Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Wind Farm Plans Stir up Storm Over Military Radar

The U.S. military is growing increasingly concerned that proposed wind farms can disrupt or block radar designed to detect threats and protect America's skies, a problem that is stalling the alternative energy projects around the country.

A top U.S. general told Congress on Thursday that federal agencies need to work better together on a formal vetting process for the wind projects to prevent them from being built where they will interfere with radar defenses.

Air Force Gen. Gene Renuart, head of U.S. Northern Command, said a number of projects raise "real concerns" involving radar interference, and he suggested that requiring companies to do early checks during the approval process for such obstruction may be needed.

"We've heard concerns that wind turbines may interfere with radar and impact military training routes," said House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton, D-Mo. "While we must find new ways to meet our energy security needs, we must not compromise our national security."

While the radar interference issue is not new, it has become a bigger problem as more wind projects move through the permit process. Industry leaders and the Energy Department have said that wind power could provide as much as 20 percent of the nation's electricity by 2030.

Last month, Pentagon officials raised the issue with Congress, saying that they are devoting a lot of time and effort to the growing challenge of ensuring that energy projects don't conflict with military requirements. "The current process for reviewing proposals and handling disputes is opaque, time-consuming and ad hoc," said Dorothy Robyn, deputy undersecretary of defense for installations and environment.

The Federal Aviation Administration reviews wind farm projects, looking at any interference with air navigation or radar systems. But while the FAA can flag problems during its review of a project, it cannot force a change or prevent a wind farm from being approved if a change is not made. Its recommendations, however, can sometimes affect a local zoning or other approval process.

ABC News

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