Wind turbines & radar can coexist
The wind industry strongly supports responsible, effective actions to identify and address potential conflicts of proposed wind farms and airspace use and radar.
Depending on location, wind turbines may interfere with some types of civilian and military radar, causing “clutter.” In addition, conflicts can arise with military and civilian airspace use.
However, experience around the world demonstrates that wind turbines, radar, and military and civilian airspace needs can and do co-exist.
Given the variety of radars, as well as varying airspace needs and military missions, no single solution can solve every potential conflict. But conflicts have been avoided or resolved through proper planning, transparency and, when necessary, mitigation.
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 are approaching 500 feet tall, 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 are also being 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. Initial results have been promising.