The Trump administration is facing its first renewable energy test, with demands a $US400 million ($534m) wind farm development be shut down because of national security concerns.
The 104 turbine Amazon wind farm in North Carolina is within the 45km exclusion zone for a military radar that monitors drug smuggling from Central and Latin America.
Concerns over the Amazon project emerged several years ago after it was estimated that interference from the wind farm could degrade the surveillance radar signal by up to 15 per cent.
The objections are not strictly about renewable energy. They have triggered anger over the way renewable energy policy under the Obama administration has been allowed to override national security concerns.
North Carolina legislators, led by Republican House Speaker Tim Moore, have written to US president-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, retired Marine general John Kelly, asking that he intervene.
For more than three years – until January last year – General Kelly ran Southern Command, overseeing all military operations in Central and South America and the Caribbean.
The Amazon project has yet to begin operations but the legislators want the facility to be stopped and developers compensated only for money spent.
The wind farm is being built by Avangrid Renewables, a US subsidiary of the Spanish company Iberdrola.
Online retailer Amazon agreed to buy the electricity and the naming rights to the plant to offset electricity use at its data centres in Northern Virginia.
A spokesman for Avangrid, Paul Copleman, said the legislative opposition had come after all 104 towers had been constructed, about $US400m invested and full commercial electricity production was weeks away.
The wind farm development was allowed to proceed following agreements to monitor any impact on the radar’s operations.
But opponents say actions that must be taken by the developer in the event adverse impacts on the radar are identified remain poorly defined.
Defence department requests to curtail the wind farm can only be made for clearly defined national security or defence purposes.
Wind farm opponents said the Obama administration’s position appeared to be that promotion of industrial wind energy was more important than maintaining military missions, assuring military readiness or protecting the lives of military personnel.
“In its zeal to promote renewable energy, the current administration appears to knowingly have agreed to compromise our national security,” anti-wind farm activist John Droz said.
“They were aware of the serious potential risks the Desert Wind/Amazon project could have on the radar facility, yet choose to play them down.”
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