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Ameren plans to build a large network of wind turbines in northeast Missouri

A wind turbine.
Ameren Missouri
Ameren Missouri has submitted a proposal to the Public Service Commission to build a 400-megawatt wind farm in northeast Missouri.

Ameren Missouri on Monday announced plans to build a wind farm in northeast Missouri that could provide electricity to 120,000 homes. 

The utility has contracted renewable energy company Terra-Gen LLC to construct 175 wind turbines on multiple properties in Adair and Schuyler counties. The wind farm would help Ameren Missouri reach its goal to cut its 2005 carbon emissions levels by 80 percent by 2050.

The utility also must comply with the state's renewable energy standard, which requires state utilities to generate 15 percent of their portfolios from renewable sources by 2021. Ameren Missouri currently generates 5 percent of its electricity from renewable sources.

The wind farm project would generate 450 jobs during construction and two dozen permanent jobs at its completion. If the Missouri Public Service Commission approves the project, construction would begin summer of 2019 and the turbines could be online by 2020. Ameren officials said the cost of the project is confidential. 

"It's a good time to invest in wind power," said Ajay Arora, vice president of power operations and energy management at Ameren Missouri. 

"It's gotten to a point where, with the technological advancements, it's become an affordable and more importantly reliable choice for our customers," Arora said. "Solar generation, wind generation, energy storage will be exciting new opportunities for us as we look to replace coal-fired generation."

The company had announced last fall that it plans to add 700 megawatts of wind power generation by 2020. This project would generate 400 megawatts. 

Supporters of renewable energy said that the proposal is a step in the right direction for the company, but it's been long overdue. 

"This would still leave Ameren Missouri as the dirtiest utility in the state in terms of its energy mix," said John Hickey, director of the Missouri Sierra Club. "Any journey begins with a first step, so we are pleased that Ameren is taking its first step towards cleaning up its electric generation fleet." 

Other Missouri utilities have invested in more wind and solar, compared to Ameren. For example, Liberty Utilities-Empire District Electric Company plans to build a 600-megawatt wind farm. 

"We're always going to say that they need to do more," said James Owen, executive director of nonprofit group Renew Missouri. "They need to find a way to truly modernize the grid and not just be a continuation of what they've done. The only way to do that is by doing a lot of really significant investment in wind and solar."

Follow Eli on Twitter: @StoriesByEli

Eli is the science and environment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.

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