Wind turbines & military bases successfully coexist

The wind industry strongly supports responsible, effective actions to identify and mitigate any potential impacts of proposed wind farms on military installations. 

Importantly, the Department of Defense (DOD) already has a robust review process to ensure wind farms don’t impact military base operations. And this process works.

Both the DOD and local base commanders review any wind farm proposed near military facilities. If concerns are raised, private developers discuss whether they can be mitigated through changes to the project, radar upgrades or other options.  If not, developers move on to other projects.

To AWEA’s knowledge, no project opposed by DOD has ever been built.  And no missions or training at bases have been compromised due to the tens of thousands of turbines deployed today.  Our nation’s security has been unaffected.

Current procedures for review by FAA, DOD and others

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has legal jurisdiction over structures 200 feet tall and above. Utility scale turbines exceed that height, so developers must submit an application to the FAA for each turbine for a hazard determination prior to construction. 

The FAA will either issue a Determination of No Hazard, in which case construction can begin, or a Determination of Presumed Hazard, which may initiate a process of negotiation and appeal.  Due to concerns about premature public release of proprietary information, this engagement often happens late in the development process. 

Other federal agencies with radar assets, such as the Department of Defense (DOD), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), are notified of proposed projects through the FAA process and have the opportunity to raise objections with the FAA on which a presumed hazard determination may be based.

The DOD has also established an early consultation process through the DOD Siting Clearinghouse that can alert project developers to concerns prior to filing for official feedback through the FAA process.  If concerns are found, DOD must discuss mitigation options. 

Solutions to conflicts with wind turbines & radar

A variety of siting, software and hardware solutions have been implemented.

For example, several companies joined the Air Force in a cooperative effort to implement technical mitigation and research that allowed wind farms to expand around Travis Air Force Base in California.

The DOD/Air Force cleared several projects near the Oregon-Washington State border a few years ago after MIT Lincoln Labs indicated technical improvements could be made to the Fossil Radar in Oregon to reduce clutter.

And, the DOD/Navy lifted objections to a few projects in South Texas after developers signed memorandums of understanding to help fund mitigation options and potentially to limit turbine operations in certain circumstances if necessary.

Additional off-the-shelf mitigation options were field-tested in collaboration between industry and the Department of Energy along with DOD, FAA, NOAA and the Department of Homeland Security and hopefully will be validated and available to be used in the near future.  The final report found a variety of workable solutions. 

Wind power boosts national security

By speeding up the path to energy independence, wind energy plays an important role in strengthening national security. The DOD has advocated for renewable energy for a number of years to both improve national security and armed services mission readiness, and has a 25 percent by 2025 renewable energy goal. Wind energy offers a cost-effective way for it to hit that target.

DOD: Arbitrary exclusion zones don’t help keep us safe

A handful of legislative proposals have been put forward to restrict wind farm development within a certain distance of military bases.

Drawing a circle around a facility at an arbitrary distance does not guarantee protection of that base’s mission. However, DOD objections based on detailed, site-specific technical analysis based on the mission and assets at a given military facility, as is already done today, does guarantee protection of facility missions and viability.

Here’s how this unnecessary, burdensome regulation would hurt local communities:

  • $33 - $51 billion in private capital investment in rural America would not have been made;
  • $50 - $79 million in annual land lease payments would not be flowing to farmers and ranchers;
  • An additional $3 – $9.5 billion in new capital investment in projects under construction now would be abandoned.

These arbitrary buffer zones unnecessarily put at risk tens of billions of dollars of private investment in rural America, restrict the energy development activities of private companies, prohibit private citizens from leasing their land for wind turbines, and do nothing to enhance national security.

The DOD has said it best:

“Generic standoff distances are not useful,” according to DOD in a 2015 report to Congress, continuing, “Due to the wide variety of missions and the variability of impacts on different types of obstructions, it is not possible to apply a ‘one-size-fits-all’ standoff distance between DOD military readiness activities and development projects.”

Our fact sheet on this issue can be found here.