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West Lincoln wind farm will be a ‘blind spot’ on airport radar

Canada’s civil air navigation service is willing to turn a blind eye to five, 40-storey-high wind turbines planned for the edge of Glanbrook.

Nav Canada objected last year to two different wind farms planned near Hamilton because of flight safety concerns about the proximity of the city airport, in particular turbine interference with radar surveillance.

The issue prompted Niagara Region Wind Corp. to shift the footprint of its 80-turbine project further east, away from Hamilton.

But a West Lincoln wind farm planned near the Glanbrook border is small enough for basic radar surveillance to ignore altogether, said John Andrews.

“They’re essentially going to filter us out of their radar, sort of like a blind spot,” said Andrews, president of IPC Energy, the lead company behind HAF Wind Energy. “We’ve been assured it will not jeopardize air safety in any way.”

Nav Canada spokesperson Ron Singer said the small size of the planned wind farm – about four square kilometres – should allow the airport to block out potential radar confusion created by the five, 137-metre-tall turbines.

He stressed the suggested solution would only affect “primary radar,” which bounces signals off a target to return location information.

The airport relies more heavily on sophisticated secondary radar that uses transponder signals to track incoming or nearby aircraft, Singer said.

“That means any aircraft flying into Hamilton international airport, or any other aircraft with a transponder, would not be affected by this change,” Singer said.

The explanation doesn’t fly with Wendy Veldman, whose Smithville home is less than a kilometre away from one of the planned turbines.

“I still think it’s a safety issue for anyone who lives along a (airport) flight path,” said Veldman, who noted that plenty of non-commercial pilots fly in and out of small, private airports in Grimsby and Stoney Creek.

Flying without a transponder is allowed in certain categories of airspace.

“I can’t believe (Nav Canada) changed their tune … It only takes one mistake to cause a disaster.”

Singer said the final solution is still under discussion. Another safety precaution under consideration, he said, would be to change the airspace classification over the wind farm to make transponders mandatory.

Andrews said he’s hoping construction on the turbines will start by next May. His consortium recently submitted its Renewable Energy Approval package to the provincial Ministry of the Environment for review.