Bluegrass Wind Farm
The turbines of Missouri’s first wind farm are beginning to dot the landscape outside of tiny King City, and a UCS-er recently took a tour while home for Thanksgiving. Bluegrass Ridge Wind Farm, named for the area’s history of raising high quality bluegrass seed, is situated in the northwestern corner of the state, not far from the borders of Nebraska, Iowa, and Kansas. Kansas City is a little over an hour’s drive away.
Six of the 27 turbines are fully constructed, and 16 are slated to begin creating power by January. The turbines are massive, reaching 252 feet in the air, and each of the three blades are 140 feet long. Each turbine has the capacity to generate 2.1 megawatts of power. Fourteen farmers have leased land to the project and will receive $3000 per turbine for 25 years. Though $3000 obviously isn’t enough for the farmers to live on, one can’t help but think that the lease payments are just a slice of the pie that the wind farm is offering this economically hungry region. Roughly 100 people are currently employed by the project, and four people will stay full-time to monitor and run the wind farm after construction is complete. A Casey’s convenience store employee said that the wind farm has already increased business for them.
The wind farm is the brain child of Wind Capital Group, founded by late governor Mel Carnahan’s son Tom. The $80 million needed for the project was provided by John Deere Credit, an off-shoot of the company that makes tractors and other farm equipment. Associated Electric Cooperative, which supplies power to rural local co-operatives in Missouri and elsewhere, will buy the power.
With the two other projects that are in the works in northern Missouri, the wind farms will provide a total of 150 megawatts of power—enough to service between 40-50,000 homes.
Wind energy holds great promise for the state, as do other renewables such as bioenergy, ethanol production, and even solar energy. But one or eventually three wind farms in Missouri is not enough for a state that has the technical potential to generate more than twice its current power needs from renewable energy sources. That’s why state and federal policies that encourage clean energy are needed. A statewide Renewable Energy Standard (RES), a requirement that utilities obtain a percentage of their power from renewable resources like wind, would keep Missouri thriving economically and doing its part to slow global warming. More than 20 states and the District of Columbia currently have renewable energy standards on their books. If all states were to have 10 percent of their power generated from renewables by 2020, consumers could save nearly $23 billion on their total energy bills from now until 2025 while reducing annual heat-trapping gases by the equivalent of taking 32 million cars off the road, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.