An air traffic control expert has told an inquiry that a vital radar would be subject to high levels of interference were a series of Northumberland wind farms to go ahead.
The public inquiry into three proposed wind farms in North Tynedale reconvened yesterday after a two-week break, with radar experts discussing the effect the proposals would have on air traffic control.
Jason Strong is deputy engineering manager for surveillance at NATS En Route, the firm that provides air traffic control services to planes flying in the UK.
He told the inquiry that engineering evaluations had been carried out at each of the proposed development sites – Ray Estate, Green Rigg and Steadings.
And he said that the presence of wind turbines in each of the locations would have a detrimental effect, as they would create “false plots” on air traffic control equipment.
The turbines would interfere with the Great Dun Fell radar, in East Cumbria, which Mr Strong described as a key facility in air traffic control.
He said: “The three proposals were submitted to NATS engineering experts for evaluation.
“The subsequent evaluation has determined that the turbines from all three developments will be visible to the Great Dun Fell radar.
“Consequentially the radar will be subject to large levels of interference in the vicinity of the wind farms.
“The subsequent false plots are considered unacceptable to air traffic control as they will obscure real targets, reduce the detection of real aircraft and obscure track levels.”
Great Dun Fell is set to be closed for 12 months for upgrading work, but Mr Strong said that did not mean air traffic control could function effectively without the facility.
He said: “All our radars are important to us, but Great Dun Fell is one of the two or three key radar facilities in the UK for NATS and other users.”
The inquiry, which is being held at the Britannia Newcastle Airport Hotel, Ponteland, also heard that a number of mitigating techniques to reduce the effect on radars had been investigated, but all were rejected for technical reasons.
The inquiry, now in its 11th week, is set to hear from further air traffic control experts throughout the week, including the manager of air traffic services at Newcastle Airport.
The radar will be subject to large levels of interference in the vicinity of the wind farms.
by Ben Guy
4 June 2008
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