Wind power moves ahead in the East; stalls in the West

Front page news yesterday – the hotly-disputed Cape Wind project has been approved. It will be our first offshore wind farm.

On the other side of the country, an enormous wind project – planned to be the largest in the country – was supposed to break ground in Oregon tomorrow, but the Air Force is holding it up, because there are some antique radar systems that have fits when there are wind turbines in their way.

The project will have over 330 turbines, provide 845 megawatts, and provide over 700 jobs, as well as pay millions of dollars in royalties to farmers and ranchers in the counties that the turbines are built in.

From the Air Force Times (AF: Ore. wind farm would cause radar clutter):

The tall turbines can reflect radar signals, creating a blind spot that can erase airplanes on radar screens. The turbine’s rotating blades can also clutter the screens, creating a radar signature that constantly changes as the blades slow down or speed up in the wind.

Industry officials say they’re working on radar-friendly turbine technologies. And upgrades to radar stations might also help.

From the Oregonian (Air Force concerns about radar stall huge Oregon wind farm):

. . . the Federal Aviation Administration, with backing from the Air Force, issued a “notice of presumed hazard” in March, barring construction of any towers above “0 feet.” The company hasn’t been able to resolve the issue, even with Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley trying to run interference.

The Air Force is doing studies to figure out if there is a way to get their radar needs met without completely blocking the project, but Sen. Wyden is concerned that if the project ends up stalled too long, the investors will walk away. And this could have implications for other proposed wind farms, too; this project is not the only one within range of military radar, not just in Oregon, but across the country.

The company in charge of the project says they notified the Air Force several years ago about the project, but until earlier this year, heard nothing. Now, suddenly, things are on hold while they complete a study. Other wind farm projects proposed in nearby areas are also being looked at askance for their potential to interfere with the radar system, which dates from the 1950s.

Of all the objections the Cape Wind project ran into, I don’t recall military radar being one of the issues.

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