September 18, 2012

French military, weather radars are wind farm ‘hurdles’

By Tara Patel on September 17, 2012 | Bloomberg Businessweek |

The French military and national weather service are putting up “major hurdles” to wind parks needed to boost renewable energy output, a lobby group said.

Concerns in the military that turbines interfere with radar and at state forecaster Meteo France that they hinder wind and flood forecasts have blocked an estimated 3,000 megawatts of projects across the country, according to Syndicat des Energies Renouvelables, representing renewable energy companies.

“It’s a big problem that we have to solve,” the industry group’s President Jean-Louis Bal told reporters in Paris. The lobby is seeking a parliamentary commission to study the issue.

France plans to get 23 percent of energy consumption from renewables by 2020 compared with 13 percent at the end of 2011. President Francois Hollande said last week that electricity from wind and sun offer “huge potential” for clean energy and job creation and he pledged to ease development regulations.

Meteo France is restricting the construction of turbines more than the military, said Marion Lettry, head of the lobby’s wind division. Concerns they block weather radar used to predict floods may be overblown, she said.

“We realize there is a problem,” Christophe Maocec, director of strategy at Meteo France, said by telephone. Radar operators like the weather service have to be consulted about plans for turbines within about 20 kilometers (12 miles) of their installations.
In Conflict

“We have a public safety mission that is at times in conflict with wind farm development,” he said. “It’s a fact that turbines can interfere with radar measurements and this creates issues in many countries.”

Wind park operators are counting on research into so-called stealth blades that may allow deployment near defense sites, civilian airports and weather stations, Lettry said.

Vestas Wind Systems A/S (VWS), the largest wind turbine maker, said in June 2011 it had successfully tested a full-scale stealth rotor on a turbine to lower radar interference. An estimated 20,000 megawatts of wind power capacity is being blocked by concerns about interference, it said at the time.

Deployment of wind turbines and solar panels has slowed to a rate that means France won’t meet its 2020 installations target, Bal said. “We will reach 17 percent or 18 percent of energy demand if we continue on this route,” he said.

The Defense Ministry wasn’t immediately able to comment.

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