November 21, 2007

Wind Farm Inquiry Day 5 — Morning

A clash between wind farm developers and the Ministry of Defence has marked the fifth day of the Middlemoor inquiry being held at the Northumberland Hall.

Top brass from the RAF gave evidence on Tuesday morning, where they claimed that 18 turbines planned near South Charlton would have a “massive effect” on the air defence radar at Brizlee Wood.

But npower renewables advocate Marcus Trinick accused the MoD of “ambushing” the inquiry with new evidence which had not been presented earlier.

Squadron Leader Chris Breedon, one of the top advisors on air defence radar operations in the UK, raised serious concerns about the possible effects of the turbines on national security.

He said: “The 18 wind turbines would be in direct line of sight of the radar at RRH Brizlee Wood, an important element of the UK Air Surveillance and Control System (ASACS).

“In that location they would have a significant and unacceptable impact on the efficacy of the radar at Brizlee Wood.

“The RAF relies on the radar facility in carrying out its vital functions of air surveillance, to detect, identify and provide early warning of threat activity, and weapons control, providing tactical control of quick reaction alert aircraft to intercept, intervene and/or engage threat aircraft.

“During trials, significant operational effects caused by the turbines were observed, such as obscuration of aircraft overhead the turbines, a shadow region behind the wind farm and radar returns from turbines causing clutter on the controller’s display.”

And he added: “In summary, the trial results showed that wind turbines in direct sight of radar have a very serious impact on the RAF’s ability to carry out its functions of air surveillance and weapons control.

“Given the importance of this facility to the air defence of the UK, the proposed wind farm will unacceptably compromise that air defence.

“Furthermore, the applicant has not demonstrated, and the MoD is not aware of any, means by which any adverse effects will be capable of mitigation, either operationally or technically.”

But in his cross-examination, Mr Trinick raised several instances of wind farm proposals in Northumberland where the MoD had not objected on radar grounds, but rather on low-flying issues.

Those objections, he said, had been withdrawn, only to be replaced at the last minute with concerns about the possible effects on radar.

He added: “Turning our attention to the Wandylaw wind farm application heard at Berwick Borough Council, which was ultimately rejected by the planning committee, the MoD made no objections until the day before the committee was due to sit.

“Presumably, the MoD knew there was a radar line of sight between Wandylaw and Brizlee Wood for some time before that objection was made.

“We now see the same objections being presented with regard to Middlemoor.

Mr Trinick also said it was clear that the MoD was actively looking for mitigating factors, such as computer technology, to address the radar problem.

But Sqd Ldr Breedon said the MoD’s policy had been an “evolving” one, which was always adapting to new data and technologies.

“We have become more knowledgeable in our understanding of the effects turbines have on our radars,” he said. “There is no real mitigation we can find, not just here but across the world, to address those effects.

“We’ve also investigated the cumulative effects of wind farms, such as Middlemoor and Wandylaw, which we believe would have a massive impact on the air defence radar at Brizlee Wood.

“It’s something we are constantly re-evaluating.”

An attempt by counsel to re-examine Sqd Ldr Breedon prompted a heated response from Mr Trinick, however, who accused the MoD of staging an “ambush” to introduce new evidence to the hearing.

He said: “They have changed their case at the last moment, and we strongly object to it.”

The morning session was concluded early to allow advocates for both sides to meet privately with the inspector.

Northumberland Gazette

20 November 2007

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