A renewable energy industry in Missouri would create tens of thousands of jobs and new sources of income for farmers

Missouri's conventional fuel resources are slim, and energy dollars are streaming out of the state. Missourians spend about $3,000 per person each year on energy, including natural gas for heating, fuel for cars and trucks, and electricity for homes and businesses.[1] Eighty-two percent of the state's electricity comes from coal, nearly all of it shipped from Wyoming.[2]

But the state's large tracts of windy land and fertile soil, located relatively close to dense, energy-consuming urban centers, put Missouri in a prime position to become a national leader in renewable energy. Studies show that a local renewable energy industry in Missouri would create tens of thousands of jobs and provide substantial new sources of income for farmers.

By developing wind power, making biomass energy from agricultural waste and growing dedicated energy crops to make advanced biofuels, Missouri can keep its energy dollars at home and even start exporting energy to other states.

Missouri has already established a Renewable Energy Standard that will require 15 percent of the state's energy to come from renewable sources by 2021.

The renewables map shows current and future facilities generating energy from wind, biomass, solar and biogas in Missouri.

Wind Energy

wind turbine

Credit: Nordex SE

The average Missouri farm could host three to four wind turbines and bring in $18,000 to $24,000 per year in land lease payments

According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Missouri has enough wind to capture as much as 275,000 megawatts of power – nine times the state's current electricity capacity, or enough to easily meet the state's total annual demand for electricity.[3] Many of these windy plots are relatively close to St. Louis or Kansas City, which brings down the cost of transmitting wind energy. Harnessing just a fraction of Missouri's wind power would result in a major new source of income for many farmers and rural communities. The average 269-acre Missouri farm [4] could host three to four wind turbines and bring in $18,000 to $24,000 annually from land lease payments.[5]

In 2009 and 2010, Missouri tripled its wind power capacity, supporting 500 to 1,000 jobs in the state. Missouri wind farms currently produce 459 megawatts of energy -- enough to power 110,000 homes. An additional 2,000 megawatts of wind power are in development.[6] Continuing to invest in wind power would provide a further economic boost to the state's economy. According to the Department of Energy, building twenty-five 100-megawatt wind facilities -- an achievable goal -- would create thousands of construction jobs and hundreds of permanent jobs; manufacturing wind turbine parts could create thousands more.

Biomass Energy and Cellulosic Ethanol

Farmers in a switchgrass field

Credit: Gretz, Warren - NREL Staff Photographer

Missouri farms already produce enough crop waste to manufacture about 500 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol each year

Missouri makes about 2.5 percent of the nation's corn ethanol,[7] but the biofuels of the future will not be made from corn kernels. The best biofuels protect the environment and food supplies while improving the economic welfare of workers and communities. Cellulosic ethanol, made from crop waste (such as corn stover, the stalks and other bits left over after harvest) and non-food plants, can produce four to ten times as much energy per acre as current corn ethanol -- saving huge tracts of food-growing farmland.[8]

Missouri farms already produce enough crop waste from corn, winter wheat, soybeans, sorghum, cotton and timber to manufacture about 500 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol each year.[9] That's about 15 percent of all the automotive gasoline used in the state. A Missouri corn grower whose farm yields a ton of corn stover per acre could generate $13,000 in annual revenue from his waste.[10]

The potential is even greater when you look at growing energy crops, such as switchgrass. This perennial native prairie grass can be grown on marginal land with little moisture, yields up to 10 dry tons per acre and regenerates without replanting for 10 years or more.[11] Miscanthus, a woody perennial, is another promising energy crop that grows well in Missouri's climate.

Missouri can produce up to 15 million dry tons of energy crops just from the 1.5 million acres of Conservation Reserve Program land on which food crops are not grown.[12] In addition, a portion of winter cover crops could be harvested as an additional source of many millions of tons of biomass. A study by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance found that Missouri has the potential to produce an amount of ethanol equivalent to 78 percent of its current demand for gasoline.[13]

A pilot facility capable of making 1.5 million gallons per year of cellulosic ethanol from corn stover, sorghum and switchgrass is now under development in St. Joseph, Missouri.[14] Ramping up advanced biofuels production would create thousands of jobs in Missouri and generate millions of dollars in local property taxes.

These same energy crops can also be substituted for a portion of coal in existing power plants -- a relatively low-cost way to quickly ramp up renewable electricity generation.

Biogas Energy


Missouri hog farms could generate 301,000 megawatt-hours of electricity each year from methane -- about $22 million of local power each year

Missouri has only one biodigester in operation today, but as one of the top five hog-producing states in the country, it generates large amounts of livestock waste that can be converted into biogas energy.[15] The EPA's AgSTAR program reports that 154 Missouri hog farms are potentially profitable sites for biodigesters. Together, these operations are capable of producing 3.5 billion cubic feet of methane and generating 301,000 megawatt-hours of electricity each year from it.[16] At 7.35 cents per kilowatt-hour (the average electricity utility rate in Missouri in 2009), that's more than $22 million in forgone economic revenue to farms and local communities.

Missouri's dairy farms, cattle feedlots and poultry farms could also profit from installing biodigesters on site, especially if smaller operations pool their resources and as improved technology reduces biodigester costs.

The right set of supportive government policies could help Missouri farmers realize the benefits of anaerobic biodigester technology within a few years.

Solar Energy

Missouri utilities provide an incentive of at least $2 per watt for small-scale solar installations, bringing costs down nearly 25 percent

The new Missouri Renewable Electricity Standard requires that 2 percent of the state's renewable electricity come from solar power. That's about 190,000 megawatt-hours of annual solar electricity production by 2021, or the equivalent of powering nearly 2,000 homes.[17]

Solar energy costs have come down considerably in recent years, and the new law is making it even more affordable by requiring utilities to provide an incentive of at least $2 per watt for customer-based installations -- about 20 to 25 percent of today's cost for a solar array.

Missouri farmers could take advantage of the open skies over their land and install solar arrays to meet their own energy needs. Solar panels on farms could generate energy for water and space heating, grain drying, greenhouse heating and electricity.[18] Plus, Missouri's net-metering law allows solar electricity producers to sell their energy back to utilities -- another potential source of income.

Renewable Energy Meets Wildland and Wildlife Conservation

Certain lands (such as parks, critical wildlife habitats, and wilderness quality lands) and ecologically sensitive areas in the oceans are not appropriate for energy development. In some of these areas, energy development is prohibited or limited by law or policy, in others it would be highly controversial. NRDC does not endorse locating energy facilities or transmission lines in such areas. And in all cases, siting decisions must be made extremely carefully, impacts must be mitigated and operations conducted in an environmentally responsible manner.

For more information on the intersection between clean energy development and wildland and wildlife conservation in the American West, including locations of parks, wildlife refuges and other conservation areas, see this Google Earth-based feature.


Economic Incentives for Renewable Energy Projects in Missouri

The Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE) lists federal, state and local government incentives for renewable energy projects in Missouri.

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Energy Center keeps a current listing of programs and incentives based on economic sectors from federal, state and local utility incentive programs, as well as renewable energy technology fact sheets.

The most recent Farm Bill provides a number of incentives for renewable energy. The Environmental Law and Policy Center maintains a helpful website called Farm Energy, which outlines current incentives and monitors the development of new ones.

Missouri's net metering law allows small scale renewable electricity generators (up to 100 kilowatt capacity) to connect to the grid, and requires utility companies to buy their power at the retail utility price, up to the amount of usage by the customer.[19]

Wind Energy

The DOE Wind Powering America site provides a helpful summary of wind power activities and resources in the Missouri, including an anemometer loan program, wind maps and a Missouri small wind consumer's guide.

Missouri's Division of Energy has numerous wind maps, including county-level maps, available for download or on CD-ROM.

Biomass Energy and Cellulosic Ethanol

Missouri has a number of incentives for the use of alternative fuels, the purchase of an alternative-fuel vehicle and the construction or purchase of an alternative-fuel refueling station or equipment. See the Alternative Fuels and Advanced Vehicles Data Center at the EERE website for a list of state and federal incentives and laws.

Biogas Energy

The EPA's AgSTAR program has a comprehensive handbook on developing biogas technology. The site includes FarmWare, a free decision-making software package that can help you assess the feasibility of biogas on your farm.

Solar Energy

The Missouri Energy Center boasts a long-standing Energy Revolving Fund to help finance new solar energy projects. The Energy Center also administers the Missouri Million Solar Roofs program that provides financial incentives to buy-down the purchase and installation of an eligible solar PV system.

Utility customers of Columbia Water & Light Company can put a utility rebate toward purchasing and installing a new solar hot water or solar photovoltaic system.

The new Missouri Renewable Electricity Standard provides financial support of at least $2 per watt for small-scale installations, a subsidy of about 20 to 25 percent of today's cost of a solar array.


  1. [1] This total includes 82 million MWh of electricity, costing more than $5 billion, 272 billion cubic feet of natural gas, costing about $3 billion at today's prices, and about 3.25 billion gallons of gasoline plus 1.5 billion gallons of diesel totaling $10 billion at today's prices (numbers extrapolated from Energy Information Administration, U.S. Department of Energy, state energy profiles)
  2. [2] http://www.nrdc.org/energy/cleanmo/files/cleanmo.pdf
  3. [3] http://www.awea.org/_cs_upload/learnabout/publications/6400_2.pdf
  4. [4] Data from U.S. Department of Agriculture
  5. [5] Based on typical annual payments of $3000/MW, as used in the JEDI model; see http://www.windpoweringamerica.gov/filter_detail.asp?itemid=707#works
  6. [6] http://www.awea.org/_cs_upload/learnabout/publications/6400_2.pdf
  7. [7] Energy Information Administration, State Energy Profiles
  8. [8] Worldwatch Institute, "Smart Choices for Biofuels", p.8
  9. [9] "An Assessment of Biomass Feedstock Availability in Missouri," February, 2006 http://www.dnr.mo.gov/energy/docs/biomass-inventory2005-07.pdf
  10. [10] See reports of the multi-agency Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI) http://www.brdisolutions.com/default.aspx
  11. [11] BRDI, "Increasing Production for Biofuels," p.23
  12. [12] The study finds that if growers chose to keep growing existing forage grass on this land, three tons of biomass per acre could be harvested without increased risk of soil erosion.
  13. [13] http://www.newrules.org/de/energyselfreliantstates.pdf
  14. [14] http://uk.reuters.com/article/oilRpt/idUKN1952406520090219
  15. [15] U.S. Department of Agriculture 2007 Census of Agriculture
  16. [16] USEPA AgSTAR http://www.epa.gov/agstar/documents/biogas_recovery_systems_screenres.pdf
  17. [17] http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=97&t=3
  18. [18] For a detailed description of agricultural solar applications, see: http://www.nyserda.org/programs/pdfs/agguide.pdf
  19. [19] For detailed comparison of state net metering policies, see: http://irecusa.org/irec-programs/connecting-to-the-grid/net-metering/
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