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Category — Windpower safety issues

Cape Wind: The Air Traffic Safety Issue of a Government-enabled Project

“While of course the wind farm may be one of those projects with such overwhelming policy benefits (and political support) as to trump all other considerations, even as they relate to safety, the record expresses no such proposition.”

- Town of Barnstable, Massachusetts v. Federal Aviation Administration, U.S. Court of Appeals (DC Circuit), October 28, 2011.

Earlier this year, Industrial Wind Action Group (home) wrote how turbines sited within fifty miles of U.S. radar installations are now disrupting our navigation aids and impairing U.S. national security.

FAA and military radar experts in the field are well aware of the compromises to radar resolution caused by poorly sited turbines. But with the debate surrounding energy policy dominated by politics and money, they’ve bowed to the pressure.

Last week we learned of another project that poses safety risks.

The D.C. Circuit found that the FAA failed to adequately analyze whether Cape Wind, the controversial proposal to erect 130 utility-scale turbines offshore in Nantucket Sound, would pose a hazard to air navigation. The project’s proponent vigorously defended the agency’s review claiming that for over eight years the FAA repeatedly found the project would pose no hazard. But the record clearly shows otherwise.

In May 2010, the FAA issued identical Determinations of No Hazard for each of the Cape Wind turbines. These determinations were conditioned on implementing a tiered mitigation plan that incrementally upgraded nearby radar systems to correct for any interference the turbines would produce. While the upgrades would limit the impact of the spinning blades, the FAA acknowledged that the “fixes” would reduce the resolution of the radar, and might not work. Like Travis Air Force Base which we previously wrote about, aircraft flying in the area would go undetected or false objects could appear. If, after the turbines go online, the interference was found to be a safety risk, the FAA recommended revising airspace procedures to restrict air traffic to transponder only — also like Travis.

Transponder-only airspace is an unacceptable mitigation option since it relies on pilots complying with the rules. Not all aircraft are adequately equipped and not all pilots may want to be seen. We remind readers that the first thing the 9/11 hijackers did after seizing control of our passenger planes was to turn off the transponders. [Read more →]

November 8, 2011   4 Comments