Pentagon Puts a Hold on Nation’s Largest Wind Farm

Concern that wind turbines could interfere with radar signals has prompted the Pentagon to halt development of a 909 megawatt wind farm in Oregon.

Caithness Energy‘s Shepherds Flat wind farm in the Columbia River gorge would be the nation’s largest if completed. The Pentagon moved to deny the wind farm a crucial Federal Aviation Administration permit last Friday, two weeks before the project was to break ground, and nine years after it was first proposed, the Washington Post reports.

If construction does not begin soon the entire project could be scrapped, because the farm needs to be completed by 2012 to qualify for federal stimulus funds.

Wind turbine blades reflect radar signals at certain points as they rotate, creating blind spots, especially for older radar systems.

Air war begins

Wind farms, like the other big renewable energy industry, solar power, require a relatively big footprint to generate a respectable amount of power. Yet it seems each additional square foot brings these projects into conflict with new stakeholder, whether its the Desert Tortoise or the Defense Department.

The Pentagon’s move has prompted Oregon’s two Senators to put a hold on three Defense Department nominees to pressure the military to back down. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) told the Washington Post the dispute “is not about one project. It’s about the future of renewable, domestic, clean power.”

One potential bright spot: wind turbine radar interference is a bipartisan problem: the military’s concerns are jeopardizing farms in several states with mixed Congressional delegations, including Texas, which has the greatest amount of wind-generate electricity in the country.

Many of these states are counting on the jobs generated by the wind farms, not to mention the electricity.

In 2006 the Pentagon put a hold on all wind farm permitting for several months citing similar concerns. But as reported in Solve Climate, technologies exist that would reduce or eliminate the problem.

Newer radar systems recently purchased by the “wind-friendly British government” can see through radar clutter. If the Pentagon can’t afford these newer systems, which cost $20-30 million, software upgrades, called “clutter erasure algorithms” can also provide a solution, Solve Climate reports.

I’m just going to throw this out there, but I bet if you tossed the wind turbine clutter problem to say, the TechCrunch crowd, we could have a solution in a couple weeks.

Or maybe what the Pentagon is really hoping is that Caithness will buy them a new radar system…

BC (Ben) Upham is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. He has written for the New York Times, and was a writer and editor for News Communications, Inc., a local paper consortium serving Manhattan. When he's not blogging on green issues -- and especially renewable energy -- he's hiking in the Angeles Mountains or hanging out at El Matador.

2 responses

Leave a Reply