Environment Canada has raised concerns that proposed wind towers on Bow Lake could severely block or contaminate Canada’s weather radar network.
The concern was raised in a report dating back to December 2012 that raised concern that the Bow Lake Wind Farm could contaminate the radar data at the Montreal River weather radar station.
In turn, that will impact forecasters at the Ontario Storm Predication Centre and the Aviation Forecast Centre, among others.
Environment Canada concludes that the Bow Lake Wind Project and the Montreal River weather radar will not be able to co-exist without negative impact on weather radar users.
The argument is expected to be raised at an Environmental Tribunal Hearing expected to start in early March into the appeal of the Bow Lake Wind Facility.
The tribunal’s scope is limited to issues that deal with the proposed farm causing serious harm to human health or serious and irreversible harm to plant life, animal life or the national environment.
The 23-page report from Environment Canada was submitted to BluEarth Renewables Inc. as an official comment made during the 60 day public review period of the draft REA submission documents.
The report states that local weather forecasts and severe weather warnings will be affected.
“The Montreal River area is prone to lake-effect snow squalls. These narrow bands of weather are very shallow and the lowest radar scans, nearest to the ground, are used to track their evolution. If the low level data is contaminated, the radar would be unable to monitor the accumulation of show in regions beyond the wind farm,” the report states.
It states that the accurate weather reports in that area don’t only just impact the public, but also the Ministry of Transportation, the Ontario Provincial Police, NAV Canada and the Department of National Defence, all of whom utilize weather forecasts and weather radar observations.
Environment Canada’s weather radar system includes 31 radars across Canada, 28 of which are owned and operated by Environment Canada, two by the Department of National Defence and one by McGill University.
Factors that can affect the quality of the data include wind turbine towers, buildings, trees, towers and terrain, all of which can block energy travelling to and from desired targets.
The blockage can result in the lost of meteorological information.
“The reduction in signal strength may cause heavy precipitation to be interpreted as light precipitation and can hinder precipitation forecasting.”
It can also cause “multi-path scattering” where radar signals can be reflected between multiple turbines before returning back to the radar, again skewering the weather data.
“Wind farm contamination will force weather warnings areas to be less precise in both time and area. Warnings over wider areas and with more frequent occurrence, due to lack of clear data, will reduce the effectiveness of those warnings to to the public,” the report said.
The option to move the radar station would be difficult and costly and additional radars in the area would not solve the problem.
A short-term strategy could be an agreement between the weather forecasters and the wind farm operators in which the operators will stop the turbine blades during severe situations so Environment Canada can better monitor conditions without interference.
The Bow Lake wind project is a project between BluEarth Renewables and Batchewana First Nations to install and operate a 36-turbnine wind park on Bow Lake.
The project is expected to cost about $240 million and is projected to reap roughly $2 million a year once debt is serviced.
The park will generate enough renewable electicty for about 15,000 homes.
The project, like others in the Algoma District, have faced opposition from area residents.
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