Wind farm project hits financing stage

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Plans to build a 50-megawatt wind energy center west of Exeter have reached the financing stage, according to officials with the Wind Capital Group, a Missouri-based wind energy developer that is spearheading the project.

The wind farm would involve the placement of 30 wind turbines on property owned by 16 different landowners. Property would be leased by the owners who would receive an annual lease payment.

"We've been doing wind studies and all the site design work for planning the wind farm," said Dean Baumgardner, senior vice president of Wind Capital Group. "We've met with each landowner to establish tentative locations for each wind turbine, and we've received a very positive reaction."

The future of the project will depend on Wind Capital Group's ability to secure financing for the project and locate wind turbines for the farm.

"Wind turbines are sold out worldwide for two years," Baumgardner said. "We're working with financial groups who have purchased turbines and might be interested in investing in this Barry County project."

Wind Capital Group has completed one wind farm and has two more currently under construction. All three of those projects, which are located in northwest Missouri, have been cooperative efforts between Wind Capital, John Deere Wind Energy and Missouri Rural Electric Cooperatives.

According to Baumgardner, wind resources in southwest Missouri are not as strong as in northwest Missouri, which makes the project more expensive because more turbines must be erected to capture the wind energy.

Wind Capital Group was interested in pursuing a wind farm project in southwest Missouri, and after conducting research throughout the area, the site in Exeter was identified as one of the region's best wind sites.

"We've received excellent cooperation and support from Associated Electric and their transmission partner, KAMO," said Baumgardner. "They believe wind energy is good for Missouri and good for its members."

If the Exeter wind farm becomes a reality, it will produce enough electricity to serve 20,000 to 30,000 homes.

The turbines used to power the wind farm are sleek behemoths, towering 265 feet off the ground with three 140-foot blades. Each blade has a rotor diameter of 289 feet - the size of football field. Modern turbines are much quieter than the older generation models, which had smaller blades and had to turn faster, resulting in more noise.

"The wind blowing through the blades is what makes the most noise," said Baumgardner. "The turbines operate at 48 decibels, which is about as loud as a casual conversation."

Each turbine will take only about one-half acre of land out of production. Landowners will be able to graze cattle right up to the base of the turbine.

Baumgardner cautions that financing must be secured before the project in Exeter moves forward.

If the Exeter wind farm becomes a reality, it will be Wind Capital Group's fourth in Missouri.

The Bluegrass Ridge Project near King City in Gentry Country is nearing completion. The 56.7-megawatt wind farm is served by 27 turbines.

Construction on two other projects is slated to begin this year. They include the Cow Branch Wind Energy Center near Rockport in Atchison County and Conception Wind Farm in Nodaway County.

When all three projects are completed, they could produce 150 megawatts of power, which would supply electricity for about 45,000 homes.

The founder and president of Wind Capital Group is Tom Carnahan, the son of the late Governor Mel Carnahan.

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