New wind farms promise an economic boost

- Plans for two major wind energy facilities in Northwest Missouri bear a promise of jobs and land lease payments, along with extra power resources.

Thursday's announcement by Kansas City Power & Light enhances the roles for both companies: NextEra Energy Resources and Tradewind Energy. Last month, NextEra began construction on a wind farm west of Osborn, Missouri, and north of U.S. Highway 36.

NextEra spokesman Steve Stengel said the intent is to have the 200-megawatt Osborn Wind Energy Center operating by the end of the year.

"This is a project where the power is being sold to KCP&L," Stengel said Friday.

"From an economic impact perspective, we think the project will have a tremendous benefit to the region."

NextEra anticipates more than 200 employees on-site during the height of construction for the $35 million capital project. Lease payments to landowners should create more than $26 million.

The Florida-based firm has had opponents in the area, but has managed to push forward with its timeline despite the concerns.

"We have had widespread support in the region," Stengel said. "We have worked very hard to site and develop a project that will have as minimal of impacts as possible."

Environmental benefits, safety and reliability will accrue, he added. Employees will live as well as work in the vicinity, according to Stengel, as NextEra seeks to become a good community partner.

The 300-megawatt Tradewind Energy project, known as Rock Creek, will be situated near Tarkio, Missouri, in Atchison County -- off Interstate 29 and about 60 miles north of St. Joseph.

On Friday, Tradewind officials offered additional details on its energy purchase agreement with the utility. Both wind farm projects taken together are estimated to serve 170,000 homes with power.

Rock Creek represents a half-billion dollar investment in Northwest Missouri, the company announced. It is expected to be complete in September 2017 and become the state's largest wind project.

The forecasted economic impact to Atchison County and surrounding area may reach more than $100 million over the first 20 years of existence. From 250 to 300 jobs will be included.

The projects will link with the Midwest Transmission Project transmission line, which will be built to improve electric service delivery for the region.

Courtney Hughley, a spokeswoman for KCP&L, said the transmission project has been carefully coordinating construction schedules with both wind energy enterprises.

The Sierra Club released a statement Thursday pledging its support of the projects.


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