On July 26, 2018, in an article headlined "LePage adviser repeats tall tale about UMPI wind turbine" which appeared in a number of newspapers including the Sun Journal, Jim LaBrecque, the "Technical Adviser to the Governor" was quoted as saying that the University of Maine at Presque Isle (UMPI) uses outside power to turn the blades of the University of Maine's wind turbine.
For the article, which inadequately, particularly within this context, described energy expert LaBrecque as a refrigeration technician, the AP interviewed university spokeswoman Rachel Rice who apparently said:
- wind is required for the blades to turn.
- there were electric motors to swivel the unit, operate a cooling fan and run hydraulics but that has nothing to do with the blades turning.
- The turbine, which was dedicated in 2009, was damaged by fire in April, and the university is deciding whether to repair it. It produced annual energy savings of $100,000 while in operation.
However, the article did not provide any quotes from Mr. LaBrecque, the subject of the piece, or as some might say, the hit piece by the "drive by media."
In any event, the next day, thanks to WVOM's George Hale Ric Tyler Show, Mr. LaBrecque was able to give his side of the story. Also, thanks to WVOM, you can listen to Mr. LaBrecque's response to the AP article at the following link.
So turn up your speakers, give it a listen and decide whose story you believe. And send the link to all your friends because we don't know if the press will ever provide further coverage investigating the conflicting views of reality between AP, the University of Maine and Jim LaBrecque.
For those who don't have speakers or who would rather quickly read what Mr. LaBrecque said, the following is a hastily prepared partial transcription. Please don't hold me to every syllable or punctuation mark. Unlike the AP or the staff at UMPI, I don't get paid to do this and had to take time out of my schedule to do this.
Return to this post later as commentary may be added.
George Hale Ric Tyler Show - July 27, 2018
WVOM: Jim LaBrecque’s title is “Technical Adviser to the Governor on Energy”
Unless otherwise indicated, the following is all Jim LaBrecque speaking.
Dick Hill and I, when they first put up the UMPI wind tower would watch the numbers and watch the numbers go negative at night. Dick told me that he found out that they “motor” that blade at times and that’s why they’d USE kilowatt (kWh) in the night – that at those times it wasn’t producing anything. They don’t put a separate motor on it – a motor and a generator is exactly the same thing. You have a shaft coming out of a motor….if you put a gas engine on the shaft and turn the motor, it becomes a generator; it puts electricity out the other end……but if you put electricity on the end it turns the shaft like a motor – so that’s how they can motor it. So it isn’t a separate little motor that somebody secretly put in this as one of the press, I think the Free Press in Rockland tried to say……When I was at a wind conference in the Civic Center in Augusta on January 24, 2011, Professor Zillman, president of the university at the time, when I asked how much it cost to motor it he responded “it doesn’t cost much to motor that, I don’t know what the cost is but before we motored it we used to get calls all the time saying it must be broken, why isn’t it running, it must be broken, what’s going on, he said after we started motoring it then the phone calls stopped.” Now he said that to the audience. That correlated nicely with the negative numbers that Dick Hill and I would see……………………………….
………….I can’t understand why the press would miss the big story on this and get into such trivial matters. This project does not save them money. This is what I’m going to challenge the press on today. They are not saving $100,000 a year. As a matter of fact it’s costing them more than $123,000 a year plus operation and maintenance costs that were so high that Professor Zillman at the conference in 2011 said he couldn’t find a contract that they could sign because he couldn’t make enough money to pay for the contract to take care of the maintenance because the maintenance was so high on that. And that thing only produced a capacity factor of a dismal 12.7%.................
………….. They continue with this because the press isn’t covering this. Why isn’t the press covering not just the fact that this has been a dismal loser but a major, major failure. Why don’t the press call somebody like myself as I can lead them in the right direction. I did talk to Marina Villaneuve at the Associated Press in Augusta yesterday and she said “send stuff” so I’m going to send stuff and she told me a David Sharp – he’s the one who wrote this wire and he’s the guy who put me in as a refrigeration service technician, so I think David has a little bit of a slant but I tell you what, when you have the university paying $370,000 a year for their electricity and just to cover the cost, you’ve got a $2 million project, that’s what that windmill cost $2 million, if you just look at 5.25% cost of money, that’s $193,000 just for payments alright. And they produced the best year $70,000, so they have to pay $193,000 and at best produce $70,000 and they try and tell the public they’re saving $100,000 and that’s a big lie and where is the press on those big factors, Shame on the press. They never cover anything that has to do with the facts. Shame on David Sharp if he’s not going to cover this stuff. They just exposed themselves. This is ridiculous stuff.
A caller calls into the show
At this point they took a phone call that for me represented a highly suspicious caller. The reason I say this is the caller said things like there are four to five sides to every story and the purpose was just research which was the university’s mission. He said it’s just not as black and white as Jim was describing it.
Jim LaBrecque resumes
They claimed on May 14, 2009 when it was dedicated and politicians congratulated them on a successful project. Now, at these ribbon cuttings you always see these politicians and the press there at ribbon cuttings but I have never seen a news story from AP or anybody where they have gone to an anniversary where they say this UMPI project has been a success. Never have I seen that and they’re not covering that. Windmills are old, mature technology. There’s no experimenting with this (as the caller suggested). It’s all very calculated black and white calculations and engineering. Now they said they were going to save $100,000 a year and that they were going to avoid 572 tons of CO2 (a year). Neither one of those things happened. After one year of failure they reduced their claim of 1,000 megawatt hours a year to 700 megawatt hours a year. But they didn’t reduce the amount of money they claimed they were going to save – they cut almost in half their projection of what they were going to make in electricity but they didn’t cut back on how much money they were going to save or how much CO2 they were going to save. They kept those numbers the same. THAT’S FRAUD. And the press, where is the press and why aren’t they covering this stuff?
……………………. They try to minimize my position here when they take somebody in the senate who was a gym teacher and a wrestling coach and they make him Chair of the Energy Committee and they call that good. And somebody with my 47 years of experience in the energy field they are trying to minimize. Shame on the AP.
Unfortunately, one radio program and podcast does not have the same audience as, for example, the Sun Journal owner Reade Brower's newspaper holdings in Maine which, for example, include every daily newspaper except the Bangor Daily News and 19 weeklies. Hopefully other media will become curious and this will get some traction. After all, the sorts of things going on here are arguably a microcosm of what happens nationally when the government hands out billions of dollars for a power source as useless as wind.
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