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Tenaska celebrates project, landowners

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MARYVILLE, Mo. — On a warm, breezy, Tuesday evening, Tenaska leaders celebrated reaching 70 percent completion of the Clear Creek Energy Center project with representatives from all areas of the project and Nodaway County leaders and landowners.

At project headquarters located on Icon Road north of U.S. Highway 71, about 175 people gathered in a large white tent and sat down to a barbecue picnic lunch catered by B&G Catering of Ravenwood. During dinner, Monte Ten Kley, director of project development for Tenaska thanked the many people involved both within local government and throughout the companies involved in the development and construction of the project.

“I’ll be honest, this project probably would not have happened without Rex (Wallace),” said Ten Kley. “Every time that something happened and we needed to solve a problem, Rex had an idea and they were generally good ideas.”

Wallace, Nodaway County Assessor, is a self-described fan of wind turbines. From his remarks at the dinner until he signed his name on the side of a turbine blade later that evening, Wallace smiled and talked about how happy he was to be working with Tenaska.

“Tenaska has been one of the best companies that we’ve worked with,” he said. “Monte came in my office in 2017 and introduced himself … when he handed me his business card and told me he was a retired lieutenant colonel I kind of paid attention, plus he’s big. After several meetings with the commissioners and with Tenaska, this is where we’re at and I’m proud to say I got to know him and I think it’s going to be beneficial to the county.”

He said the project will generate roughly $1.4 million per year for the taxing entities. Wallace said as good community partners, Tenaska has donated to the Nodaway County Fair, the livestock auction, the food bank, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Nodaway County and United Way.

“The other awesome thing about their company, they use local people: Eric Chamberlain, Ken Hensley and Dick Baldwin, people that we know,” he said. “On behalf of myself and hopefully the county commissioners, we welcome Tenaska and we look forward to a bright future.”

Ryan Choquette, project manager of engineering and construction for Tenaska told guests that the outer one-third of a turbine blade produces two-thirds of the power, while the inner two-thirds supports that outer third.

“Today the project stands at a similar state of construction,” he said. “... two-thirds of the project is constructed, but yet you only see nine turbines sticking in the air.”

Choquette explained a lot of work goes in behind the scenes to bring it to this point. The project began to take shape when Ten Kley and his team working with land agents working with the community in 2017. Finding an energy contractor — for this project it is Associated Electric Cooperative, Inc. based in Springfield — was a vital step to the development.

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Stephanie Tatum, Mission Hills, Kansas, signs her name to the wind turbine blade. Her land in Nodaway County will be host to three wind turbines.

Construction began in spring 2019 with tree-clearing, dirt-moving and concrete work. Choquette explained that Mortenson, the engineering company, has hundreds of people working throughout the county and Vestas, the wind turbine supplier, has thousands of workers building the towers, cells and blades for this project.

“To date, Mortenson has improved over 63 miles of Nodaway County roads,” he said. “They’ve installed 67 miles of underground cables to support the power delivery from the turbines to the substations.”

He continued explaining that more than 500,000 tons of dirt have been moved during the project and more than 150 million pounds of concrete have been poured in foundations throughout the wind farm.

As of this week, 19 turbines have been delivered to site, and nine have been erected. The project is scheduled for power testing in November and to be completed by the end of the year.

“Mortenson currently has 340 people working day in and day out to support this project,” said Choquette. “On behalf of the engineering and construction team, I wanted to say thanks landowners for your patience. I know it’s been tough with the rain and the roads, but we’re working hard to build the safest project possible.”

John Mayer, energy contract originator for Associated Electric Cooperative, Inc., said the wind farm is important to his company due to its low cost, high energy profile, financially sound developer and operator.

“Renewable energy has been a part of Associated’s energy resource mix for over a decade now,” he said. “A balanced energy portfolio is important to limit exposure to high wholesale energy costs from any particular energy source.

“Thank you for your efforts. These efforts contribute to our mission which is to provide clean, affordable, reliable energy to our member owners.”

Before the nearly 200 people at the dinner were bused to the turbine construction site located on 210th Street just west of Icon Road, Tenaska CEO and Vice Chairman Jerry Crouse spoke about his company.

Crouse said things have changed since his company’s founders created Tenaska, “We’ve got about 700 employees. This is the 18th project that we’ve done. We’re one of the largest gas marketers in North America. We’re one of the largest power marketers in North America and I’m proud to say we’re still privately held and employee owned.

“When we make a commitment we intend to follow through on that. We’ve made a commitment and we intend to follow through on it. We will do our best. It won’t always be perfect, but it’s great to see the activity here behind us.”

As he spoke, large construction vehicles were driven behind the tent as work continued on the wind farm.

“We’re booming right now with our wind generation,” said Crouse. “This is our only project right now that’s in full-fledged construction, but we’ve got three more that should be by the end of the year. … So we’re especially proud to celebrate this construction activity. It’s an impressive site.”

He explained that the company is a long-term owner and holds a 25-year contract with Associated Electric and that Tenaska intends to live up to the responsibilities to the company and landowners.

“We’re creating jobs,” said Crouse. “We’re generating tax revenue. We’re hoping that we’re spurring economic development. … We’re going to continue to strive to be a good neighbor and develop strong and lasting relationships. …

“That’s the Tenaska way,” he said. “We really want to live up to our word. We know you took a leap of faith in agreeing to lease your land for this project and we certainly appreciate it. It’s not lost on us. We’re going to work hard to fulfill the commitments that we’ve made.”

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