Minnesota invested itself in alternative energy sources years ago, and so the revelation that the state spent $3.3 million on eleven wind turbines hardly qualifies as news. However, the fact that they don’t work in cold weather does. KSTP reports that none of the wind turbines work, prompting the Twin Cities ABC affiliate to dub them “no-spin zones.”

Special hydraulic fluid designed for colder temperatures was used in the turbines, but it’s not working, so neither are the turbines.

There is a plan to heat the fluid, but officials must find a contractor to do the work.

How will the heaters work? They’ll have to use either electricity or natural gas at each turbine to keep the mechanism lubricated. That will drastically reduce the net energy gain from each turbine, depending on how much heating the turbine fluid needs to stop congealing in the winter. Since cold weather here lasts anywhere from 4-6 months, that makes it mighty inefficient as an energy resource.

In this case, though, the state may not be entirely at fault. The manufacturer certified these turbines to work during the harsh winters of Minnesota, and the state took them at their word. KSTP reports that the state may sue the manufacturer for either failure to perform or perhaps misrepresentation, so we could get at least some of our money back. However, the state also could have mitigated the issue by purchasing just one or two and monitoring their performance through a winter before buying the rest.

Wind power makes a lot of sense as a secondary or tertiary power source, a way to harness extra power without necessarily relying on it as a consistent source. I have no problem with its deployment under that kind of strategy, but as this shows, it’s simply not reliable enough as a primary energy resource replacing coal- or natural gas-generated electricity.

Tags: Minnesota