The safety of the North-east airspace could be under threat due to the growing number of windfarms being developed on Buchan land.
The increasing number of wind turbine applications and the development of windfarms in Buchan could potentially compromise aviation safety for civil and offshore aircraft, it emerged yesterday.
The National Air Traffic Services (NATS) said that windfarms can appear as “clutter” on air traffic radar displays – giving the false impression that an unknown aircraft is flying in the vicinity of the turbines.
NATS also claimed that windfarms could “degrade the performance” of voice communications facilities and en route navigation aids.
Given the large volume of helicopter flights that travel through North-east airspace to offshore oil and gas platforms, the rapid rise in wind turbine applications in Peterhead and Fraserburgh is causing some concern for the aviation industry.
Last week, a meeting was held in Aberdeen between Buchan councillors and NATS representatives, along with the Civil Aviation Authority and the British Airports Authority, to discuss the potential problems wind turbines pose for air traffic in the area.
A NATS spokeswoman said: “NATS wants to help the UK reach its renewable energy targets – without compromising aviation safety.
“We have a legal duty to protect aviation safety and we safeguard over 200 million passengers every year.
“We assessed more than 1200 wind farm planning applications in 2010. We do not object to over 95% of them.
“However, in some cases wind farms could potentially cause problems if they were allowed to go ahead and in that situation we do object.”
In Aberdeenshire alone there were more that 200 wind turbine applications put forward in 2010 – with that number expected to increase this year.
Peterhead Port Authority recently tabled plans to erect two 330ft turbines on industrial land at Keith Inch and Green Hill in the town.
But environmental chiefs had warned that this could “impinge upon the historic core” of the Blue Toon, and that the proposals were “inappropriate and unacceptable.”
Local authority officials will make a decision on whether or not to give the go ahead for the project later in the year.
Plans were also recently revealed to install 12 wind turbines on Mormond Hill, in Strichen, near Fraserburgh – with an application for planning consent due to be put forward later this year.
The spokeswoman for NATS added that the increasing amount of windfarms in the Buchan area could “potentially” impact on the “quality of service” NATS provide to aircraft.
She added: “There is a cumulative effect with regards to wind turbines – the more wind farms there are in an area, the more likely there is to be a problem.
“In Aberdeenshire we have seen a rapid rise in the number of wind farm applications.
“We hope that the meeting held recently explained some of the issues and, hopefully, will help steer developers to areas where the impact on air traffic control is minimised and acceptable.”
She added: “We are also working with industry to find new, innovative solutions around the problems that would allow more developments to go ahead without affecting aviation safety.”
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