WRAY – The eastern Colorado wind turbine tapped for the Democratic National Convention’s carbon-offset program has one problem: It doesn’t generate any electricity. Convention organizers are now being questioned for their eagerness to market those credits to delegates.
The DNC has contracted with Vermont-based NativeEnergy to offer delegates “Green challenge” carbon offsets to soften the environmental impact of convention travel. That money is then invested in carbon-free “green” energy sources around the country, including a wind turbine installed this year by the Wray School District RD-2. But a Face The State investigation reveals the district’s turbine has never produced marketable energy due to massive equipment malfunctions.
The school district held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the wind turbine February 15th. Officials soon discovered, however, that the turbine was incapable of producing its intended output. “We flipped it back off and on about 10 times since then,” said Superintendent Ron Howard. “It has run, it will run, but it won’t ramp itself up to full capacity.”
In the meantime, the project has been touted by Gov. Bill Ritter’s administration as an example of government innovation in clean energy, with district officials still attempting to reassure residents of the technology’s long-term potential. Area residents tell Face The State the blades do turn some days, even though the turbine is not producing electricity. The district Web site reads, “As you note the blades turning evenly in the wind…this ‘dream turned into reality’ is providing an environmentally safe source of power to our community.”
In a feature story in Saturday’s Rocky Mountain News, reporter Jerd Smith claimed that 20 percent of Wray’s power is generated by what it calls “a windmill that toils day and night producing clean electricity.” Smith’s report professed that the Wray project is “at the heart” of the DNC’s carbon-credit program.
The Rocky report also described the school wind turbine as “a project that generates thousands of dollars for the region’s cash-strapped schools,” but provided no financial data regarding any energy sales to date.
Howard says the turbine requires replacement equipment, which is scheduled to be installed this month. “It’s a new technology, so they don’t have the bugs out of it,” he said. “Since there’s so many people watching [the turbine], they might be better served to go to a more reliable model.”
State Sen. Greg Brophy, a Wray Republican, says residents feel let down by town leaders. “Most of the people out here were very excited about it,” he said. “But nobody likes to be misled. The ‘green’ DNC convention is an absolute sham.”
Despite the fact the wind turbine does not produce energy, that hasn’t stopped the district from cashing in on the project. In addition to the carbon credits sold to the DNC and others through NativeEnergy, Howard says the district receives downtime compensation from Americas Wind Energy, Inc., the firm that built the apparatus. “The money that we’re making isn’t necessarily coming from production,” he said.
When asked to quantify those payments, Howard would only describe them as “substantial.” While the details of school district contracts and finances are public information, Howard refused to disclose that information. “I’m not going to tell you how much money we are receiving from AWE while we’re waiting for this thing to run,” he said. Face The State has since requested documents from the district under the Colorado Open Records Act.
Howard is similarly tight lipped on the district’s income from carbon offsets. “I’m also not going to tell you how much we got from the sale of the green tax for green energy,” he said. “That’s all there is to it.”
Face The State Staff Report
26 July 2008
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