Wind turbines near Stewartsville, Missouri

The DeKalb County landscape near Stewartsville and Osborn features numerous wind turbines in a facility operated by Florida-based NextEra. The firm has expressed potential interest in locating a wind farm in Buchanan County, where officials continue to work on a proposed ordinance to regulate their operation.

A DeKalb County meeting has helped University of Missouri researchers set guideposts for future wind energy and economic development projects in the state.

University Extension held the session earlier this week in Maysville, a two-hour-plus gathering that allowed the 65 participants to collect into small groups for discussion of wind-related issues. DeKalb County is the home of several wind farms, including one built by Florida-based NextEra Energy Resources that created a still-simmering firestorm of controversy.

Extension personnel and students in the university’s business program helped moderate the small-group setting, said Joe Lear, Extension’s Northwest Missouri director. Lear described the proceedings as “active” and with “lots of discussion.

“We sat down and listened to what wind energy was doing for the community — good or bad,” Lear said. “It was a good meeting. We were listening to them.”

But more than simply dealing with wind, he said Extension specifically designed the sessions to treat thoughts on how prospects for economic development should be viewed in the county and beyond. A resource guide will be formed from surveys and the meeting, and a similar one in Atchison County, to help other Missouri communities assess their roles in similar projects that may come their way.

Lear said the forum’s participants also had the opportunity to complete surveys to further gauge views on wind power. All of the information will be collated by MU business students to “decide whether that’s a good option ... whether that fits their community,” he said of wind’s relevance to economic development. “What kind of questions should a company asked about that?”

He added the information eventually can prove useful for governments in considering other alternate forms of energy to fill out their property and business landscapes, such as solar power.

“What are the benefits?” Lear asked. “What are the things we need to be talking about?”

There is no deadline for the students’ completion of the resource guide. Further information and a link to the survey can be found at extension2.missouri.edu/programs/wind-energy. There is also no deadline for returning the survey. Opinions on wind energy also can be provided by email to windenergyproject@missouri.edu.

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

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