A new crop of wind turbines will soon take root in Northwest Missouri.
Element Power will begin construction on the state’s largest wind farm later this year near Oregon, Mo., in southern Holt County.
The company will generate 200 megawatts of electricity at the Mill Creek Wind Farm and will sell the power to Kansas City Power & Light – representing half of KCP&L’s recent commitment to add 400 megawatts of wind power to its grid.
Scott Zeimetz, project manager for Element Power, said the company spent the past three to four years in the area securing lease agreements with landowners for potential wind turbine sites. The company currently has roughly 25,000 acres under lease with more than 100 landowners.
Although Element Power knows how much electricity it plans to produce, the final number of turbines has not been determined. Mr. Zeimetz said the company likely would choose a commercial model somewhere in the 1.7 megawatt to 2 megawatt range, which would put the number sites needed at 100 or slightly more.
“It all depends on how many turbines we order, and as of yet that hasn’t been decided,” Mr. Zeimetz said.
Construction is expected to begin in the fall. If everything follows according to schedule, the wind farm will begin to operate commercially by the end of December 2015.
The project represents an investment of roughly $400 million in the state of Missouri. About 300 workers will be employed during construction, with 12 to 14 permanent full-time jobs created once Mill Creek becomes operational. Royalties, tax revenue and the general turnover of money in the local economy will provide additional benefits.
“When you’re in a small community like Oregon and Holt County, a project like this can really have an impact,” Mr. Zeimetz said. “Of course, it will be up to the county, school district and whoever else to decide how to spend the revenue.”
Holt County Clerk Kathy Kunkel said the region’s other wind farms provided guidance in how the county would handle tax revenue. Instead of using the “Gentry County model” to provide tax breaks, it would use the more common “Enhanced Enterprise Zone” designation to establish the levels of property tax Element Power will pay.
“That’s really the preferred method by the state because it’s governed by state statute,” Ms. Kunkel said.
Gerald Meadows and Don Scheib, Holt County landowners who have a lease agreements with Element Power, both said they looked forward to the project and its benefits.
“I feel wind is a good source for power production and it offers an additional opportunity to landowners to optimize their land. It provides an excellent opportunity for the county to improve their education system through increased tax revenues,” Mr. Meadows said.
“Anything that will bring in revenue to the county, schools and farmers, in addition to bringing jobs into the county, I’m in favor of,” Mr. Scheib added.
If Mill Creek comes online in late 2015, it will be the first wind farm to begin operation in the region in more than five years.
Six facilities of varying size were constructed starting in 2006, with the most recent one starting operation in 2010.
Wind Capital Group began construction on the state’s first wind farm – Bluegrass Ridge – in 2006 north of King City, Mo. The 27-turbine, 56.7-megawatt facility officially opened in 2007.
Wind Capital brought three more operations online in 2008. The Cow Branch farm consists of 24 turbines that generate 50 megawatts in rural Atchison County. A small four-turbine five megawatt operation called Loess Hills sits on the edge of Rock Port, Mo., between the town’s west boundary and U.S. Interstate 29.
Further east, the company constructed the Conception wind farm, with 24 turbines generating 50 megawatts on the hills surrounding the three communities of Conception, Conception Junction, Mo., and Clyde, Mo., in Nodaway County.
Another company joined the regional wind power industry in 2009, when Iberdola built the Farmers City wind farm near Tarkio, Mo., in Atchison County, with 73 turbines producing 146 megawatts of electricity.
Wind Capital’s latest project, Lost Creek, joined the grid in 2010, with 100 turbines producing 150 megawatts of electricity south and east of King City in Gentry County.