The St. Cloud VA Health Care System is taking action to try to find a solution to the vexing problem of a $2.3 million wind turbine that doesn’t work.
The turbine, installed in 2011 to generate 600 kilowatts, hasn’t worked since 2012. The 245-foot tower continues to dominate the city’s far north side skyline, a flawed monument to federal efforts to use more renewable energy.
Recently, the Times reported that VA officials have approved a contract with a Florida-based company to explore options to get the turbine moving again. The study is scheduled to take a year and cost about $300,000.
Now before you get upset about spending more money on a failed project, consider that the VA was able to claw back $450,000 from the original contractor for the project. Also understand that the foundation and tower appear to be in good shape. The problems have been with the nacelle, the part of the project where the power is generated.
Part of the study will be to examine if there are replacement units that can be swapped in to make the turbine work.
VA officials say all options are on the table. That it a prudent course of action.
In the end, the costs may be too much and the tower will be dismantled and sold off.
A lot of time, effort and money has gone into this project since 2011. To have wind generate some of the energy for the large St. Cloud VA campus makes sense. It is sad to think of all the lost energy savings that could have been generated since 2011. However, let’s be wise about just how much more time and money needs to be spent on this project.
It is frustrating that the study on what options are available will take a year. We have to believe the costs of those options will only increase the longer it takes to fix.
The VA has taken a lot to criticism about the failure of the project to deliver results. With so many wind projects appearing to successfully generate power in many parts of Minnesota and the Upper Midwest, it is sad that the VA’s turbine failed. It doesn’t help that the tower is in such a highly visible location near heavily traveled Minnesota Highway 15.
Officials are quick to say that the project hasn’t impacted patient care or the budget for that care.
Our advice is to find the least expensive option for repair and failing that, take it down.
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