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Published on November 16th, 2019 | by Tina Casey

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Steady, Reliable Wind Power Wins Over Coal-Crazy Missouri

November 16th, 2019 by  


File this one under W for When You’ve Lost Missouri. Coal still provides the most juice for the state’s electricity grid, but wind power is the golden ticket to a brand new steel recycling plant. The plant’s owner, North Carolina-based Nucor, tapped Missouri partly on account of access to a long term, competitive rate for wind-sourced electricity. Wait — since when did steel mills run on clean power?

wind power Missouri

Missouri energy resources map via US Energy Information Agency

Wind Power & Location, Location, Location

To be clear, wind power was not the only factor. Nucor had location foremost in mind when it selected the site, at a new industrial park in Sedalia, Missouri. The plant will melt down scrap and turn it into new rebar, and the Midwest is a prime spot for both collecting raw material and distributing the finished product.

A new rail connection for the industrial park also comes into play, with the help of a $10 million grant from the Department of Transportation.

That railway link certainly is a key factor. According to our friends over at OzarksFirst.com, US Senator Roy Blunt (R-Missouri) has stated that the Nucor deal puts the Sedalia facility “on track to become the largest, exclusive rail-served industrial park in the Midwest.”

Ya don’t say? Socialism!

Thanks For Being Such A Big Help — Not

Blunt’s conversion to the wind side is a recent development. Blunt has been cheerleadering with quite some vigor for the global coal industry. In 2015, for example, he argued that “access to affordable and reliable energy, particularly coal, is indispensable to economic growth and prosperity.”

One wonders why the enthusiasm, considering that the Senator’s home state accounts for less than 0.5% of US coal production.

Whatever. For his support for coal and other fossil fuels, Blunt has garnered a lifetime score of 5% from the League of Conservation Voters.

As recently as last month, Blunt was on record championing coal and defending the Trump* administration’s Affordable Clean Energy Plan against the Clean Power Plan (CPP was developed during the Obama administration, but was never implemented).

“Missourians have historically relied on coal to power more than 80% of our electricity, and Blunt has consistently fought to protect Missouri families from the costly impacts of the CPP,” it says right there on the Senator’s website.

More Wind Power For Missouri, Eventually

With friends like these, it’s little wonder that Missouri ranks down at #21 in installed wind capacity, even though it hosts some of the better wind resources in the US.

Missouri also has easy access to some of the very best wind resources in the US — or it would, if the 4,000 megawatt Grain Belt Express long distance wind transmission line ever gets done.

The new transmission line is aimed at shuttling clean electricity from wind-rich Kansas into Missouri, and on to Indiana and Illinois. It was first proposed in 2011 and was quickly greenlighted by three of the four states involved, with Missouri being the lone holdout. I know, right? Shocker!

A series of court battles ensued and were eventually decided in favor of the project, but as of last summer Senator Blunt’s party-mates in the Missouri state legislature were still standing firm against the wind, so to speak.

Yes, More Wind Power For Missouri

Regardless of the opposition against Grain Belt, it looks like the Trump administration is letting wind power in through Missouri’s back door, as more companies like Nucor eyeball that Sedalia industrial park with its taxpayer-funded rail link and the potential for access to clean power.

Steelmaking is among several key sectors that have been easing off their dependency on fossil fuels for industrial process, and switching to high efficiency systems powered by green electricity and other, cleaner resources.

In past years, state lawmakers could point out that wind-sourced electricity was more expensive than fossil fuels, but times have changed. Our friends over at E&E News note that Midwest wind is competing on cost against shale gas, and winning.

It’s also going to be difficult for Missouri legislators to ignore the economic benefits of wind access. Reportedly 2,300 people have shown up to apply for the 250 jobs at the Nucor plant.

The Kansas Connection

Speaking of Kansas, the Nucor plant will get its wind power through a power purchase agreement with the diversified energy company Evergy.

The complete deal has yet to be inked but with the rail extension grant in hand, it’s going to be that much harder for certain Missouri state legislators to throw a monkey wrench into the works.

With the wind angle in mind, it’s worth noting that Evergy is a Kansas-based company formed in 2018 through a mashup of Kansas City Power & Light and Westar Energy, Inc.

Evergy “provides clean, safe and reliable energy to 1.6 million customers in Kansas and Missouri,” as its website cheerfully relates.

Together, the two companies that form Evergy have transitioned from 1% renewables and 52% coal in 2005, to 27% renewables and 40% coal anticipated in 2020. The share of nuclear, natural gas, and oil have also declined.

CleanTechnica is reaching out to Evergy to see if they can provide any more details about the wind aspect of the Nucor deal, so stay tuned for more on that.

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*Developing story.

Image: Missouri energy profile via US Energy Information Agency. 
 
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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.



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