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VA Invests in Failed Solar Projects, Veterans Linger on Wait List

August 18, 2016

The Department of Veteran's Affairs Inspector General has found the VA wasted millions on solar panel installations that don't work.

Evidently, the Veteran's Administration (VA), does not have enough money to hire new doctors or take other actions to reduce wait times and improve treatment for our nation's military veterans, but it does have money to spend installing solar panels at its facilities, according by the VA's Inspector General (IG) detailed by the Washington Free Beacon.

While the VA has been under fire for wasting federal dollars as veterans’ wait times and other failings have persisted at VA medical facilities nationwide, the IG report reveals the VA spent more than $408 million to install solar panels on its medical facilities, yet many of the projects have experienced significant delays and cost overruns with some solar projects failing to function at all.

In a report issued August 3, 2016, the VA IG reported the VA had consistently failed to effectively plan and manage its solar panel projects, resulting in significant delays and additional costs. An audit of 11 of the 15 solar projects awarded between fiscal years 2010 and 2013, found only two of the 11 solar panel projects were fully completed.

According to the IG, all of the projects were supposed to be finished within 12 months of being started but instead were completed—or remain to be completed—on average, within 42 months. And although the contracts for the 11 projects reviewed IG totaled about $95 million, the costs rose considerably because of poor planning and delays resulting in the VA spending more than $408 million on solar panel projects between fiscal years 2010 and 2015.

Sen. Boozman Requested Investigation

The inspector general initiated the investigation at the request of Arkansas Sen. John (R-AR) and Rep. French Hill (R-AR) who were concerned about a significant delay in $8 million solar panel project at the John L. McClellan Memorial Veterans Hospital in Little Rock..

The project, begun in 2012, has been delayed more than four years beyond its planned completion date and is costing taxpayers additional millions, as poor planing by the VA resulted in it installing panels that were incompatible with the local electric grid, thus they never functioned. The VA then spent millions in 2015 to remove and reinstall the non-functioning panels to accommodate a new parking garage.

Concerning this project, the IG wrote, “The Little Rock officials did not effectively plan the installation of the system and a determination regarding whether expected solar power generation was achieved could not be made as the system has yet to be activated.

“The project experienced significant delays and additional contract costs due to disassembly of previously installed solar panel carport structures to accommodate a parking garage," said the IG. "In addition, a lengthy interconnection agreement process with the local private utility and contractor performance issues added to the delays.”

Boozman and Hill jointly called for increased, continual oversight of VA green energy programs to avoid similar failures going forward.

“Whether it is a project as complex as hospital construction or one as simple as the proper installation of solar panels, VA continues to waste large amounts of taxpayer funds as a result of its own ineptitude,” Hill said in a statement to The Washington Free Beacon.

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D., (hsburnett@heartland.org) is the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.

INTERNET INFO

Office of the Inspector General, Department of Veteran’s Affairs, “Audit of Green Management Program Solar Panel Projects,” August 3, 2016; https://www.heartland.org/publications-resources/publications/audit-of--green-management-program-solar-panel-projects

Article Tags
Energy Government Spending
Sub-topic
Energy: Solar
Author
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. is a Heartland senior fellow on environmental policy and the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.
hsburnett@heartland.org

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