The Defense Department has commissioned an independent study to analyze the impacts on military radar from a proposed large wind farm in Oregon -- this after initial military concerns prompted the Federal Aviation Administration to label the project a possible hazard to air navigation, signaling possibly significant roadblocks to this and potentially other nearby projects, Defense Environment Alert reports today:
At issue is the Shepherds Flat wind farm project slated to be built by Caithness Energy in Arlington, OR. In March, the FAA issued a notice of presumed hazard regarding the project -- due to DOD concerns -- triggering a formal evaluation of the project’s potential impacts and allowing for discussions with the project’s backer to determine if mitigation of the impacts can be adopted, according to an FAA spokeswoman. The wind facility, if constructed, would be the largest such facility in Oregon, according to Caithness’ Web site.
DOD has now also launched an independent study to be led by MIT Lincoln Laboratory to assess the security threats posed by the wind farm and to identify mitigation options, an Air Force spokesman says in an e-mail response to questions.
The Pentagon’s objections have caused a stir within the Obama administration, given its interest in developing sources of alternative energy, according to an April 15 Washington Post article chronicling the debate between DOD’s security concerns and clean energy interests.
According to the FAA’s presumed hazard finding, DOD is concerned about the cumulative effects of about 1,800 turbines proposed or existing within the Air Force’s radar line-of-sight in Fossil, OR. DOD fears the cumulative impact of the wind turbines will reduce the sensitivity of the military’s radar, the FAA notice says.
“This loss of coverage over the entire volume of the radar will seriously impair the ability of the DOD to detect, monitor, and safely conduct air operations in this region, and therefore poses an unacceptable risk to DOD’s mission.” No overlapping radar exists in the area to compensate for this, it says.
“To mitigate this impact, the DOD recommends moving the proposed turbines outside of the radar line-of-sight,” it says.
The Air Force spokesman says a report from the independent study will be submitted to the administration as soon as possible but no later than 60 days after April 16. The study will include advice from experts on the impacts of renewable energy facilities on radar “and will bring technically competent, independent analysis to bear to inform our consideration of next steps for the Shepherds Flat wind farm,” the spokesman says.
Further, the Air Force says it has reached out to Caithness, the wind farm developer, and GE, the wind turbine manufacturer, to discuss ways to mitigate wind turbines’ potential risks to military radar. A request to Caithness to comment on the issue went unanswered. . . .
The FAA’s potential interference determination has triggered Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) to indicate he will place a hold on Sharon Burke’s nomination to become DOD’s operational energy director nominee, according to the Post article. Wyden’s staff did not respond by press time to questions on the issue.
In a recent posting on the North American Aerospace Defense Command’s (NORAD) blog, Air Force Gen. Gene Renuart, commander of both NORAD and U.S. Northern Command, makes note of recent talk in the public arena over the military’s involvement in wind energy development, and its role in determining if new developments interfere with flight safety or radar operations. He stresses the military’s full backing of alternative energy development, noting that the development of such energy and the maintaining of national defense are not mutually exclusive.” Make no mistake about it, NORAD and U.S. Northern Command are dedicated to both homeland defense and clean energy,” he writes.