The $90 million Loess Hills Wind Farm
Rock Port Missouri, population 1,300, is the first 100% wind powered city in the US. Loess Hill Wind Farm, with four 1.25-MW wind turbines, is estimated to generate 16 gigawatt hours (16 million kilowatt hours) of electricity annually. 13 gigawatts hours of electricity have historically been consumed annually by the residents and businesses of this town.
It wasn’t a ribbon cutting ceremony, it wasn’t a ground breaking– it was all about throwing a switch. Welcome to Rock Port on Thursday, where the temperature was 44 degrees and the wind was blowing like crazy.
“What’s interesting is my husband is in the oil business but that’s alright, we’re thrilled to have wind energy here. As Americans we need to get more independent,” Rock Port resident Kim Bunton said.
“It’s a big deal,” Project Director Eric Chamberlain said. “It’s a big deal for renewable energy and it’s a big deal to be energy independent.”
Chamberlain was born and raised in Rock Port.
“What we’re celebrating is that the wind farm in Rock Port can produce more energy each year than what this community uses, and that has never been done before,” Chamberlain said.
And that’s why everyone showed up. From the celebration and speeches downtown to the city’s power plant, the guy who made it all happen explained what it is all about.
“What we’re showing here is the city is producing 2 megawatts more than they need, so in essence, this meter is running backwards,” Chamberlain said.
That doesn’t mean free electricity.
“I assume it will be lower because we’re going to eliminate the transmission charges incurred,” Rock Port Mayor Jo Stevens said.
So by putting these 250-foot tall turbines up on the hilltops…
“We live on a dead-end road and we’ve had more traffic the past year,” wind farm landowner Mick Lewis said.
Lewis owns the property here, and he knows other Missouri farmers are watching.
“What’s my message? Check out the people you’re working with and do your research,” Lewis said. “What I felt comfortable with was John Deere; I’ll call it the big gun behind this.”
Lewis said he also felt comfortable with Tom Carnahan, president of the Wind Capital Group.
“We have a nice windy day. I drove around, all the turbines were spinning and it just feels good,” Carnahan said.
Coming from a political family, Carnahan can talk from a soap-box.
“The No. 1 thing we need to have is a national policy that says we encourage renewable energy,” Carnahan said. “Right now we have a hodge podge policy. What we do consistently is help the oil and coal companies.”
So who would have thought!
“Thanks for coming all the way from Columbia,” Stevens said.
Rock Port only has a population of 1,316 but last week they threw the switch as America’s first ever community completely powered by the wind.
“With wind you need a windy area. Fortunately for northwest Missouri, the bulk of it is here, but there are other places where this can be done, ” Carnahan said.
Yes, northwest Missouri is windier than central Missouri. It takes winds of up to 9-miles per hour to get those blades spinning. Rock Port is now powered by four wind turbines. In all, 79 turbines are operational in northwest Missouri.