The Coventry demonstration wind project has become the Coventry Boondoggle. Boondoggles have been described as “a project that is considered a useless waste of both time and money, yet is often continued due to extraneous policy motivations”.
That definition describes the situation with the wind turbine located at Coventry High School. There it sits inoperable, broken down and wasting. Gone are all the promises of government.
Coventry was one of four (4) towns selected to receive a small wind turbine in 2009 after being selected from a field of 35 communities applying to become a host site. At the time Town Council Chairwomen Elizabeth Woolf said, “This will also count towards the Town’s commitment to reduce energy use by 2010.” The project never lived up to that expectation in fact it became a series of delays, false promises and ultimately a failure.
According to Town Council meeting minutes the turbine had the potential to generate from 5,000 to 15,000 kilowatts of power per year. Councilwoman Woolf reported this “would result in an electricity savings of $5,000 to $7,000” per year. The plan was to locate the turbine near the high school and that would allow students to learn about the technology.
During the application process it was disclosed that Coventry had a teacher familiar with the technology and council members believed this was a plus for our community to operate and maintain a small wind turbine. The expectation as it turns out may have been beyond the realm of reality; Councilwoman Lisa Thomas called the project, “a phenomenal partnership between the Town and the schools.”
The turbine was originally installed in September of 2010 but was not operational. There were representations of near term operation but break problems and other delays resulted in no operation during 2010. There was no production of electricity or saving in 2010 as expected.
The turbine was finally placed in service in January of 2011 but it did not perform nearly as well as expected. From the start date until 4/1/12 it did produce some small amount of electricity, but never reached the lofty totals that were represented. Today the turbine still sits broken and useless producing only a small amount of shade and a place for birds to perch and watch students at play.
Where the money came from for this project is not the issue, if we spent the money from local or state funds it was still taxpayer money. The taxpayers of Connecticut already have a high burden of taxation to live with and sitting by silently and watching our dollars wasted is not responsible government with transparency. It is disheartening to the taxpayers to see such waste and it erodes confidence in the management of our tax dollars.
If students learned anything from this project perhaps more was learned about government than science. The most important lesson may be that Coventry High School has what can only be described as a boondoggle on campus.
What are the future plans of our Town Council for this small wind turbine? So far the Town Council has chosen to ignore the issue, and so it sits like a monument to government waste.