What was supposed to provide up to 15 percent of the power to the St. Cloud VA Health Care System has turned into a black eye in the sky.
A 250-foot-tall wind turbine remains in the commissioning phase almost three years after it was built.
The VA system and federal government should have cut ties more than a year ago with the company that installed the troubled turbine.
In 2011, the VA installed a wind turbine with federal stimulus money to meet a 2005 law requiring federal agencies to generate at least 7.5 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2013. The turbine, the first in the nation built on a VA campus, was touted as a model for renewable energy projects, but casts a shadow on other successful wind projects.
Since August 2012, the turbine has supplied no power at all as crews conduct one repair after another to its electrical and hydraulic systems. Worse yet, the VA system has paid about 99 percent of the $2.3 million cost for the faulty turbine; and a Times analysis found the VA system has missed more than $325,000 in energy cost savings it would have had if the turbine worked as projected since it went online in 2011.
A March 2 Times news report noted that the lost energy cost savings is low because it doesn’t include amounts for much of 2011 or for 2014.
Before August 2012, the turbine had been operational only 47 percent of the time since it went online in 2011.
What more needs to go wrong for the government and VA system to say enough is enough?
Nearly $2.3 million went blowing in the wind, and there seems to be no end in sight to needed repairs. It’s also unclear whether the VA will be compensated for lost savings or if the turbine will ever work properly.
“VA is currently assessing all of its options, and if necessary, will pursue all rights and remedies available to protect VA’s interests,” said Josephine Schuda, a national VA spokeswoman, in a statement to the Times.
She said the VA system has not taken any legal action against the project’s contractor or the India-based manufacturer Elecon Engineering Co. Ltd.
What is the VA system waiting for? It should do everything within its legal powers to recover all tax dollars paid to the contractor, and even demand a reimbursement for the energy savings not realized because of continuous problems with the turbine.
The VA should also consider whether using another company to fix the turbine is worth any added costs or if the project should be scratched.
It would be a shame to see $2.3 million in public money go to waste, but more of an embarrassment to spend additional taxpayer dollars on something that may never work.