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St. Cloud VA wind turbine still shut down; fixes still up in the air

St. Cloud VA wind turbine still shut down; fixes still up in the air Click to Enlarge Photo:

Dec 14, 2011 at 5:47 am

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (KNSI) - It's dominated the St. Cloud skyline for the better part of a year. So when is that giant 250-foot high wind turbine out on the St. Cloud Veterans Affairs Health Care System campus going to get back up and running again? That's a question even the VA would like an answer to.

For months, the VA has been working to pass the wind generator out of its commissioning phase, which started shortly after the giant turbine went operational in late March.

But a process that was expected to take only a few weeks has stretched to more than nine months after a series of mechanical problems and failed power productivity expectations remained unresolved.

As of December, the $2.3 million, 600-kilowatt turbine had been shut down for weeks as Veterans Affairs worked with contractor JK Scanlan to get the project functioning to specifications.

"We have contractual obligations which we need to adhere to and we're working to ensure that the product which was agreed to be provided to the government is indeed provided to it, in that state," St. Cloud VA spokesman Barry Venable said.

While Venable said the turbine performed acceptably for stretches over the spring and summer, the expected benefits of the first wind turbine ever built on a U.S. VA campus have not appeared as hoped.

"There was the promise of approximately 15 percent of our electrical needs being produced by the wind turbine. That obviously has not materialized so, in that respect, we're disappointed," Venable said.

"Folks are disappointed. It's quite the substantial investiment that the government made on behalf of the people and to not see it running is disappointing. We share that sentiment."

Venable said no timetable is set for when the 107-ton turbine would be running at full efficiency, but talks continue toward setting the problem once and for all.

"We're in discussion with the contractor and the contracting authorities. The key point here is that it was contracted by an outside agency, not us, and so, we're having to work through intermediaries. But we're in discussions with the contractor and working hard to resolve the issues," Venable said.

The project was commissioned to help the St. Cloud VA comply with a 2005 federal law mandating federal agencies generating at 7.5 percent of their power through renewable energy sources by 2013.

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