By Clay Coleman
VANDALIA—It looks like wind power may be coming to Audrain County as soon as 2022.
Tenaska, an energy-based company out of Omaha, Neb., last week opened a sales office in Vandalia, looking for potential wind turbine sites and talking to landholders about leasing opportunities in the Audrain County area.
Tenaska develops and operates power plants all across the country, with experience in natural gas, solar, and wind. Currently, Tenaska is nearing completion of the construction and commissioning of a wind project in Nodaway County, the Tenaska Clear Creek Energy Center, in the north-western part of Missouri.
“We are considering the development of a 200- to 400-megawatt wind farm located in Audrain and Ralls counties,” Monte Ten Kley, project director for Tenaska wrote in an email. “This project would be comprised of 70 to 150 wind turbines, each able to generate up to 5½ megawatts of renewable power.”
According to Kley, the project is in the land acquisition phase. Tenaska representatives are starting to contact landowners to discuss terms that would allow them to continue to evaluate the feasibility of a wind farm in the county.
Windustry, a non-profit group based out of Minneapolis, lists four ways landowners are compensated for hosting wind turbines on their property.
1. A one-time lump sum payment.
2. Fixed payments at scheduled intervals.
3. Royalty payments based on gross revenues.
4. A combination of payment methods
Windustry also states that wind energy land agreements typically include an option period in the beginning for the project developer to assess the site and determine if they want to go forward with the project. Landowners usually receive some compensation for this option period for the use of their land for wind testing and other site assessment and often for exclusive rights to use the property for wind development.
Writing about the benefits landowners will receive, Kley wrote, “Approximately 160 landowners have long-term leases with Tenaska Clear Creek, which will generate more than $1.2 million in lease payments annually. Leases are generally 20-30 years in length, with extension options for an additional 20-30 years.”
Kley also stated that land leased by Tenaska would benefit all landowners within the project footprint, not just those whose property have turbines.
“Landowners who sign with the project but do not have a turbine or other facility on their land will receive a yearly wind rights payment, as well. This is a different approach from many other developers.”
Kley added, “Though we see significant potential for a wind project in Audrain and Ralls counties, participation in the project is completely voluntary. We do not have the right of eminent domain.”
Once operational, wind turbine facilities are local businesses and significant economic assets for the community. These facilities generate tax revenue, provide additional income for landowners, and create well-paying jobs and opportunities for local businesses, according to online sources.
“Construction of the Tenaska Clear Creek wind farm represented an investment of more than $300 million to the regional economy,” Kley wrote about the benefits to Nodaway County. “Through engineering, procurement, and construction activities led by our contractor Mortenson, 50 craft workers were hired from the local area and approximately $30 million in contracts awarded to regional businesses. There were additional trickle-down benefits during construction as the workers utilized local housing, ate in restaurants, and shopped in local establishments.”
Tenaska Clear Creek is also expected to generate more than $1.2 million in tax revenue annually for Nodaway County.
“A wind project here in Ralls and Audrain counties would result in similar benefits,” Kley stated.
Nodaway County Commissioner Bill Walker said he has had an enjoyable experience with Tenaska at Clear Creek.
“Tenaska has been very generous to our county,” said Walker. “They have hired local people to help with construction, and any roads that were damaged by semi-trucks bringing in the equipment, and there was extensive damage to some of our outlying roads, they built back up in better shape than before they started.”
Nodaway County Assessor Rex Wallace also confirms Walker’s enthusiasm with Tenaska, “They donated to the Nodaway County Fair, our local schools, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and the United Way. They are easy to deal with, generous, and have been upfront and honest.”
But wind turbines have also been known to cause problems with wildlife, and for some people living close to one, possible medical issues.
Turbines placed in the path of migratory birds can be deadly for bird populations, though birds killed by cats, far outweigh those harmed by wind turbines. Also, bats seem to have an affinity for the vibrations generated by the blades turning. A decrease in the bat population could have an impact on local mosquito and rodent populations.
People living close to a wind turbine may suffer from migraines, difficulty sleeping, noise pollution, and flicker vertigo. Flicker vertigo is when the sun, or any light source, is blocked momentarily, repeatedly, at a slow cyclic rate. For some, this causes nausea, vomiting, and even loss of consciousness, though the science is still out on whether wind turbines add to this phenomenon. To mitigate this risk, states and local governments have set guidelines for the placement of wind turbines away from property lines, dwellings, and roads. This is what’s called “setback.”
“The closer we get to the Tenaska project coming to fruition, road and setback agreements will be in place,” said Audrain County Eastern District Commissioner Alan Winders.
“We support these types of endeavors,” Winders said about the future of wind farms in the county. “This will be a big help to our agricultural community.”
County residents can find out more information by contacting Kley at 402-213-3075 or email@example.com, or Land Acquisition Project Manager Wesley Stephenson at 817-789-7318 or at firstname.lastname@example.org