Failed college wind turbine investment produces roughly 100 to 1 negative ROI

This week’s installment of how renewable energy will save America is brought to you by Watts Up With That. It’s the heartwarming tale of Lake Land College in Illinois, where the administration decided to save some money and strike a blow for clean energy back in 2012 by installing a pair of wind turbines to produce clean, renewable power for the school. Putting up equipment like that isn’t cheap, though, so they arranged for some help from Uncle Sam (read: you the taxpayers) in the form of a $987,697.20 grant. The towers went up and the blades began turning.

That, however, was when the story (unexpectedly!) took a turn…

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.

The school’s director of Public Relations went on to say that the turbines were an excellent teaching tool for students, though she was forced to concede that, “they are not a good teaching tool if they are not working.”

There are other things the windmills “are not good for” if they’re not working, such as being a source of electrical power. They managed to generate a grand total of $8,500 worth of juice over a four year period at a cost of nearly $100K. I understand that it was “other people’s money” going into it, but that’s got to be setting off some alarm bells. True, inside Democrat circles in Washington that sort of a return on investment is likely considered a huge success, but for anyone who actually has to manage a budget it’s a failure of colossal proportions.

Also, the final straw which apparently broke the wind camel’s back was a lighting strike. Has anyone thought to contact the chowderheads who designed and installed these facilities? We put up huge steel towers all over the country on a daily basis and they tend to attract lightning. That’s why lightning rods and other precautionary technology are built into the system. How did you lose one to an electrical storm? In Illinois? (Rather famous for storms if you follow The Weather Channel.) It’s reminiscent of another story from the same part of the country. Going back roughly six years we learned that their neighbors in Minnesota put up a major wind turbine installation only to find out that the bearings in the turbines froze up in the winter and were similarly taken out of service. For the slower readers in the green energy movement, allow me to spell that out a bit more clearly.

The wind turbines were essentially destroyed because they froze.

In the winter.

In Minnesota.

I remain an “all of the above” energy kind of guy and I’m all for harnessing some wind and solar in places where it can be done in a productive, profitable fashion, but… come on, man. You’ve got to at least make it look like you’re trying.