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BWEA 31: UK research aims to solve wind problem on radar screens

The UK will fund £5.15 million to research to solve the problem of radar interference from wind turbines.

The fund is comprised of £1.6m from wind companies, £2m from The Crown Estate and £1.55m from the Department of Energy & Climate Change. DECC secretary Ed Miliband announced the research at the British Wind Energy Association (BWEA31) conference in Liverpool 20-22 October.

One of the largest causes of applications for onshore and offshore wind farms being rejected or withdrawn in Britain is due to objections from civil and military air traffic controllers, who say wind turbines are detected on radar displays and are a distraction. Currently, there are objections to 5 GW of wind farms that are in the planning system by NATS (National Air Traffic Services) and another 5.5GW in early stages of development.

A number of wind projects have received consent by DECC, the Scottish Executive and local planning authorities on the condition that a solution to their potential radar interference is implemented. If this research is successful, these conditions could be lifted and allow the projects to start construction.

“Delays in the planning process can cause uncertainty and be a barrier to investment in renewables, and there are specific issues in connection with aviation and radar that need to be addressed,” says Miliband. “This R&D project could resolve wind impacts on radar in the UK and potentially release 5 GW of wind power.”

“By 2020, around a third of UK electricity needs to be from renewables, the bulk of that coming from wind,” he adds. “We are making very good progress; it took the UK 14 years to build our first gigawatt of wind and we’ve now passed the 4 GW mark, with the last gigawatt added in just a year.”

“Offshore wind energy generation is starting to mature and, as the landowner of the seabed, we are activity supporting this new industry, demonstrated today by this project which forms part of our enabling actions commitment to accelerate and de-risk the development of Round 3,” adds Rob Hastings of The Crown Estate. “This is another step towards the successful delivery of 40 GW by 2020, that industry has put on the table.”

The wind and radar project involves a 19 month R&D programme to mitigate the effects of wind turbines on the NATS En Route primary radar infrastructure, working with Raytheon Canada, suppliers of the NATS systems. It is the first industry-wide contract to be placed under the Aviation Memorandum of Understanding, which was signed between DECC, BWEA, NATS En Route, and the transport and defence departments in June 2008.

The £1.6m from wind companies will come through the Aviation Investment Fund Company, a group of 14 developers who invest in a central industry fund so that resources can be directed towards addressing the radar issue. The companies are Banks Developments, E.ON Climate & Renewables, EDF Energy Renewables, Ecotricity, Falck Renewables, Novera Energy, RES UK & Ireland, RWE Npower Renewables, ScottishPower Renewables, SSE Renewables, Vattenfall, West Coast Energy, Wind Prospect, Your Energy, Community Windpower, EnergieKontor, North British Windpower and RidgeWind.

The research on wind turbines and radars will conclude in April 2011. The specification for the project is presently the only option available to resolve this issue.

Although the Raytheon solution has the potential to fix the radar problem with NATS, issues still remain with radar operated by the Ministry of Defence, and the Aviation Investment Fund Company recently committed to fund a MoD and IBM study for expanding the UK air defence control system to accept air traffic control radar feeds as wind farm mitigation.

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