Northwest Missouri gaining a name for wind power
They're huge constructs rising from the land. They're clean. They're quiet.
They're windmills of a size and scale that early American pioneers and homesteaders never could've imagined.
And these blossoming monoliths on the hills of northwest Missouri provide a renewable source of power by harnessing a limitless resource: the wind.
Tom Carnahan, president of Wind Capital Group, has been working to bring wind power to Missouri since he formed his company in 2005. When Carnahan began thinking about starting his company, there were wind farms in Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa — nearly every state touching Missouri, but none actually in Missouri.
"When I formed Wind Capital Group, Missouri had no utility-scale wind farms, and as a lifelong Missourian, that bothered me, and I wanted to see why that was," Carnahan said.
Now, as the popularity and viability of wind-produced energy has increased, Wind Capital Group has "four projects either commissioned or under construction at the moment, and ... several others in Missouri that are in pre-construction," Carnahan said. "And now we have over a dozen projects in eight different states that are actively under development."
Included in those projects is the Cow Branch Wind Farm, named after a nearby creek of the same name, located between Tarkio and Rock Port; the Bluegrass Wind Farm near King City and the Conception Wind Farm.
While the giant wind turbines at all of these locations will be working to provide northwest Missouri residents with power, the Loesse Hills Wind Farm in Rock Port is going to do something unprecedented for the town.
"(It) is actually going to offset 100 percent of their power needs," Carnahan said. "They will be completely powered by wind power."
As far as Carnahan has been able to discover, that will make Rock Port a unique town in the United States.
"We think it's the only time that it's happened," he said. "We think it's a first."
But Carnahan isn't stopping with Rock Port, he's working to bring wind power to Maryville, too.
"We have a project under development north of Maryville and we're excited about moving forward on that project," he said.
Before a wind farm can be built, Carnahan said there are several safety studies that must be completed. Organization for such a project requires working with the utilities and the transmission line operators.
"And we're in that process right now for the Maryville project," he said.
Globally, there have been reports of shortages in available turbines for wind farms as demands exceed supplies. However, Carnahan said his company has been able to plan accordingly and purchase the turbines needed for projects.
"We've built a good track record, which makes the manufacturers want to work with us because it's less speculative on their part," he said.
Yet Carnahan predicts it is only a temporary difficulty in the industry as wind energy continues to become an increasingly viable option.
"Wind energy is probably going to keep getting more popular," he said. "And if it does, I think you're going to see much more of an investment in manufacturing, and the market will start to get back into equilibrium."
Originally from Rolla, (but now living in St. Louis) Carnahan said he and his St. Louis-based company have experienced so much success, in part, because of the open and accepting nature of northwest Missourians toward wind power.
"We really like doing business and doing these projects in northwest Missouri; and the communities and the landowners have been so supportive," Carnahan said. "Northwest Missouri is making a mark in the renewable energy industry ... and I think it's something we should be proud of."
More and more, people are looking to renewable resources to meet their power needs. Americans are looking for clean, affordable energy. And with wind-generated power meeting all of the above criteria, Carnahan is more than willing to help bring the blustery form of energy production to Maryville and Northwest Missouri.
While every company is in the business of making money, Carnahan and Wind Capital Group have the added bonus of being able to produce a product that they believe in.
"We want to continue to build good projects that make economic sense for the people involved so that it's good for the community, good for the land owners and good for the investors," Carnahan said. "And we believe that the future's bright for wind energy and for all renewables.
"Energy needs seem to be continuing to rise, and they're predicted to rise over the next several years; and that means we need to keep looking at these renewables. And the great thing about these renewable energy sources is that we can produce them at home, we don't have to import them, and they end up being an investment in rural America."