Lowther Hill radar station will be modified to mitigate the interference caused by wind turbines

Radar mitigation to overcome wind farm safety fears

A deal to install technology to mitigate the effect of wind turbines on radar could unlock development of up to 2.2GW of generation.

The agreement secures the funding to modify Raytheon-manufactured radar installations at two sites – Lowther Hill and Great Dun Fell – in order to provide a mitigation service to the interference caused by wind turbines.

In around 2 per cent of wind- farm planning applications, the proposed development would cause interference to the radar signals that air traffic controllers rely on.

Reflections from turbine blades can create ‘clutter’ on radar screens and be mistaken for aircraft or hide the presence of genuine aircraft.

In these cases Nats often has to object to the development on the grounds of aviation safety, resulting in the application being turned down by the planning authority.

Sometimes the problem can be overcome by changing the layout of the proposed array, or by ‘blanking’ the turbine site from the screen, and possibly providing infill data from another radar with a different line of sight. However, this is not always possible, so Nats and others have been looking for a new solution.

David Hawken, engineering director in Nats Operations, explained: “Project RM (Radar Mitigation) has been three years in the making and involves a technical radar modification that would mitigate turbine interference on our en-route radars in the majority of cases. This would enable us to avoid objecting to the development of over 2.2GW worth of new wind energy – around 1,200 turbines – across southern Scotland and northern England.”

Project RM involved Nats, Aviation Investment Fund Company developers, DECC, Crown Estate, Scottish government and radar manufacturer Raytheon.

The first phase of the project will involve a multi-million-pound upgrade to Nats radars and associated infrastructure. The radars will then be enabled, case by case, to mitigate the impact of developments that might otherwise have raised an objection.

Funding has been secured for two radar sites with the option to roll the modification out to others and to investigate further improvements to the mitigation.

Nats chief executive Richard Deakin said: “This is a landmark agreement that heralds a significant technical advance in mitigating the radar interference from wind turbines; it unlocks significant potential for wind-based power generation and indeed for the UK in meeting its carbon reduction targets.”

Piers Guy, head of development for Vattenfall UK, added: “This investment in UK infrastructure will benefit the whole industry by unlocking the potential of gigawatts of otherwise stalled wind power capacity. We are very pleased to be part of such an exciting initiative, which has brought the aviation and energy industry together to successfully tackle a UK-wide problem.”

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