NEWPORT – A new issue has been raised about Torch Renewable Energy LLC’s proposed wind/solar energy facility; it might interfere with weather radar.
The National Weather Service’s Radar Operations Center (ROC) has been made aware of Torch Renewable Energy’s proposed facility, and Edward Ciardi, ROC meteorologist at the center’s main office in Norman, Okla., said the facility, as currently proposed, would impact the NEXRAD Doppler weather radar at the local NWS office in Newport on Roberts Road.
“However, we are still in the process of evaluating these impacts and don’t wish to characterize these impacts specifically or make a public statement at this time,” he said in an email to the News-Times.
Torch Renewable Energy LLC, a Houston-based company, plans to build a 40-turbine wind energy facility, along with a 50-75 acre solar panel farm, on property between the eastern corporate limits of Newport and Mill Pond. However, a number of local residents have been concerned about potential impacts, such as impacts to the environment, neighboring property and health and safety.
According to a preliminary layout from Torch Renewable Energy, the closest turbine to the NWS Newport office will be just to the west of Cyrus Pollard Road, on the far side of Little Deep Creek. The NWS office said this is about 2.4 miles north-northeast from the office.
To back up the assertion that the Torch Renewable Energy project would affect the Newport weather radar, Mr. Ciardi referred to a NWS weather radar in Fort Drum, N.Y. He said this radar had a large wind farm (more than 120 turbines) at roughly the same distance from it as the Torch Renewable Energy facility would be from the Newport NWS office’s radar.
“Clutter caused by the rotating wind turbines is continuously visible in the radar data,” Mr. Ciardi said.
According to the ROC website, www.roc.noaa.gov, rotating wind turbine blades can impact radar in several ways. The blades can reflect radar signals back to the station. Depending on the distance from the radar to the turbine, this can cause problems ranging from corrupted data to false severe weather warnings to damaging the radar so it can’t function. Most of these impacts occur when the turbines are within 18 kilometers (about 11 miles and 325 yards) of the radar.
“Actual impacts may occur closer or further away from the radar…depending on the terrain and current atmospheric refraction,” the ROC said on its site.
John Chazal of Morehead City informed the News-Times of this potential issue. Mr. Chazal said he thinks most Carteret County residents deeply appreciate the information about severe weather that comes from the Newport NWS office.
“Without Newport’s NEXRAD, both onshore and offshore weather forecasting and severe weather analysis could be compromised,” Mr. Chazal said.
Mr. Ciardi said that Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, which is close to Newport, has contacted the ROC, which provided the base with background information on wind farm interference with radars. He said the center has also recently contacted Torch Renewable Energy and intends to work with them to discuss potential impacts and potential mitigation options.
Congressman Walter B. Jones, R-N.C., announced last week he would seek a meeting with the Department of Defense’s Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense John Conger to discuss the project’s impact on local airspace out of Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point.
Torch previously stated they were in acting mitigation with Cherry Point officials to examine the turbines’ effects on the military installation that provides a plethora of economic benefits to the immediate area.
As of Thursday, a representative from Mr. Jones office said that the DOD meeting had yet to be scheduled.
News-Times staff attempted to contact Torch Renewable Energy for a comment; however, no one from the company was available by presstime.
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