Posting in Energy
Fears over radar interference causes Department of Defense to stall Oregon's largest wind project.
While the United Kingdom is enlisting radar in the protection of wind turbines from aerial attack (see last week's: "Radar security for offshore wind farms"), the Pentagon has helped deny an American wind farm a Federal Aviation Administration permit due to radar concerns.
Rotating turbine blades can reflect radar signals, which creates sensory interference for air defense surveillance. The Air Force worries that the proposed Shepherds Flat wind farm—what would be the largest in Oregon—might compromise a radar station in Fossil about 50 miles away.
Caithness Energy was to begin construction on the farm May 1.
Juliet Eilperin of The Washington Post reported Thursday:
Any significant delays in construction could kill the wind farm, according Caithness Executive Vice President Ross Ain, because the project, which would take 18 months to complete, will lose its eligibility for federal stimulus funds unless it's finished by the end of 2012. In addition, the farm is supposed to start supplying power to Southern California Edison by late next year, and the utility is under pressure to meet the state's strict renewable portfolio standards.
Further, General Electric agreed to a $1.4 billion contract with Caithness last December to fit the 845-megawatt wind project with 338 turbines.
Three other wind farms of Iberdrola Renewables, which are located in Oregon and Washington, might also be at stake. For the four farms to fall through at this late stage would hit the wind industry hard. Apparently, officials from DOD and White House are in discussions over the issue. About 16,000 jobs are also in the balance.
Image: Flickr/Dieter Drescher
Apr 19, 2010
According to an article published in The Oregonian on April 14, 2010, the Air Force's radar station at Fossil, Oregon, was built in the 1950's. The article goes on to state that modern radar is "much less affected by spinning turbines." One can foresee the Air Force blackmailing all wind turbine farm builders nationwide into paying to modernize the entire Air Force radar system.
Country security?... really? I thought the threat of energy insecurity (US economic security) was considered a more likely threat than some country sending bombers to Oregon. The FAA has this area covered with radar (no threat to commercial traffic) The Air Force can likely come up with alternative radar coverage - if it needed. As the original article mentions.. this is likely to affect numerous other wind farm locations in many other states. Lets hope they can work this out quickly. Air Force doing this after 9 years of prep... a few weeks before ground breaking? I have to wonder if there is something else at play here..
Guess GE and Caithness need to find a new location for their wind farm. Country Security trumps electricity generation anyday!
...and Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon has put a hold on the confirmation of a senior Air Force appointee's confirmation until the dispute is worked out. The Washington Post article has lots of details not present in the above summary. It includes a link to a press release about a lawsuit filed by the Sierra Club in 2006 against Donald Rumsfeld (a blast from the past) for Air Force foot dragging in complying with Congress' requirement that the Air Force complete a study on the issue of wind farm turbine interference with radar by May 8, 2006. We certainly wouldn't want to rush into these things.