Winds of War

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The Tin City turbine / AF photo

Apparently the Navy isn’t the only service that has trouble building projects with money from 2009’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The Air Force planned on spending $15 million for three wind turbines to generate electric power for remote Alaskan radar sites. Sure, there have been the typical problems: each turbine’s cost has risen by $1 million.

But the real killer is the lack of planning done to ensure that the turbines make economic sense – the same problem the Navy had. One reason may be the Air Force’s incredibly-flawed test program to see if such turbines make sense in the first place.

In 2002, the Air Force studied possible sites for a pilot project. In 2007, they signed a $2 million contract to build a prototype at Tin City, Alaska, an isolated radar station located 700 miles northeast of Anchorage on the western-most tip of North America (yes, on a clear day you can see Russia).

The turbine was finished in October 2008. However, the Pentagon inspector general says in a new report, it isn’t generating any power. Why, curious taxpayers might want to know:

Completing a wind study would have provided [Air Force] personnel the information necessary to determine the most advantageous location at which to build the turbine. Because [Air Force] personnel did not complete a wind study at Tin City before construction, the turbine is located in an area with turbulent winds, and therefore, according to [Air Force] personnel, produces sporadic, unusable power.

Wind studies for the three new turbines weren’t completed before work began on them, either.