On Jan. 31, I was
privileged to be part of an historic announcement that took place at
our state Capitol. Surrounded by a distinguished crowd of legislators,
state employees, electric cooperative officials and representatives
of the wind industry, St. Louis businessman Tom Carnahan unveiled his
plans to build a wind
energy farm in northwest Missouri.
In the group
were people who probably once thought wind energy would never come
to Missouri. It’s not that they were pessimistic people. It’s
just that the hurdles to constructing such a project were enormous.
Also represented were people who don’t know how to say quit,
who know how to dream big and also recognize a wonderful opportunity
when it comes along.
makes this project so special and important to our state. Over the
past couple of years, as the nation debated the energy bill, there
were those involved in the process who wanted to create mandates for
projects like this one.
Had they succeeded
in getting this language passed utilities like your electric cooperative
might have been forced into raising rates in order to join renewable
energy projects that didn’t make economic sense. Instead Missouri’s
congressional delegation worked to provide incentives instead of mandates
so all Americans and not just co-op members would support renewable
As a result, Missouri
is celebrating its first wind energy farm and those participating in
the historic announcement are already talking about the next step.
Bluegrass Ridge Wind Energy could be a case study in how government
can best help private enterprise.
In this project an ambitious businessman put together a project that
will let him see a good return on his investment.
John Deere Wind Energy,
which provided financing for the project, saw this as an opportunity
to invest in a rural community. This investment will benefit area farmers,
who in turn are now more likely to buy more agricultural equipment.
that the project would benefit their county, Gentry County commissioners
helped make the project a reality and lent assistance to project
Cooperative, which recognizes that renewable energy is good for the
environment, saw an opportunity to add to its mix of generation sources
without raising rates. When this project comes on line, the clean,
renewable wind energy will in fact replace more expensive natural gas
As this project came
together it reminded me of the beginnings of the rural electric program.
In those early days government helped make these projects possible
by providing low-cost financing and engineering specifications.
one forced these groups of farmers to organize and form cooperatives.
But where interest was high, our federal government was there to lend
Over the years we’ve
seen other successful examples of this public/ private partnership,
most notably in the Weather Radio network that was extended into rural
Tom Carnahan and all the others who worked so hard to bring wind energy
to Missouri. And thanks to our lawmakers for seeing the value of using
carrots instead of sticks in making the promise of wind energy a reality.
For more information
about Missouri's new wind project, see the AMEC
Hart is executive vice president of the Association
of Missouri Electric Cooperatives.