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A windy dilemma: DND wants to examine whether wind turbine farm will affect radar  

Wind turbines and national defence. Does one make you think of the other?

The military thinks so and wants to scrutinize any plans to build a wind turbine farm within 100 kilometres of air defence radar, or within 60 kilometres of air traffic control radar.

The air force now operates a coastal defence radar site on a windswept, rocky outcrop at Baccaro Point, Shelburne County. As the crow flies that’s about 30 kilometres from a wind turbine farm at Pubnico Point, Yarmouth County.

Could Pubnico Point endanger national security?

“That’s a difficult question,” said Jim Hawkes, a civilian engineer with the Canadian Forces in Ontario.

The Pubnico Point wind farm was never evaluated by the military as to its possible impact on the radar site.

“It was put up and in operation before . . . we even started assessing them,” said Mr. Hawkes,

Many trials were done in Europe and that’s where the radar effect came to light, he said.

“We started (studying the issue) . . . roughly two years ago.”

A report completed in October of 2006, and published by the Radio Advisory Board of Canada, outlines some of the concerns and potential risks.

Mr. Hawkes said he wrote part of the report.

In a section on radar, the report states that where wind turbines are in line of sight to a radar installation, “the turbines can appear as genuine aircraft targets.”

And that could be hazardous to flight safety, the report suggests.

Another concern is the loss of detection of some aircraft flying close to or above wind turbines, said the report.

“(Air defence) radar operators need to ensure that all unidentified aircraft, which could pose a threat, can be accurately and reliably tracked,” read the report.

“The only reported effect that I know of is in Sault Sainte Marie,” Mr. Hawkes said about a radar system affected by wind turbines. It’s not military radar, he said.

“They’re just simply living with it,” said Mr. Hawkes.

The Department of National Defence has contacted Barrington Municipal Council and asked that any future wind turbine proposal for the area near the Baccaro radar station be reviewed by the military before council gives its OK.

“I have been in contact with the various people in Ottawa who are responsible for that radar and to the best of my knowledge we have not received any adverse effects from Pubnico,” said Mr. Hawkes.

The Atlantic Wind Power Corp. operates 17 wind turbines at Pubnico Point and no one from the company was available for comment on Monday.

There are no laws prohibiting wind turbines near radar sites but Department of National Defence experts say they’d like to talk with proponents if turbines are planned within the potential risk zone, said Mr. Hawkes.

“The wind turbine has to be in the line of sight. You might have a hill in between the wind turbine and the radar and you’ll get no effect,” he said.

A U.K. company is developing some sort of an electronic device, however, which can be put on radar to mitigate any effects from wind turbines, Mr. Hawkes said.

By Brian Medel
Yarmouth Bureau

The ChronicleHerald

15 January 2008

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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