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Offshore wind farms bring concerns over radar systems

Federal aviation and defense officials said a primary concern is that tall wind turbines can adversely affect radar systems, not only by physically blocking them but by generating interference. The blades of a turbine spinning at 200 mph on a 400-foot-high stand will generate enough "clutter" to mimic a Boeing 747 jetliner, said Nancy Kalinowski of the Federal Aviation Administration.

The push to develop wind farms off Virginia's coast and elsewhere is bringing to light concerns about a complex federal approval process and about how the giant turbines might affect air travel and national security, a congressional subcommittee was told Tuesday.

Testifying before the House Armed Services' Readiness Subcommittee in Washington, a wind energy executive said the industry has been talking for four years with federal officials about how to develop a more specific process for federal review of the wind farms.

"If we don't have a better system for engaging with federal agencies on radar and airspace issues... then wind projects will continue to be imperiled and we will not be able to meet our nation's energy goals," said Stu Webster, who spoke on behalf of the American Wind Energy Association, based in Washington.

Webster also expressed concern that if national security issues lead to stringent restrictions on the placement of wind farms, the country could fall behind on achieving a goal - suggested by the Department of Energy - of eventually relying on wind for 20 percent of its electrical power.

Federal aviation and defense officials said a primary... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

The push to develop wind farms off Virginia's coast and elsewhere is bringing to light concerns about a complex federal approval process and about how the giant turbines might affect air travel and national security, a congressional subcommittee was told Tuesday.

Testifying before the House Armed Services' Readiness Subcommittee in Washington, a wind energy executive said the industry has been talking for four years with federal officials about how to develop a more specific process for federal review of the wind farms.

"If we don't have a better system for engaging with federal agencies on radar and airspace issues... then wind projects will continue to be imperiled and we will not be able to meet our nation's energy goals," said Stu Webster, who spoke on behalf of the American Wind Energy Association, based in Washington.

Webster also expressed concern that if national security issues lead to stringent restrictions on the placement of wind farms, the country could fall behind on achieving a goal - suggested by the Department of Energy - of eventually relying on wind for 20 percent of its electrical power.

Federal aviation and defense officials said a primary concern is that tall wind turbines can adversely affect radar systems, not only by physically blocking them but by generating interference.

The blades of a turbine spinning at 200 mph on a 400-foot-high stand will generate enough "clutter" to mimic a Boeing 747 jetliner, said Nancy Kalinowski of the Federal Aviation Administration.

"Because the radar repeatedly sees this large return, the radar will not pick up actual aircraft in the same area," Kalinowski said in her written testimony. "The clutter that is created by wind turbines can result in a complete loss of primary radar detection above a wind farm."

On weather radar, the wind farms "look remarkably like storm activity," she said.

One option might be to replace old radar systems - some dating to the 1950s - with new technology that can overcome the "clutter." But such a fix can be expensive, and it is unclear whether the government or the wind developers should foot the bill.

U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes, the ranking Republican on the panel, said the development of wind power is important to the country's "national energy security," but he warned against doing anything that would weaken the "air defense radar ringing the entire nation."

The Chesapeake Republican said defense officials have to establish a "one-stop shop" to help developers find their way through the federal maze.

U.S. Rep. Solomon Ortiz, D-Texas, the panel's chairman, urged the federal agencies to move quickly, given the growing pressure to find clean, domestic sources of energy.

"I don't think it's in our government's best interest to stunt the growth of this industry," he said.

Among those awaiting federal action are two firms in Virginia that are seeking federal approval for permits to set up wind farms off the coast of Virginia Beach.

Apex Wind Energy Corp. of Charlottesville and Seawind Renewable Energy Corp. near Richmond both have applications filed with the federal Minerals Management Service.

Eamon Perrel, development manager for Apex, said in a phone interview that the approval process can be daunting.

"We are just finding out how to communicate with the Department of Defense," he said.


Source: http://hamptonroads.com/201...

JUN 30 2010
http://www.windaction.org/posts/26982-offshore-wind-farms-bring-concerns-over-radar-systems
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