MARYVILLE, Mo. — The process of laying groundwork for development of a new wind energy project in northern Nodaway County continued Friday as representatives from Tenaska Inc., an Omaha, Nebraska-based independent power producer, met with the Nodaway County Commission in an effort to iron out road and infrastructure issues associated with turbine installation.
Construction of Tenaska’s Clear Creek Energy Center, which is to comprise 100 to 120 wind turbines, each producing between 2 to 3 megawatts of electricity, will have a significant impact on county roads and drainage tubes.
Friday’s meeting involved review by both parties of a transportation document spelling out the respective roles of Tenaska and the county with regard to wind farm-related road and drainage-tube alterations and repairs made necessary by the use of heavy trucks and other gear to transport and erect massive, bladed towers that transform wind into electricity.
All three county commissioners — Bill Walker, Chris Burns and Robert Stiens — were present at the session, as was Nodaway County Assessor Rex Wallace. Tenaska was represented by Monte D. Ten Kley, director of the company’s Strategic Development and Acquisitions Group, and Husch Blackwell attorney Anna R. Kimbrell.
Tenaska Clear Creek project engineer Justin Vala participated via telephone.
A similar road impact and repair agreement was put in place several years ago during construction of the county’s first, and so far only, wind farm, which was developed by Wind Capital Group and consists of 24 2-megawatt turbines near the small towns of Conception, Conception Junction and Clyde.
However, the Tenaska document is both longer and more complex and sparked concerns by county officials regarding roadwork, tube removal and replacement and requests for information regarding the location of underground pipes and cables.
But the intent of the document is the same: to require the developer to restore or repair any roads or county and township property that is moved, altered, damaged or destroyed during the construction process and the wind farm’s subsequent operational life.
At first, Wallace and the commissioners feared Tenaska’s request for data would require the county to provide geographic information system records that it lacks the equipment and staff to collect. Another issue involved the possibility of Tenaska posting a bond or some other form of security that would ensure adequate funds are on hand for needed repairs to roads and tube crossings after construction is complete.
Vala told the commissioners the company wasn’t planning on forcing the county to acquire data it doesn’t have but merely wanted to ensure access to whatever documents are available.
“Whatever you have, we want to know about it,” he said. “If you don’t have much, well, that’s that,” Vala said.
“We’ll be glad to give you what we’ve got,” Walker responded.
As for the bonding issue, Ten Kley said he had no particular objection so long as the amount of money to be set aside was within the company’s range of affordability. He added that Tenaska’s intention is to ensure the county remains “whole” in terms fiscal impact related to construction, road repairs and property restoration.
Vala said one problem with setting a specific bond amount is that Tenaska remains uncertain about just how big an impact on roads and infrastructure the project will have. New-generation turbines and gear assemblies, he said, employ modular designs that allow them to be transported and installed piecemeal, reducing the impact of heavy trucks and equipment on unpaved thoroughfares.
“I don’t think we’re very far apart here,” Ten Kley of the proposed agreement.
Other issues brought up by the commissioners included questions about who pays for an “outside engineer” required to oversee and inspect wind farm construction. Ten Kley explained that wages and expenses for the engineer would be paid by Tenaska, and that the county would be able to sign off on or reject whomever the company chooses.
In turn, South District Commissioner Stiens sought to describe the relationship between the county and Nodaway’s 15 townships, which are largely responsible for the repair and upkeep of rural roads within their borders.
Steins told Ten Kley, Kimbrell and Vala that the county doesn’t own any of its roads, which are the property of landowners bordering each route. Rather, he said, Nodaway possesses only each road’s rights-of-way while townships are in charge of maintenance.
Ten Kley asked if the document could specify the county as the contact point for notifying landowners and townships whenever wind farm-related issues arose. The commissioners responded that the county was equipped to fulfill that role.
Additional issues discussed included requirements for replacing drainage pipes with materials conforming to the infrastructure originally in place. New pipe installations are to employ riveted steel and must include diaphragms, a metal sheet attached to pipe ends and designed to prevent erosion and washouts.
Still unsettled is the depth to which Tenaska crews will have to dig when seeking to detect buried lines and cables. The county had requested excavations of at least 10 feet beneath the ditch line, while Tenaska proposed digging 3 feet beneath he surface of the road.
An agreement remains to be worked out pending further study, an effort Ten Kley described as an attempt to find “some middle ground.”
Tenaska estimates the Clear Creek wind farm will boost the local economy through an estimated project investment of between $200 million to $300 million and increased tax revenue for local units of government. In previous projects, Tenaska said its installations have paid more than $13.4 million in taxes to local governments and school districts in five states.
The Clear Creek installation, Tenaska claims, will diversify land use and provide stable income to landowners through lease payments. At peak construction, the project is to create more than 200 jobs as well as 15 full-time positions once the wind farm is operational.
Clear Creek is one of two Nodaway County wind energy developments currently underway. The other, involving Lenexa, Kansas-based Tradewind Energy, proposes construction of a 238-megawatt operation extending west and southwest of Maryville.