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Costly Broken Wind Turbines Give College Whopping Negative 99.14% Return On Investment

Mattoon, IL – Lake Land College –

Costly Broken Wind Turbines Give College Whopping Negative 99.14% Return On Investment

Posted By Andrew Follett On 1:32 PM 04/12/2016 In |

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Photo from original article (link at bottom)

Lake Land College recently announced plans to tear down broken wind turbines on campus, after the school got $987,697.20 in taxpayer support for wind power.

The turbines were funded by a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, but the turbines lasted for less than four years and were incredibly costly to maintain.

“Since the installation in 2012, the college has spent $240,000 in parts and labor to maintain the turbines,” Kelly Allee, Director of Public Relations at Lake Land College, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

The college estimates it would take another $100,000 in repairs to make the turbines function again after one of them was struck by lightning and likely suffered electrical damage last summer. School officials’ original estimates found the turbine would save it $44,000 in electricity annually, far more than the $8,500 they actually generated. Under the original optimistic scenario, the turbines would have to last for 22.5 years just to recoup the costs, not accounting for inflation. If viewed as an investment, the turbines had a return of negative 99.14 percent.

“While they have been an excellent teaching tool for students, they have only generated $8,500 in power in their lifetime,” she said. “One of the reasons for the lower than expected energy power is that the turbines often need to be repaired. They are not a good teaching tool if they are not working.”

The college estimates it would take another $100,000 in repairs to make the turbines function again after one of them was struck by lightning and likely suffered electrical damage last summer.

Even though the college wants to tear down one of the turbines, they are federal assets and “there is a process that has to be followed” according to Allee.

The turbines became operational in 2012 after a 5-year long building campaign intended to reduce the college’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to fight global warming. Even though the turbines cost almost $1 million, but the college repeatedly claimed they’d save money in the long run.

“It is becoming more and more difficult for us financially to maintain the turbines,” Josh Bullock, the college’s president, told the Journal Gazette and Times-Courier last week. “I think it was an extremely worthy experiment when they were installed, but they just have not performed to our expectations to this point.”

Bullock states that the turbines simply haven’t been able to power the campus’ buildings and that most of the electricity wasn’t effectively used.

Lake Land plans to replace the two failed turbines with a solar power system paid for by a government grant. “[T]he photovoltaic panels are expected to save the college between $50,000 and $60,000 this year,”Allee told the DCNF.

Globally, less than 30 percent of total power wind capacity is actually utilized as the intermittent and irregular nature of wind power makes it hard to use.Power demand is relatively predictable, but the output of a wind turbine is quite variable over time and generally doesn’t coincide with the times when power is most needed. Thus, wind power systems require conventional backups to provide power during outages. Since the output of wind turbines cannot be predicted with high accuracy by forecasts, grid operators need to keep excess conventional power systems running.

Wind power accounted for only 4.4 percent of electricity generated in America in 2014, according to the Energy Information Administration.

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37 replies »

  1. Here is some more information on what happened overall. It fills in a few gaps that make sense of some of the things that have been said.
    http://bit.ly/lakelandwts

    The school has a number of other smaller WTs that they are continuing with.

    The company that supplied and made the turbines is Bora Energy based in Wood Dale. The WTs were among their first and any parts problems would be because the US manufacturer can not supply them. Odds are the basic unit is made elsewhere (someone said Italy) but Bora advertise their products as US made.

    The photo is a stock one of WTs (common practice). A much larger and rather beautiful version can be seen at http://bit.ly/xinjiangwts
    It’s part of a wind farm near Kumul in Xinjiang in the far North West of China. (I flew over one in the same area in 2008 – I don’t know if it’s the same one).The Chinese have the largest WT capacity in the world and keep on installing them. Done properly and used properly WTs have their place and can be competitive against other power generation systems. Done wrong you get ALtimont Pass in SF or this school’s installation. How any US company can provide a product of this magnitude that is not warranteed for more than a 4 year lifetime and not have parts available is hard to know.

    The school has good experience with Solar PV so far and their proposals to install more are based on their experiences to date.

    Solar can work “well enough”- again, properly done. It has fewer uncertainties than wind.
    THe school is in Mattoon – just down the pike, as it were, from Charleston. Here is the annual sun /weather situation in Charlestone.
    http://bit.ly/gaismacharleston
    The top line of the 4th chart in Kwh/m^2/day gives the average full sunshine hours (SSH) per day by month.
    Just on 6 hours/day in June and 1.5 SSH / day in December.
    Annual average is 3.8 hours per day of full sun equivalent over a year.
    So an eg 1 kW solar array would give somewhat LESS than 3.8h x 365 days x 1 kW =897 kWh of energy in a year. Actual will be less due to soar angle change by hour and season, dirt, … .
    Value of energy depends on local tariff. If its $0.25/unit then that’s 897 x $0.25 = $224/year. Actually less as above. So say $150-$200 pa.
    1 kW of actual panels costs under $1000. After you install them and add an MPPT inverter and … that may be say $3000. That’s a payback without looking at interest of say $3000/200 = 15 years to $3000/$150 = 20 years.
    But governments etc MAY pay a premium for fed in power – or may not. If you feed power into the grid near where its used you get less losses and a given transmission line that feeds that area and others has less overall losses. What is charged to who by who is outside the scope of this discussion – but what you get is what you usually use for calculations.
    In some applications it may be possible to use solar energy far more efficiently than other sources. eg if the school ever heats a swimming pool, or heats the buildings, then use of DC directly for heating can be VERY low loss if done well.

    The article above said – “The grant-funded photovoltaic systems have generated nearly $9,000 worth of electricity so far this year and are expected to generate a total of $50,000 to $60,000 worth in 2016, Bullock said.”
    I calculate that as very close to realistic. IF the $9000 is For Jan-March inclusive then from the Gaisma chart, sum of average SSH’s for Jan-Mar = 7.74. Sum of SSFs for whole year = 49.6.$58,400.
    And 49.6/7.64 x $9000= $54000.

    Hmmm – at $0.25/unit that sounds as though they have 150 kW of panels !!!!

    Looks … Wow . Fancy that
    Looking here
    http://bit.ly/lakelandpv
    I count 342 panels E&OE.
    If they are 250 W panels that’s 85 kW.
    In the less likely but possible event they are 500W panels that’s 170 kW – which with angle adjust etc brings it to amazingly close agreement with my figures above.
    Fancy that ! 🙂

  2. “They are not a good teaching tool if they are not working.”

    Dunno; seems like a great teaching tool for anyone paying attention with an open mind….

  3. – Reminds me so much of the Minute-Man ICBM Missal Silos that I saw being built in North Dakota in the 1960’s when I lived in Minot. That was a hugh industry investment, putting $millions into holes in the ground. (where are THEY now?)

    At least Wind Turbines are above the ground where you can see what you got for your $Millions….haha

  4. Going from wind to solar – yeah, that’ll work! /sarc

    Apparently they don’t learn from experience. I question whether the administration of this school is qualified to run the place, let alone make intelligent decisions regarding supplying power to the institution. They have already had a learning experience on alternative sources of energy and have found it to be an abject failure. Now they want to repeat is. Is that not one of the definitions of insanity?

  5. “Dem/lib/prog/commie/satanist [sorry for the redundacy]®” mythological thinking: the triumph of drug-induced fantasy over millenia of experience.

  6. Going from wind to solar power is like going from the frying pan into the fire. Solar panels wear out, and the sun doesn’t always shine, even in favorable climates (which Illinois is not). Even at maximum output (quite rare), the solar panels will furnish only a fraction of rated power and will always require a fossil-fuel backup.

  7. “While they have been an excellent teaching tool for students, they have only generated $8,500 in power in their lifetime,”

    Excellent teaching tool for why socialism is evil. The program is sold on the mirage of good feelings and projections based more on hope than on reality. When the unicorns fail to materialize, the project consumes far more resources than are available. Should no more resources be found, the project must be trashed, to the almost-total loss of the original investment. Even when money can be created out of thin air, this exercise in “sustainable energy” is itself economically unsustainable.

    In my own work with companies in this field, I have yet to find one that set aside any funds to decommission the turbines. Some day our lands will be littered with unusable wind power turbines and government will be called upon to pay for the massive cleanup. Those yearning to ride unicorns over golden rainbows will be searching somewhere else.

    • All True except the government will NOT clean it up even when they are paid to do so and when congress authorizes and mandates the clean up. Go to EPA and look at Superfund sites, mandated for cleanup, the worst environmental situations in the country. Designated for cleanup. Some are decades old, untouched.

      EPA would rather chase down run-off water and declare it an eco-lake and move you off the property.

  8. “They are not a good teaching tool if they are not working.”

    To the contrary! They just are not teaching the lesson you originally envisioned, but a newer and truer variant.

  9. “I think it was an extremely worthy experiment when they were installed…” says the president of the school after wasting over a million dollars of the taxpayers’ money. Now he wants to waste more on solar; no accountability for him! Are the American people suckers, or what?

  10. In new construction we always ask for things such as multi-year performance guarantees, warranty periods, recommended spare parts lists, estimates of operating costs, and so on. Wonder what happened here, where it seems that the vendor was able to walk away from the project without any consequences?

  11. @Ray, but these kinds of projects make them feel good about themselves, and I think we can all agree that is what is most important. Certainly more important that delivering steady, usable power in a cost-effective manner.

  12. The photo shows four turbines, I thought the college only bought 3. (Buy 3, get one free?)

    I like the snow-capped mountains though. I’ll have to add Illinois to my list of of alpine states. 🙂

    • ha ha. I live in Illinois. Haven’t seen many here but saw thousands between here and South Dakota, buzzing merrily along. One or two down here and there. More dead birds, maybe 10 or 12 a day, by the huge window of our local hospital.

    • There are 6 turbines clearly visible in that photo–but that isn’t even Illinois! There’s Chinese characters on the turbine mounts and I don’t think Illinois has Grand Teton mountains anywhere in the state…

  13. Dear Alan,
    You mentioned second-lowest bid! You caused me to re-think:
    Was there a bid letting? What is the chance this was an illegal no-bid contract?
    (I would not automatically assume anything.)

    Dear Dennis,
    I have heard the LLC wind turbines were really bad from the very beginning, and this issue was not caused from poor maintenance. Keep a watchful eye on the turbines up there in Wisconsin. …the ones you see every 2 weeks. Watch and wait to see if they self destruct like the ones which burned down in Livingston County or perhaps break blades like the two turbines near my empty house in Vermilion County.

    For now, I am still OK with solar since they have not harmed neighbors or have any been declared as human health hazard like Duke Energy wind turbines in Brown County Wisconsin. Those people abandoned their homes for the same reason we did: sleep deprivation. Kevon Martis is right. “Wind turbines should not be given trespass zoning.”
    Best Regards,
    Ted Hartke

  14. Perfectly defines liberalism. Didn’t do it long enough, or big enough or, whatever. Solar next. If this crap worked, the private sector would have done it and be cashing the checks. The training element being ignored is the futility of allowing gubminnt to spend other peoples money on this stuff. LL needs to get back to it’s core function.

  15. One of the lessons I learned some decades ago might have been useful here…

    Buy from the vendor with the SECOND-LOWEST Bid!

    The cheapest one will probably deliver junk and the most expensive is often more than you need, although often the quality and workmanship IS worth it.

    This story is a classic purchasing department decision problem and failure, compounded by the fact that the University didn’t have enough ‘skin in the game.’

  16. “Lake Land plans to replace the two failed turbines with a solar power system paid for by a government grant. ‘[T]he photovoltaic panels are expected to save the college between $50,000 and $60,000 this year,’ Allee told the DCNF.”

    People have be be stupid to believe that, especially after, “School officials’ original estimates found the turbine would save it $44,000 in electricity annually, far more than the $8,500 they actually generated.”

  17. “They are not a good teaching tool if they are not working.” Actually – this is a perfect training tool. Your students learn the truth – wind turbines are economic black holes that don’t produce the electricity promised and are very costly to maintain. They are not an alternative to real electrical sources and offer zero net benefit to society. Xcel Energy found the same problems at their Grand Meadow and Nobles wind projects in Minnesota – costs more to maintain and produces less electricity than advertised. These projects are both GE 1.5or 1.6 MW turbines.

  18. Solar is much better. In this part of the country they will pay for themselves in 40 years and from then on it’s all free power. (Wait, what if they wear out in 25 years? Then what do we do?)

  19. The unforunate thing about all this is the public keeps footing the bill. The government keeps funding production tax credits. Wind projects do nothing – the cost benefit ratio is a joke.

  20. in fairness, if you interview the guy at lake land in charge of the wind turbines he’ll tell you that they got the *worst* possible brand. they used a company that has no other wind turbines in the world except these, they used a company in italy so parts have to come through customs every time they’re ordered which is such a waste of time, and the company itself seems to be a baby in the wind turbine industry and has trouble with troubleshooting their own machines. maybe if lake land had made a genuine investment in wind turbines with a reliable company instead of the cheapest, this wouldn’t be such an enormous flop. talk to joseph tillman, he’ll give you the real story here.

    • Pick what you like, it’s all junk!

      They wouldn’t have put up any wind turbines at all if it weren’t for the fact that they were not using their own money to do so. They don’t care if these giant lemons work or not when it’s the American taxpayers and ratepayers footing the bill for this massive CONSUMER FRAUD.

    • Wind Turbines generally run in the 3 to 4 million range each. I was involved in the construction of two wind farms. The great benefit is the subsidy paid to an often foreign company that constructs the wind farm.

    • Great story.

      All the liberal failures are evident here.

      – Poorly conceived fraud business case with unreachable goals
      – Misguided global social benefits and teaching moments which actually convey 100% opposite, but completely predictable outcomes, ignored by liberal decision makers
      – Careful avoidance of a No-Bid process to ensure contract goes to a low-bidder, who it turns out is unqualified to actually fulfill the program
      – Approval by people who don’t have to manage the implementation
      – Failure, fraud and wasted money in higher education on a project that provides no educational benefits other than the failure of another liberal program.

      But it’s not their money, its our money so who cares. Next time they will get it right, they’re using Solar

      These people can live with themselves because there are no consequences in their world for all these failures. Indeed there is praise for the “extremely worthy experiment” and funding will pour in for the next attempt.

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