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A ‘huge disappointment’: St. Cloud VA to remove failed wind turbine

The St. Cloud VA Health Care System plans to remove a wind turbine on its campus that has stood idle for years.

The turbine was part of an effort by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to use more renewable energy at its facilities across the country. Wind was supposed to supply a significant portion of the St. Cloud medical center’s electricity.

But shortly after it was installed in 2011, the turbine stopped functioning. Since then, it’s loomed as an embarrassing failure over the expanding St. Cloud VA campus, where officials would prefer to focus on their mission of serving veterans.

The VA commissioned a study of several options for dealing with the inoperable turbine, including replacing it, but most were cost-prohibitive, said Barry Venable, the medical center’s spokesperson.

“The least expensive, most-value-to-the-taxpayers option was to remove and dispose of the turbine,” he said. “And that’s what we’re going to do.”

The VA received $450,000 from the contractor that installed the turbine in a legal settlement two years ago. The original project cost $2.2 million.

Venable called the situation a “huge disappointment.”

“We’ve lived here with this thing literally casting a shadow over what is a very fine VA medical center that is really proud of the work we do taking care of veterans,” Venable said. “As a taxpayer, one can’t help being disappointed after 7 years, a little over $2 million, a lot of time, effort and energy. There’s simply nothing to show for it.”

Venable said the VA will seek bids to remove and dispose of the turbine in the 2019 fiscal year, which begins in October.

He said the St. Cloud VA will continue its efforts to be more sustainable, including using geothermal energy to heat several buildings.