The Firebrick Wind Project, which is expected to generate 400 megawatts (MW) of energy for northeast Missouri’s grid, just received the results of an economic impact study for the project.
“We take pride in the fact that the Firebrick Wind Project will be an economic engine to the community as the firebrick industry was a generation ago,” said Monte Ten Kley, the director of strategic development at Tenaska in an exclusive interview with The Vandalia Leader.
The impact study found that the project is expected to generate electricity and revenues for Audrain County for approximately 30 years. Development of the project began in 2020 and is expected to continue in 2021 with construction slated to start in 2022, Ten Kley said.
Tenaska expects operations to begin in 2023 or 2024.
“There will be approximately 70 to 150 turbines rated at an electricity production of between 2 to 5.5 megawatts each,” Ten Kley added.
The economic impact analysis was prepared by Strategic Economic Research led by Dr. David G. Loomis, one of the nation’s leading experts on renewable energy. Loomis is a professor of economics at Illinois State University and co-founder of the Center for Renewable Energy.
Wind farms create numerous economic benefits that continue to last for decades, the report said. The Firebrick Wind Project, in particular, represents an investment of $495 million in Audrain County.
Job opportunities in the local area during both the short-term construction phase and the long-term operational phase are expected to be created.
Short-term construction jobs include both workers at the wind farm site and jobs created along the supply chain. The report estimates there will be 509 new jobs during construction for Audrain County. This figure includes 115 direct jobs, 328 indirect jobs and 67 “induced jobs.”
Indirect jobs are created by the economic impact of the project on the regional economy. For example, when the project purchases goods in the region and pays for local services. Induced jobs, on the other hand, are created when employees of the project and supporting industries spend wages in the local economy.
The 115 direct short-term jobs created during construction are based on full-time equivalent hours over the course of a year. If part-time and temporary jobs are included, the construction of the Firebrick Wind Farm could actually involve hiring closer to 230 workers during construction.
The Firebrick Wind Project will create 49 new long-term jobs for Audrain County. These include 19 direct jobs, 21 indirect jobs and nine induced jobs. The long-term jobs will be wind turbine technicians, supervisors and supply chain jobs.
The projected total output of the project is expected to be $312.9 million over the next 30 years for Audrain County. This is based on $69.9 million during construction plus $8.1 million annually.
At a capacity of 400 MW, the project is expected to provide $2.4 million per year in additional revenue for local governments. This analysis is based on a payment of $6,000 per MW per year.
This revenue would be in the form of $72 million in property taxes over a 30-year period, including about $48 million for school districts, $11.7 for Audrain County and $12 million for the Audrain Ambulance District, Tri-County Nursing Home District, Mexico-Audrain Public Library District, Fire Protection District and the Audrain County Health Center.
Only a small portion of the total project footprint is used for the turbines, access roads, feeder lines and substations. Wind developers typically lease the land for the turbines from local landowners without materially affecting ongoing agricultural uses.
For the Firebrick Wind Project, it is anticipated that only about 1% to 2% of the total leased land will actually contain facilities. Each turbine and the associated access road will use approximately two thirds of an acre of farmland.
Regarding turbine locations, as with any development project, there are a number of factors that will ultimately determine the final layout. Once Tenaska completes the land leasing phase, it will start to determine where wind turbines will be sited.
Tenaska is an independent power producer that develops, builds, owns and manages energy projects. It sells power wholesale to utilities but does not provide distribution services directly to local residents and companies. Utilities often contract with Tenaska for power from its energy projects.
Summary of economic impact of the Firebrick Wind Project on Audrain County by Strategic Economic Research.