160902_nexteraenergy_ray

Next Era Energy Resources, of Juno Beach, Florida, is constructing a 97-unit wind farm in DeKalb County. The work is set to finish by late November.

AMITY, Mo. — Against a backdrop of DeKalb County soybean and corn fields, a Florida energy company remains busy in building a wind farm that will serve an area utility’s power needs.

Next Era Energy Resources is working on the Osborn Wind Energy Center from an 8-acre prep yard north of Amity, Missouri. The site contains offices and necessary equipment, such as cable and pad-mounted transformers. The company’s ambitions focus on placement of a 97-turbine wind farm that, when operational, will possess the capability of producing 200 megawatts of electricity. Kansas City Power & Light is buying the electricity. The project dovetails with the Transource electric transmission line serving the region.

Construction began in May, with plans calling for the units’ foundations to be completed in a month, according to Next Era construction manager Josh Tran. All of the work is slated to conclude at the end of November. A workforce of 350 employees is on site, not counting dozens of truck drivers who have been delivering the equipment. Local vendors include Payless Concrete of St. Joseph. Most of the gear is U.S.-made, although one of the cranes came from Germany.

“Lately, it’s been more seven days a week,” Tran said of the workers’ schedules. “Weather started out rough,” he said, referring to both the rain and wind.

Easements helped enable roads to be cut to the turbines, he said.

“We meet with as many landowners as we can,” he said, adding that some are not locally based.

Roads and bridges have been and will continue to receive upgrades due to Next Era’s recognition that heavy trucks are resulting in damage. The pledge has even resulted in a $2.6 million check from the company to the Missouri Department of Transportation to help defray the repairs. More than $4.1 million has been invested to improve the affected county roads. Dust suppressant has also been applied to those surfaces.

“(Missouri Route) J has been beaten up,” Tran said. No damage has occurred to Missouri Highway 6.

Next Era also has worked with rural electric cooperatives in coordinating the moves of power lines near the turbines. Avoidance areas were created based on environmental studies.

Bringing the hardware to the farm has required coordination with the Missouri State Highway Patrol and local school districts, which rely on the rural routes for their buses.

The concept of a wind farm for DeKalb County originated in 2008 and has had starts and fits, due primarily to a changing market.

Land will remain in agricultural use once the turbines become operational.

Opponents continue to raise concerns from the wind farm related to such issues as potential environmental impacts. Steve Stengel, communications director for Next Era, said officials have faith they are building a safe and reliable network.

“This project is moving forward,” he said. “We understand there is a vocal minority opposed to the project. We have followed all the rules.”

In action related to the construction, MoDOT announced Thursday that the large cranes will be moving across Missouri highways 31 and 6, and routes J and N at various times in the weeks ahead. Full road closures will be required during those instances, yet most should last no more than four hours.

A closure of Highway 6 is planned for 8 p.m. today and is not expected to last more than four hours, according to MoDOT. The area affected will extend from Route N to Ogle Road on Highway 6. The closures will be posted on the department’s Traveler Information Map at www.modot.org. Motorists should seek an alternate route.

Ray Scherer can be reached at ray.scherer@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPScherer.