Comments on wind turbines and radar interference

November 8, 2019

Skipjack Wind Farm is scheduled for completion off the coast of Delaware in 2022, according to a recent newspaper article which showcased the wind turbines. Pointing to sophisticated technology and more reliable as the reasons which allow for bigger components and greater efficiencies, the head of Offshore North America for Siemens Gamesa was also quoted as saying “competition is also a driving force.”

Most wind turbine discussions focus on size (approximately one-and-a-half times higher than the Washington Monument with a single blade that will nearly cover a football field); that results in anxious residents and tourists, who want to know the impact of that size on an otherwise aesthetic view of an open ocean horizon. Others focus on the disruption of migration patterns for birds and sea life or the increase in death rates for wildlife.

However, have you heard about wind turbines and radar interference? For that information, you will need to go to the U.S. Department of Energy. There you’ll find a number of federal agencies composed of the U.S. memorandum of understanding signed in 2014, the Department of Defense, Department of Energy, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who established the Wind Turbine Radar Interference Mitigation Working Group.

The Department of Homeland Security and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management are currently observers of the WTRIM Working Group. WTRIM Working Group aims to address these conflicts and by 2025 seeks to:

• Address wind turbine radar interference as an impact to critical radar missions
• Ensure the long-term resilience of radar operations in the presence of wind turbines
• Remove radar interference as an impediment to future wind energy development.

I was glad to know that so many federal agencies are involved in securing navigational safety. However, the more I read, the more I became very concerned about wind turbines and radar interference. Wind turbines produce “radar electromagnetic reflections, blind spots and shadow areas that could adversely impact the safety of navigation.”  

So the Office of Renewable Energy WindExchange Program is administering an ongoing environmental study in the North Atlantic. Specifically, “Impact Assessment of Offshore Wind Turbines on High Frequency Coastal Oceanographic Radar” for a period of performance FY2017-19. “BOEM requires thorough environmental review and address of public concerns for its environmental assessments related to research and commercial wind lease issuance along the Outer Continental Shelf.”

With the construction of the first offshore wind turbines project near Block Island, R.I., “BOEM assessed the impact wind turbines may pose on the HF coastal oceanographic radar network used operationally by the U.S. Coast Guard for search and rescue and by NOAA for oil spill monitoring and response, among many other societal needs.”

As a result of the Block Island BOEM impact study, a Final Environmental Impact Statement for Vineyard Wind near Martha’s Vineyard was held up for approval. On April of this year, Orsted (who operates the Block Island Wind Farm in Rhode Island) submitted construction and operations permits to BOEM. Pending necessary permits and approvals, construction is expected to begin in 2021.

Delaware needs to slow down the Skipjack Wind Farm project. Currently there are too many unknowns in my opinion about wind turbines and radar interference. Residents deserve the time to review and understand completed impact analysis results that are posed by the project. Any remedies necessary and materials needed to prevent interference should then be funded by Skipjack Wind Farm and not Delaware.

Radar use is all around us, whether it’s Coast Guard, NOAA, DRBA, Aviation, Homeland Security, our fishermen and recreational boaters, or ships on their way to ports. We need to protect our entire environment, not just the part that is driven by competition. 

Karen Lewis


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