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Proposed wind farm will change locations; Project faced criticism from Missouri Department of Conservation

Element Power has announced it will change the location of what was proposed to be Missouri’s largest wind farm after five years of planning because it is not financially feasible.

Scott Zeimetz, project manager for the developer, said they had planned to build between 84 and 118 wind turbines in Holt County that would produce 200 megawatts of electricity.

The company also had leased 30,000 acres of private land between Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge and seven conservation areas for the project since 2010.

However, the proposed location of the wind farm faced criticism by the Missouri Department of Conservation and birding groups due to concerns the project could impact birds and bats in the area.

Holt County commissioner Mark Sitherwood stated he has been contacted by Element and that the project had recently been canceled. Landowners also received a written 30-day notice of a lease termination that stated Element would be moving the project to another location.

In the letter, Element stated certain measures could have been taken to minimize impacts to wildlife, such as shutting down operation during heavy migration periods or incorporating monitors on site that would shut down turbines if certain species flew near.

But they stated if they build a full project and are not able to operate it at full capacity, it would lessen the economics of the project.

“The reality of the situation is that there are other areas in Missouri that make more economical sense to build in and as such, we are working to move the project to a more suitable location,” the letter states.

“This decision was not easy. Element Power invested in the area fully believing that it would be able to make a project work here. Over the coming months, we will be working to terminate your lease agreement.”

Element also stated that it has conducted research in the county for five years that has provided a clear understanding of the wildlife species present.

The letter did not state where the project would be moved.

Eliza Savage, an eagle regulations coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said wind energy does not have required environmental regulations and that developers do not have to contact the service before building.

Dr. Michael Hutchins, the national bird-smart wind energy coordinator for the American Bird Conservancy, said the organization is cautiously optimistic.

“This would be extremely good news from the perspective of bird and bat conservation if they are going to move this wind farm to an area where the turbines will be less of a concern,” Mr. Hutchins said. “We want to see corporate responsibility that the risk to birds was taken into consideration. If they are moving this project due to its close proximity to important bird areas, we hope they are now considering places where that won’t be an issue.”