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Wind farms continue to develop in Nodaway County, Tenaska to operate summer 2020

With three wind farms continuing to build and operate on the outskirts of Maryville, citizens who bought into the idea of clean energy are now asking if their electric bills will reflect the county’s efforts toward sustainable energy.

Three wind farm projects have been approved in Nodaway and Atchison County. Tenaska Clear Creek Energy Center and White Cloud Wind Project will operate in Nodaway County, while Avangrid Renewables operates in Atchison. As construction heads toward finalization at Tenaska, homeowners in the area are asking when the beneficial effects of clean energy will reflect in their monthly electric bill.

Presiding Commissioner Bill Walker said he has heard such concerns from the community.

“There hasn’t been much income yet because they (Tenaska) are not in production,” Walker said. “So, there has been no revenue tax-wise yet, but some money is being brought in from workers, new jobs and contractors.”

Walker said he is unsure how local electric bills will be affected because the distribution of energy from Tenaska is left up to the Associated Electric Cooperative Inc. in Springfield, Missouri, which will purchase the energy once the wind farm is in production.

“They are not 100% done yet,” Walker said. “There is no official date set, but sometime in Summer 2020 they plan on being in full operation.”

When the whole project is complete, Tenaska’s 242-megawatt Clear Creek Energy Center will provide renewable power for AECI, which will distribute the energy to regional cooperatives at the company’s discretion.

AECI provides power to six regional cooperatives working out of localities. Near Maryville, the power suppliers that could potentially see benefits provided by Tenaska are the Northwest Electric Power Cooperative Inc. of Cameron, Missouri, and United Electric.

Locals concerned about their electric bills could see a difference once the wind farms are in consistent operation, at which time actual tax revenue for the county can also be recorded.

Walker said Tenaska is projected to bring in $1.4 million in tax revenue each year to Nodaway County, but the exact number will be recorded when the farm begins to produce energy.

“They (Tenaska) are taxed on how many megawatts they actually produce,” Walker said. “The $1.4 million is not a completely accurate figure, so we won’t know until they are in production and we know what they will be bringing in.”

The $1.4 million figure is based on the predicted amount of energy the wind farm can produce, which is at 242 megawatts. However, due to the unpredictability of wind availability, the farm may not produce this amount of energy consistently.

According to the Renewable Resources Coalition, wind energy is beneficial because it is renewable and sustainable, produces very few greenhouse emissions, there are no fuel components, farms are space-efficient, they have low operating costs, and they have potential for residential use of the energy generated.

However, there are costs associated with wind energy and the farms that house the turbines. The RRC also states that detriments of wind energy include: wind is unpredictable, noise pollution is common, construction of turbines poses environmental impacts on wildlife, and the overall appearance of wind farms are not appealing.

Walker said he has heard some of these detrimental concerns from citizens and landowners.

“On the negative side of things, they (the wind turbines) put out a lot of noise,” Walker said. “Some people don’t like the flashing lights or the looks of them over the landscape.”

Walker also said there were complaints about roads in spring of 2019, when trucks delivered turbine wings and began construction.

Several roads in the county had to be reworked and improved, but some roads were tended to faster than others. The priority for road improvements was based on how frequent they were traveled on, such as the focus of redoing a stretch of Highway 71 before improving the gravel roads Tenaska used. This left some farmers in a bind with poor road conditions during working hours.

Walker said part of the issue was the amount of rain the county saw in the spring months.

Tenaska worked with local contractors and road crews to modify and improve roads that were damaged, and are looking ahead to improve other roads before traveling on them.

“Everything has went pretty good since last spring,” Walker said. “Heavy trucks made road issues, but they handled it smoothly.”

Though there have been detriments to roads and overall aesthetics at the expense of landowners, Walker said the community as a whole seems to be welcoming of the company.

Tenaska has 170 land lease agreements with landowners in the county, working with more than 31,000 acres of land.

Clear Creek Energy Center and its construction has brought jobs to the community, hiring 50 craft workers directly from the area and holding approximately $30 million in contracts to regional businesses, such as Byron Clark Construction, Foley Equipment, Pine Valley Contracting, United Rentals, Porter Trash Service and numerous others.

At a celebration of the construction Clear Creek in September 2019, Tenaska CEO and Vice Chairman of Clear Creek Jerry Crouse said the company will do what it can to be a good neighbor to the community.

“We are proud to be a part of Northwest Missouri and we plan to be here a long time,” Crouse said.