Rural Missouri Magazine

Carrots, not sticks

by Barry Hart

by Barry Hart

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.

That’s what 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 energy.

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.

Knowing that the project would benefit their county, Gentry County commissioners helped make the project a reality and lent assistance to project participants.

Associated Electric 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 generation.

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.

No one forced these groups of farmers to organize and form cooperatives. But where interest was high, our federal government was there to lend a hand.

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 areas.

Congratulations to 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 Web site.

Hart is executive vice president of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives.

E-mail Barry Hart


Rural Missouri | June 2020 Issue

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