Defence chiefs have thrown the UK’s renewable energy industry into massive doubt because they fear wind turbines will seriously affect military radar.
Experts say the Ministry of Defence now objects to about 50 per cent of applications to build onshore turbines amid concerns they will threaten national security.
A windfarm set to be built at top sports car manufacturer Lotus’s test track has been rejected by councillors.
They fear it would cause ‘unacceptable’ interference to the air defence radar at Trimingham – 32 miles away on the north Norfolk coast – and could result in a ‘detrimental effect on national security’.
An MoD spokeswoman said yesterday it objected to the scheme because the turbines would have been in direct line of sight of the radar.
Chris Tomlinson, of the British Wind Energy Association, said there had been a big increase in the number of MoD objections to wind energy schemes over the last few years.
He said: “This is potentially seriously damaging to investor confidence in the UK renewable energy market and throws the future of other wind turbine projects into doubt.”
Proposals to build three 120m turbines at Lotus’s Hethel site were turned down after the MoD objected.
In a letter to planners, defence bosses said that where rotating blades were visible to a radar they created radar returns which can appear as a solid moving object, similar to an enemy aircraft.
They said: “Radar operators will therefore be unable to distinguish between a genuine radar return from a moving aircraft and the rotating turbine blades.
“Trials conducted by the MoD in 2004 and 2005 on the effects of wind turbines on radar systems have identified that even solitary turbines can significantly reduce operational effectiveness when in line of sight.
“In this case the predicted interference which the proposed turbines will create has been assessed as likely to have an unacceptable effect on the radar coverage provided by Trimingham and in turn could result in a detrimental effect on national security.”
The MoD last night refused to confirm if existing operational wind turbines in the region, approved before the MoD’s trials, such as those at West Somerton or Swaffham, affected radar.
The spokeswoman said: “The operational turbines in the area were approved and constructed prior to the air defence trials of January and August 2005.
“However, if we were to assess them today and they were in line of sight, an objection would be raised based on the evidence in the trial reports.
“As for the effect of the operational turbines in the surrounding areas on air defence radar, this information is classified and, if released, could breach homeland security.”
Green-energy company Ecotricity had hoped to build the turbines at Lotus’s Hethel site and now plans to appeal the decision.
The MoD said it will upgrade Trimingham radar next year.
The spokeswoman said: “Radars have a lifespan of about 20 years and we are looking to upgrade the one at Trimingham.
“We would hope the new one would be more wind turbine friendly.”
Trimingham radar hit headlines last year after the MoD admitted a fault inside the dome had triggered serious electrical problems with dozens of cars.
The ministry said it was considering claims for compensation after an inquiry found the Type 93 radar had been ‘out of alignment’.
2 November 2007
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