November 7, 2011
Radar, Weather Systems At Odds With Wind Farms
Wind farms are supposed to produce the energy of tomorrow, but growing evidence suggests they could be disrupting the military radar and weather tracking of today, reports Fox News.
Government agencies that depend on radar, such as the Department of Defense and National Weather Service, are now spending millions of dollars to preserve their detection capabilities due to “blank spots” that are being caused by these wind farms. And some government officials are opposing construction of new farms, especially near military radar systems.
Dave Beloite, the director of the Department of Defense´s Energy division, recently spoke with a 4-star Air Force general who explained the problem to him.
“Look there´s a radar here -- one of our network of Homeland surveillance radars -- and [if you build this wind farm] you essentially are going to put my eyes out in the Northwestern corner of the United States,” Beloite cited the general as saying during a web conference in April.
Politicians have fought tooth and nail against those opposing wind farm creation, and military officials in some areas have allowed wind farms to go up after politicians protested.
Shepherd´s Flat, a wind farm under construction in Oregon, was initially held up after a government notice warned that it would “seriously impair the ability of the Dept. of Defense to detect, monitor and safely conduct air operations.”
But then Oregon´s senators got involved.
“The Department of Defense's earlier decision threatened to drop a bomb on job creation in Central Oregon,” democratic Senator Ron Wyden noted in a press release from April 2010.
Beloite told FoxNews.com that the project was given the go-ahead by the military only after scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology´s (MIT) Lincoln Laboratory assured the DoD that “that there were algorithms and processors they could design for not too much money that would mitigate the problem.”
The technology has been proven successful in the past few months, said Beloite. “The problem has been addressed. And I have a letter from the deputy director of operations from U.S. NORAD that says 'step one of the two-step fix worked so well that we recommend we don´t spend any more money on step two'.”
While the Oregon wind farm has been given the green light, weather forecasters are being left in the dark as the military radar solution hasn´t been successful for them.
“It's a lot easier to filter out interference for aviation,” Ed Ciardi, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service Radar Operations Center in Norman, Oklahoma, told FoxNews.com. “The real problem is when rain and the wind turbines are mixed together [on the radar map.] And it's all confusing“¦ sometimes [forecasters] throw up their hands and say, ℠who knows?´”
If the situation is unclear, Ciardi said, “they´ll play it safe and maybe extend a warning.” He said there have been occasional false alarms due to wind farm interference, but the Weather Service hasn´t failed to issue any storm warnings yet.
“We´re more worried about the future“¦ we´ve seen quite a few proposals for wind farms around our radars. And we have been“¦ trying to convince them to stay a good distance away,” he warned.
As radar scientists work on a solution, a temporary fix for the problem is for turbine operators to shut off their propellers during storms. Another is to convince them to install devices that measure wind speeds and rainfall, so that there would no longer be much need for radar there.
“It all comes down to money and who's going to pay for it,” Ciardi noted.
Radar scientists are continuing to find a solution for weather radar. “It´s slow progress, and they say it´s extremely difficult -- that they need more money and more time. The solution, I would say, is probably five years down the road,” Ciardi told FoxNews.com.
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