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FAA denies Pioneer Green Energy extension for wind turbine construction

Pioneer Green Energy was just handed a pretty serious setback in their attempts to keep their proposed Erie County, PA wind turbine project alive. Any structure over 200 feet tall must receive approval from the FAA before construction can begin. Originally, approvals for the 67 turbine locations were issued on September 9th, 2012 and were scheduled to expire on May 27th, 2014. Since no turbines have been built and no construction has started, Pioneer applied for an extension of the project. Just last week, October 9th, 2014, the FAA denied the extension requests due to objections from air traffic control at Erie.

Due to age of this study and/or ongoing changes to airspace usage, we have determined that an extension to the determination would not be in the best interests of aviation. Therefore, the determination issued under the above cited aeronautical study number will expire on 05/27/2014.

After further evaluation, Air Traffic Control at Erie Tower/TRACON has objected to the wind turbine project extension due to significant radar impacts.

The analysis done by FAA Technical Operations indicates that all of the wind turbines would be in the radar line of sight (RLOS) for the Erie ASR-11 radar and would create unwanted primary returns (clutter) and dropped primary targets in the vicinity of the wind turbines. Beacon would be unaffected.

The wind turbine project will create many unwanted false targets. There is a method to reduce this impact; however it diminishes the capability of air traffic control to provide a safe environment for the aviation community. Therefore, all potential mitigations have been rejected by air traffic control since they would cause additional unwanted radar coverage loss impacts.

Approximately 61 aircraft per day would be impacted.

There is not a No Effect Height (NEH) for the wind turbines to eliminate the radar effects.

The FAA has been able to study the actual radar interference caused by wind turbines in the vicinity of local air traffic at many locations. There are installations around the country where these effects can be observed and, though wind developers try to dismiss these problems, they are serious and easily verified.

It would seem at this point that Pioneer has a pretty significant hurdle to clear should they try to move forward with this project any time in the future.

This is great news for the residents of Erie County and especially for the residents of North East Township.