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Stick to education

Published: Monday, Jan. 7, 2013 2:47 p.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, Jan. 7, 2013 2:48 p.m. CDT

For five months, a group of concerned taxpayers has been in communication with Bureau Valley in an effort to understand claims that the wind turbine is profitable.  These claims have been made in public testimony by the president of the Bureau Valley School Board, himself an employee of a wind turbine company.

After attempts to obtain information from Bureau Valley were unsuccessful, a Freedom of Information Act request was filed. From numbers acquired from this FOIA request, it was determined there is an accumulated five-year loss of more than $130,000. At the end of 10 years, when the last of the turbine’s loan payments are scheduled to be made, the district can be projected to have a deficit of more than $260,000 if the expenses or repairs don’t go up. In the most recent year alone, the annual insurance and maintenance expenses have risen more than $2,000. It stands to reason as the machine ages, the higher the insurance and maintenance agreement will be.

We have brought this information to the attention of the Bureau Valley Board and requested they respond, which they agreed to do. We are still waiting for that response. Perhaps the unexpected timing of the article that appeared in the Republican several weeks ago and the personal attack described in a more recent article are intended as a response. Apparently, the Bureau Valley superintendent at least now agrees with us that after expenses are taken into account, the profitability of the wind turbine is at best questionable, or in other words, it has not been profitable.

Therefore, taking into account the historical average annual revenues for the turbine (which will probably not increase and are likely to decline with declining fossil fuel energy costs from new natural gas discoveries) and the historical average annual expenses for the turbine (which probably will increase), the best that can be hoped for is that it may break even in Year 17 or 18. The Vestas Co. that built the turbine projected the life span to be only 20 years.

There was a $20,000 study done up front to prove the feasibility of this turbine project. Apparently, the study was wrong. We asked for the study but did not receive it. The turbine cost $1,056,687.52. The turbine is not showing a profit even though $484,178 was paid by grant money. The school used $122,509.52 of school money the first year and borrowed $450,000 plus interest to build the turbine.

In reality, as the expenses increase and the turbine’s age increases, the chances of seeing any profit are very remote. Just one breakwwdown that requires a crane to fix the turbine will add to the losses. The cost to decommission the turbine when it is no longer working, which has not been taken into account, will be another cost inflicted on the Bureau Valley taxpayers – possibly as much as $500,000.

The money spent could have been used for teachers or programs for students instead of wasting money on what appears to be one board member’s pet project, but nonetheless approved by the majority of the board. Perhaps a school board should stick to education and not gamble with the taxpayers’ money with a wind turbine business.

Greg Gonigam

Walnut

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