of central Kansas near the community of Beaumont, about 45 miles east of Wichita.
The Elk River project uses 100 1.5 megawatt turbines to generate electricity that is sold to Joplin’s Empire District Electric Company.
Reinkmeyer said the area around Jasper is more densely populated, meaning more land will be required to generate the same amount of power without disrupting the lives of home owners and farmers.
He also said larger turbines, generating two megawatts each could reduce the number of turbines needed, but increase the amount of space for setbacks to keep the larger turbines further away from homes.
Reinkmeyer and the residents at the meeting talked about the setbacks from homes and distances between towers.
“Some of the things we look for are a relatively sparsely populated areas because we would have concerns about setbacks,” Reinkmeyer said. “You want a relatively sparcely populated area with good wind resources and good constructability, good access to materials and facilities here. That’s part of our study, what is the actual constructability here.”