The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has signed a deal that could unlock more than 4GW of windfarms currently stuck in the planning system, after successfully trialling a radar system that can ignore the spinning blades of turbines.
The MoD announced late last week that contractor SERCO had installed and successfully tested a Lockheed Martin TPS-77 Air Defence Radar at Trimingham on the Norfolk coast, which allows it to conditionally scrap its objections to five offshore wind farms in the Greater Wash.
The proposed wind farms boast a combined capacity of up to 3.3GW.
The department also confirmed, as reported last year, that it has ordered two more “wind farm-friendly radars”, which will be paid for by developers and installed at Staxton Wold, North Yorkshire and Brizlee Wood, Northumberland, potentially unlocking a further 750MW of proposed projects.
The Brizlee Wood replacement was purchased to allow North British Windpower’s 48 turbine Fallago Rig project to progress. But the mitigation solution could also remove objections to a number of other wind farms planned nearby.
According to the government’s Renewables Roadmap, most of the 1.9GW of onshore wind farms that have been unable to gain planning consent for more than two years are held up by objections over radar interference because the spinning blades disrupt radar signals.
Wind turbines as small as 50kW can reflect radar waves, appearing on tracking screens as ‘clutter’ in an unpredictable and confusing way. However, independent wind farm developers often cannot afford to invest in expensive mitigation technologies designed to reduce the impact on radars.
Dr Gordon Edge, RenewableUK’s director of policy, hailed the news as “the end of what has been a long-term obstacle for the expansion of wind energy”.
“Through close co-operation with the Ministry of Defence, the industry is identifying its impact on our defence infrastructure and bearing its share of the costs of mitigating that impact,” he said. “By doing so, we expand our ability to tap into Britain’s world-beating renewable energy resources.”
Today’s news is the product of two memorandums of understandings between the wind energy industry and stakeholders, such as the MoD, the Crown Estate, and air traffic control operator NATS.
Commenting on the news, Minister for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans Andrew Robathan said the MoD had played an “instrumental” role in “convincing the energy companies to collaborate and jointly fund the cost of the radar”.
“This is good news for all parties to this arrangement,” he added.
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