Doppler radar is like a temperamental little brother or thin-skinned politician. It’s apparently really easy to bother.
In the last few months in the Evansville area, we’ve seen everything from military chaff to ground clutter muck up the weather maps, sending storm-like blips marching across the region when, in reality, no rain is falling at all.
And, according to testimony from National Weather Service officials, a new tormenter could come to the area in the next few years.
Back in December, E.ON Climate & Renewables North America announced its intention to build a large wind farm along the border of Gibson and Posey counties. As many as 81 turbines could dot the landscape if the plan comes to fruition, diversifying the area’s energy output and maybe, just maybe, cleaning up our air.
Construction could start as early as 2020, the company told the Courier & Press in December.
But there have been several snags in the last few months.
Some Gibson and Posey residents have balked at the idea. A group called GibCoWind has expressed concern over everything from property values to noise pollution.
And they’re worried about something else, too. Something a little more unexpected: weather radar.
On Monday, a Haubstadt resident sent me a transcript of a conference call between concerned citizens and officials from the NWS and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In it, radar program manager Jessica Schultz confirmed that wind farms – depending on their height and proximity to radar towers – can make it more difficult to forecast the weather.
That information was shared with the Gibson County Commissioners in August, the Princeton Daily Clarion reported.
According to Schultz, windmills could interfere with radar. In the transcript, she even claimed the spinning turbines could spark erroneous reports of tornadoes. NOAA studies have said the same thing.
The E.ON project would sit just a few miles from an NWS radar tower in Owensville, increasing the likelihood of disturbances, Schultz said in the transcript.
There are ways to solve the problem – including something called a curtail agreement that would involve the company halting the turbines any time strong storms invade the area, the Clarion reported.
A spokesman with E.ON told the Clarion the company will work to avoid any potential problems.
“E.ON is committed to protecting the communities which host our projects and where our employees live and work,” wind development manager Karsen Rumpf said.
Wrongly, I scoffed when I first heard about all this. The windmill criticism sounded too strange – almost like something President Trump would say.
If you don’t know, Trump hates windmills. And boy is it fascinating.
During his visit to Evansville last year and in several rallies since, he’s unleashed long rambles about how turbines are deadly hazards to birds. He claims they leave bloody avian piles at their bases.
“If you love birds, you’d never want to walk under a windmill,” he said at a speech in Pennsylvania this year.
He’s even claimed noise from turbines can cause cancer. There’s absolutely no proof of that, but the man has a slight point about birds.
According to USA Today, turbines rub out between 214,000 and 368,000 winged creatures every year. That’s terrible, but it’s nothing compared to the blood-thirst of house cats. They can knock off as many as 3.7 billion birds per year.
The radar situation has a little more science behind it. The NWS has studied it repeatedly, and media outlets have tackled the problem as well. Radar disturbances could legitimately cause trouble if the Gibson / Posey project lurches into reality.
But hopefully we can solve whatever issues arise from wind or any other renewable energy. Indiana has to find new power sources. We can’t – and won’t – burn coal forever.
But in the meantime, keep your eyes on the radar.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding