The Natural Resources Defense Council's report was released while the debate over "cap and trade" legislation has been underway in Washington, D.C. The proposed legislation would put a cap on carbon emissions and allow the trade of credits from firms that don't use all of their allotment to energy producers that use more. Many utilities in the Ozarks use coal-powered generators, which would be penalized for carbon emissions under the proposed legislation.
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council's report, continued reliance in the area on fossil burning fuels is not the only serious alternative.
"Only about half of 1 percent of the nation's wind power is presently located in Missouri, even though Missouri ranks in the top 20 states for wind energy potential, with an annual potential commercial production of 52 million megawatt-hours----equivalent to 63 percent of all the electricity used in the state today," the report states.
Sources for the highest wind potential have previously been identified in northwest Missouri. The report looked at other counties and found that only six counties had a higher quantity of land where sufficient wind density could be tapped for energy production than Barry and Lawrence counties.
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council's report, there are 125 square miles of wind-dense areas in Lawrence County and 100 square miles in Barry County.
In both counties the wind-dense acreage falls in a very limited area. The largest concentration in Lawrence County was charted from Monett to Mt. Vernon and west to Pierce City. Another narrow band runs from the Interstate 44 corridor between Mt. Vernon and Halltown to the Everton area in the northwest corner, going through Miller.
In Barry County, the wind-dense area is concentrated west of Highway 37 from Monett to Butterfield then southwest to the Exeter area. Pulaskifield, Camp Barnabas and Exeter are on the western edges of the identified area.
There appears to be very little potential for wind-power production in adjacent counties, especially to the east of Barry and Lawrence counties. Several zones high potential wind zones from Barry and Lawrence counties overlap into eastern Newton and Jasper counties and southern Dade County.
Tapping the wind potential would require construction of wind turbines, some of which can top 300 feet in height. The generally accepted practice for placing wind generators is leaving 60 to 90 acres of land for each large turbine, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council's report. Each turbine would need a half-acre footprint for a foundation.
Towers need to be spaced apart to take maximum advantage of the wind and avoid interfacing with each other. Even so, the report stated the average 269-acre Missouri farm could house three or four wind turbines.
It was estimated the presence of the turbines could generate $18,000 to $24,000 a year in land-lease payments from power companies. In 2004, the General Accounting Office reported farmers could "double or triple" their wind income through ownership rather than land-lease arrangements.
Estimates for the economic impact of a complex of 50 large wind turbines in one operation, spread across the equivalent of 15 average-sized Missouri farms, would be to generate $300,000 a year in new revenue from land leases alone and $575,454 in new property taxes from the power companies. The Department of Energy projected that a wind farm of 50 towers would generate 100 million megawatt-hours of power.
The construction of such an operation was estimated to cost $203 million, produce 575 jobs and generate $62.6 million in local economic activity. Operating the plant would create 22 full-time local jobs and inject $3 million into the local economy annually.
"The emergence of a large domestic wind power industry would be a boon in the economy of many parts of rural Missouri, and it would also mean a huge new market for domestic manufacturers of the components that go into wind turbines, towers and other renewable facilities," the report stated.
The Renewable Energy Policy Project has identified 785 firms in Missouri with the capability to manufacture components for renewable power plants, ranking Missouri 13th among all states in the amount of manufacturing activity that would be created by pursuing such an alternate energy source.
Martin Cohen, author of the Natural Resources Defense Council's report, said Missouri has lagged behind other states in tapping its renewable energy potential.
"It would not create a great deal of development to create a lot of jobs," said Cohen.