ROCK PORT, Missouri – Supporters of a wind turbine project in Atchison County say the work will benefit local communities through jobs and tax revenue for public services.
An audience of about 30 people attended a local public hearing Tuesday at the University Extension office in Rock Port, Missouri, on a 299-megawatt wind farm proposed by Ameren Missouri. It marks the second such project by the utility, which earlier garnered state government approval.
Taken together, no one expressed opposition whatsoever to the wind farm during either an informal question-and-answer session to start the session or formal testimony given for the hearing.
Ameren officials were on hand at the hearing to field questions from area residents, while touting a series of benefits they say would accompany the construction and include sustained revenue for the county and its cities. The farm, they continued, is needed for connection to an Ameren transmission line that will in turn help ferry electricity onto the grid. Ameren is based in St. Louis but has customers in DeKalb, Daviess, Clinton, Caldwell, Livingston and Gentry counties.
“We’re really excited about this project,” said Ajay Arora, Ameren Missouri vice president for power operations and energy management, to the audience.
“It’s an important project, because there’s a great wind resource here,” Arora told News-Press NOW. “It’s good for the communities. There’s several millions of dollars in terms of local taxes that would go to the community for economic development and the school district.”
He said landowners who consent to the use of their property to station the wind turbines also would benefit from payments for their participation. The construction would bring at least 300 jobs.
Several of those who chose to ask questions of Ameren and Missouri Public Service Commission officials wondered about potential impacts of the turbines to the region’s bird and bat populations. Arora said the utility has been working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ascertain any such negative consequences, and that it’s also been determined that known eagles’ nests will not be harmed.
“For this (area), there really isn’t any endangered bat species,” he added.
The project is slated to encompass 91 wind turbines over 30,000 acres. Exact locations in the county are to be determined later this year or in early 2020. But Ameren officials said the units will be placed west of Westboro, Missouri, up to the Iowa border and also include portions of ground north of Tarkio, Missouri.
Supporters who supplied comments during the formal testimony phase of the hearing said the wind turbines will aid the local economy and also be good for the environment.
Atchison County Presiding Curtis Livengood said local officials earlier had a concern with taxation of the wind properties that would have prevented the collection of revenue for their governmental entities. Last week, Gov. Mike Parson signed legislation that will ensure tax revenues produced by wind farms in the state remain local. Livengood said the measure caused a change of heart for the commission.
Bill Kenney, one of five public service commission members, attended the hearing. Kenney said the body will deliberate the merits of the proposal before making its decision.
“We see that as a trend around the nation,” Kenney said of a growing occurrence of wind farms.
More formal evidentiary hearings on the matter will take place in late August in Jefferson City, Missouri. Officials estimate a decision on Ameren’s project could be forthcoming no later than next spring.
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