Coldingham STAG (Stop the Turbines Action Group) says building a wind farm on Coldingham Moor could put lives at risk due to the threat to aviation safety.
It is calling on Scottish Borders Council to reject a planning application by PM Renewables to build 22 wind turbines due to the possible radar interference and also the risk to low flying planes.
STAG member Raquel Simpson said: “NATS En-Route Ltd, (NERL), the body which safeguards aeronautical radio stations and is responsible for the St Abbs DVOR/DMA at Cross Law to the north east of the proposed wind farm site, has produced maps of the UK to help developers identify safe spots for wind farms. Their maps clearly show that even developments of 20 metres high in this area could be a threat to air safety. The proposed wind turbines would be far in excess of this at 76 metres.”
The original plan for 16 wind turbines submitted by PMR caused some concern to NERL. In a statement to Scottish Borders Council they said: “Development within the proposed site at Drone Hill is likely to be objected to due to the proximity of the navigational beacon. The installation of wind turbines as described in the proposal is likely to have a significant impact on the navigational service provided by the beacon.”
PM Renewables have since revised their proposal and increased the amount of wind turbines to 22.
Coldingham Moor falls within one of only three Ministry of Defence tactical training areas specially designated for low flying in the UK. These areas are used to give pilots experience of flying low to the ground.
George Matthews of Burnside Cottage on Coldingham Moor said: “The Borders region has fast jets and Hercules aircraft which operate at 250-100ft. These regularly fly over Coldingham Moor. The wind turbines at the proposed site will be 250ft and could cause radar interference and be highly dangerous.”
Dr Lewis Moonie made reference to the area when Defence Minister. Asked about the likely effects of siting wind turbines in tactical training areas, he said: “Within these areas military fast jets and Hercules aircraft may operate at heights between 250 ft and 100 ft. In addition, units make use of these specifically surveyed areas to conduct specialised night training.
“Conclusions of a study conducted by the RAF Signals Engineering Establishment into the effects of wind generators on radar performance were that wind turbines cause interference to primary surveillance radar and harm the ability to detect and track aircraft flying over wind farms. Moreover, the presence of unlit constructions of significant size would be highly dangerous to aircraft flying down to 100 ft.
“In the interests of flight safety, the safety of aircrew and members of the public, it is vital that any hazards to low flying aircraft are minimised. Any extraneous distractions or possible reduction in external support capabilities, such as that provided by ground radar, can have a deleterious effect upon aircraft safety, and thus the safety of aircrew as well as those on the ground.
“It is, therefore, MOD opinion that obstacles in excess of 100 ft in height, unlit by night and with the ability to cause interference to radar, have the potential to create an acute safety hazard to aircraft engaged in operational low flying training, tactical radar avoidance training, specialised night flying and test and evaluation flying.”
The risks have also been recognised by the Department of Trade and Industry. A report on windfarm impact set out to provide a detailed understanding of the interactions between wind farms and radar systems.
It said: “A common source of objection from the Royal Air Force is that the wind turbine, being a tall object, is a threat to the safety of low-flying military aircraft on training flights. Another source of objections is that the wind turbine will appear as an echo on the display of radar used in air traffic control. This echo distracts the air traffic controller from the aircraft echoes which are his main interest, and can reduce the effectiveness of the radar by masking genuine aircraft returns. This is considered as a threat to the safety of air traffic, both civil and military.”
The report goes on to say that in some cases the presence of a wind farm causes problems with air traffic control, while in other cases there is little or no problem. It adds: “The reasons for this apparent inconsistency are not well understood. This lack of understanding makes it hard for the aviation safety authorities to give clear and well-founded decisions on whether a particular proposed wind farm presents a safety issue or not.”
The report says that design of the tower and nacelle could have some impact, as could the spacing of turbines. However, it finds that: “Decisions made regarding the likely impact that a wind farm may have upon radar operations are currently based upon assumptions. The electromagnetic interactions between a wind turbine and a radar signal are complex and there is currently limited understanding in this area and no accepted method for quantifying this potential impact.”
Raquel Simpson said: “Where there is any doubt as to the safety of a project such as this, we should err on the side of caution.
‘Limited understanding’ simply is not good enough – either for the people in the aircraft or those of us on the ground.
“Given this area’s special designation for low flying aircraft, and that some months up to 88 low flying military sorties have been carried out in the area, there is simply no way that this wind farm should be given approval. We urge Scottish Borders Council to ensure that safety is given the highest priority and the application is turned down.”
Coldingham STAG is calling on more people to make their views known to the council before the application goes before the planning committee. Letters should be sent to Alasdair Maclean at Development and Planning, Scottish Borders Council, 8 Newtown St, Duns, TD11 3DT or e-mailed to email@example.com
More information can be found on Coldingham STAG’s website which is launched this week and can be found at www.coldinghamstag.org.uk.
By Simon Duke
25 July 2007
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