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Pentagon OKs new Oregon and Washington wind farms despite radar-interference concerns  

Credit:  Scott Learn, The Orgeonian, www.oregonlive.com 1 October 2010 ~~

Pentagon officials said this afternoon that they have approved eight Oregon and Washington wind-energy projects with 1,128 turbines after concluding that the risk of the turbines interfering with a military radar station near Fossil is “manageable.”

The decision gives the national security green light to six projects with 869 turbines in Oregon, including Iberdrola Renewables 225-turbine Montague project in north-central Oregon, which had been placed on hold by the Pentagon.

Radar settings at the Fossil surveillance station, opened in 1958, were tweaked in September to reduce interference. The station will also be the military’s key test site for technological upgrades designed to address interference problems that have threatened to stall wind energy projects nationwide, said Dorothy Robyn, deputy undersecretary of defense for installations and environment.

The Department of Defense had placed holds on two of the eight projects, all close to approval by the Federal Aviation Administration. It pulled the holds on the two projects, Robyn said today, and approved the other six.

The eight projects represent “everything in the cue close to being at a point where the FAA needed to make a decision,” she said, adding that the military will continue to review wind projects “on a case-by-case basis.”

The interference issue first popped up this spring when the Pentagon placed a hold on the 338-turbine Shepherds Flat wind energy farm, also in north-central Oregon. In April, the military agreed to allow the project, the largest in the United States, to go forward after lobbying from Oregon’s senators and reassurances from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that technological fixes were available.

Upgrades to be tested at the Fossil station include an auxiliary processor and an “adaptive clutter map” to better edit out false targets, Robyn said. If those interim steps don’t work well enough, the military could add supplemental stations or replace the station entirely.

Going forward, the Pentagon will raise concerns earlier in the wind farm application process, Robyn said. Defense officials are also talking with the wind industry about sharing the costs of improving, augmenting or replacing radar stations to reduce interference issues.

Upgrading technology costs roughly $1 million to $2 million per station, Robyn said, and replacing a station costs in the tens of millions.

Source:  Scott Learn, The Orgeonian, www.oregonlive.com 1 October 2010

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