Two open houses are planned this week for a portion of a 600-megawatt wind project to be built in Southwest Missouri.

"(Attendees) can learn more about a wind farm, what the construction phase is like, just get some questions answered," said Timberly Ross, spokesperson for Tenaska, the company constructing the turbines.

Liberty Utilities-Empire District this summer received the needed regulatory approval to go forward with the project, which was announced in 2017. The project represents an investment of more than $1 billion.

According to Liberty, the turbines will be split among two spots in Southwest Missouri and a third location in Southeast Kansas. The two sites in Missouri, which will generate 150 megawatts each, are being called King’s Point and North Fork Ridge, and turbines will go up in parts of Jasper, Barton, Lawrence and Dade counties.

Construction is expected to begin in early October, the company said, with the turbines to be operational by the end of 2020.

According to Ross, activities this fall will include modifying public roads, building access roads and turbine foundations, installing underground electrical connection lines, and foundation work for substations and operations buildings.

About 138 turbines will be needed in Missouri. Each will generate 2 to 2.2 megawatts, with a hub height of between 394 and 400 feet and a tip height of nearly 600 feet.

Ross said that Tenaska, based in Omaha, Nebraska, has a contract to develop and manage construction of the Missouri wind turbines, and that Liberty-Empire will own and operate them.

Open houses

The first open house will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday at Carthage Memorial Hall, 407 S. Garrison Ave. A second open house will be from 7 to 9 a.m. Tuesday at Lamar Memorial Hall, 1100 Broadway.

The other half of the company’s wind production — 139 turbines — will be built in Neosho County, Kansas, north of Parsons. Apex Clean Energy, based in Charlottesville, Virginia, will develop and manage the Kansas wind turbines. Attempts to get an update Friday from Apex were unsuccessful.

Tenaska said it has met all state and county regulations needed to begin construction.

County agreements require wind turbines to be at least 650 feet from the nearest residence, but none will be that close. Nearly 90 percent of the turbines will be located more than a quarter-mile from the nearest residence.

Tenaska also said in a statement that 200 jobs will be created during peak construction, along with 14 to 20 permanent jobs to operate the two wind farms.

The utility's original proposal called for a $1.5 billion project that would generate 800 megawatts of wind energy and result in closing its coal-fired plant in Asbury more than 15 years early. Throughout the course of negotiations with regulators, the utility agreed to delay the closure of the coal-fired plant and to scale back the targeted production to 600 megawatts.

Support for plan

Environmental groups Renew Missouri and the Sierra Club indicated in regulatory filings that they backed Liberty-Empire's wind project plan. The majority of people who testified during a public hearing on the project held in Joplin earlier this year also were supportive.

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