JASON on Wind Farms and Radar

06.19.08 | 1 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

Wind farms that use spinning blades and turbines to generate electricity have the undesirable side effect of disrupting the operation of radar systems. The JASON defense science advisory group was asked to consider the problem and to propose solutions.

“Wind farms interfere with the radar tracking of airplanes and weather. The velocity of the blade tips can reach 170 mph, causing significant Doppler clutter. This creates problems and issues for several stake holders, including DHS, DOD, FAA and NOAA,” the JASONs said in a report (pdf) to the Department of Homeland Security earlier this year.

“Examples of issues include: a wind farm located close to a border might create a dead zone for detecting intruding aircraft; current weather radar software could misinterpret the high apparent shear between blade tips as a tornado; current air traffic control software could temporarily lose the tracks of aircraft flying over wind farms.”

To address the problem Defense Department officials proposed a strategy of “non-technical mitigation,” by which they mean simply eliminating wind farms that interfere with DoD assets.

But the JASONs suggested several alternative approaches that in many cases would permit continued operation of wind farms in proximity to radar installations.

See “Wind Farms and Radar,” JASON, January 2008.