Donald Trump has encouraged his cabinet nominees to take the initiative as soon as they’re on the job, and one area ripe for action is reversing the Obama Administration’s habit of letting its green-energy obsessions interfere with national defense. A good place to start is reviewing a wind farm that could compromise a crucial U.S. defense radar in southern Virginia.
That’s the location of one of America’s two Relocatable Over-the-Horizon Radar (Rothr) sites. Rothr, which is run by the Navy, provides long-range surveillance of aircraft and surface ships through the Caribbean to South America. The two Rothr sites—the other is in Texas—are crucial for tracking foreign military operations, drug runners and other criminals.
The Navy—informed by MIT and government studies—has long held that wind farms within a 28-mile radius of a Rothr site interfere with its ability to function. In 2011 the Spanish wind-turbine manufacturer Iberdrola nonetheless applied to build a giant wind farm in North Carolina near the Virginia border. The farm’s more than 100 turbines, some more than 500 feet tall, would fall within 28 miles of the Rothr site, some as near as 14 miles.
For years the U.S. military opposed the wind project. General John Kelly, then leading U.S. Southern Command, told Congress that the wind farm “could and likely will adversely impact our Rothr systems,” adding that while the Pentagon was working with “developers and stakeholders to develop potential mitigation solutions,” he had “little confidence we will succeed.” Gen. Kelly is now Mr. Trump’s Secretary of Homeland Security.
So it was a surprise to many when the Pentagon reversed itself in October 2014 and approved the project. The preamble in its agreement with Iberdrola says “it is an objective of the DoD to ensure that the robust development of renewable energy resources . . . may move forward in the United States.” And we thought the Pentagon’s mission was to defend against America’s enemies.
The wind-farm agreement refers vaguely to “mitigation” and “de-conflicting” activities but doesn’t list actions that Iberdrola performed to gain approval. The Navy later said a new study showed the farm would not interfere with the Rothr mission, though it has refused to release that study. The agreement also bars the government from stopping the turbines save for “emergency circumstances.”
The site’s first turbines are due to be up and running soon, and state legislative leaders in North Carolina recently sent a letter to Mr. Kelly asking him to intervene. They want the Trump Administration to shut down the wind farm or require the developer to shut down the turbines whenever they degrade the Rothr signal by more than 5%.
The Obama Administration used the military as a spear for its green agenda, but evidence is growing that these demands (biofuels, electric military vehicles) have come at a cost to military readiness. Mr. Kelly and new Secretary of Defense James Mattis can reassure the military and the public by focusing defense back on national security and away from climate-change indulgences.