Town unruffled over wind farm

ROCK PORT, MISSOURI - As long as the wind blows, which is most of the time, all of the power feeding Rock Port in Missouri is green.

The community is the only one in the U.S. that gets its electricity entirely from wind, generated by four 1.25-megawatt turbines that sit on a bluff overlooking the town.

Together they generate 16 million kilowatt hours annually, enough to run this town of 1,400 – with its four-block main street and single traffic light – and sell 3 million kilowatt hours back to the grid.

Admittedly, it's a small town, said Mayor Jeff Seaman.

"I can see from my house, on one end of town, to the other end of town and then out into the country."

Electricity from the wind farm is fed into town through a separate line, bypassing the main power grid, which brings in electricity from the Northwest Public Energy Pool and is used only on days when there is no breeze.

"It's almost like having a backup generator in your yard," said Seaman, who works at the Cooper Nuclear Station across the state line in Nebraska.

Eric Chamberlain, a former mortuary worker, put up a monitoring tower after seeing an Iowa wind farm and did his own studies to prove that the renewable energy was viable in Rock Port.

Chamberlain not only convinced John Deere Wind Energy and Wind Capital Group that the turbines could work, he talked his way into a job, and is now one of Capital's managers.

John Deere Wind Energy owns the turbines, which are managed by Capital. The only financial savings to the town itself is about $50,000 a year in wheeling charges, a fee levied by electricity companies to push more power through the lines.

In Ontario, it's difficult to speculate on what the savings would be, says Joyce McLean, Toronto Hydro's director of strategic issues.

Toronto Hydro buys its power from Ontario Power Authority, negotiating 20-year contracts. Any new electricity generation has to be sold back to the grid. It can't bypass it as they do in Rock Port.

But according to Ontario's new Green Energy Act, any company that can generate up to 10 megawatts of power from renewable energy sources is allowed to sell to Ontario Power Authority.

And in Missouri, wind farms don't seem to stir up much debate as in Ontario, where some Toronto residents oppose a Toronto Hydro plan to put a string of wind turbines in Lake Ontario about two kilometres offshore from Scarborough.

Just outside Rock Port's city limits, another 100 turbines sit on farmland and feed power to the rest of the state.

The towers have generated little opposition. They're no "different than a radio or cellphone tower. No one has said anything negative about the way they look," Seaman said.

"I think anything can detract from the landscape, but I don't think (the wind farm) is truly offensive."


in Year

LATEST Electrical Jobs

Content Community Connection