Wind industry reveals plan for radar-friendly stealth turbines

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As Prescott launches a blistering attack on "landowners and nimbys", Miliband announces £5 million radar research project

Wind turbines coated with similar material to that used to make Stealth Bombers invisible to radar could soon be used to address long-standing concerns that wind farms could disrupt air traffic control systems, under a new project unveiled today by the government and the wind energy industry.

In his address to the British Wind Energy Association (BWEA) conference in Liverpool, Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband will today announce plans for a £5.15 million research project designed to minimise wind turbines’ impact on radar signals.

The project will be undertaken by air traffic control operator NATS and radar technology specialist Raytheon Canada, and will be funded through £2 million from the Crown Estate, £1.55 million from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and £1.6 million from the Aviation Investment Fund Company, which was set up last year by a coalition of wind energy firms.

The 19-month R &D project would investigate the viability of a range of different technologies. “They are going to be looking at both hardware and software solutions,”. “First up they will look at the wind turbines themselves and see if they can be coated with material that does not interfere with radar. For example, they will look at the material used by stealth planes to make them invisible to radar. Second, they will look at tuning the software so it does not pick up the signal from the wind turbines.”

Fears over disruption to radar signals is one of the most common causes of opposition to wind farm plans, with aviation objections currently holding up more than 5GW of wind energy in the planning system and a further 5.5GW in early stages of development.

A number of these projects have been granted tentative approval on the understanding that a technological fix to the problem of radar interference can be developed. DECC said that if the NATS project is successful the conditions on these projects could be lifted and construction work could begin immediately.

Miliband will say that resolving the issue of radar interference would represent a major boost to the industry and make it more attractive to investors. “I know that delays in the planning process can cause uncertainty and be a barrier to investment in renewables, and there are specific issues in connection with aviation and radar that need to be addressed,” he will say. ” This R & D project could resolve wind impacts on radar in the UK and potentially release 5GW of wind power.”

In related news, former deputy prime minister John Prescott is expected to launch a blistering attack on another major obstacle to wind industry expansion – “landowners and nimbys”.

In his speech to the BWEA conference, Prescott will resort to class warrior rhetoric in an attempt to promote wider approval for wind farms, and call on the government to impose renewable energy targets on local authorities that would force them to grant approval to more low carbon energy projects.

“Time and time again we see ambitious and worthy wind turbine applications defeated by a vocal minority of landowners and nimbys,” Prescott will say. ” It’s all very well arguing that a wind turbine might spoil the chocolate box view for a few homeowners. But did these same people campaign against the mobile phone masts that allow them to call locals to organise their protests? Did they moan about the pylons that bring electricity to their hamlets to power their computers that sent out emails to lobby the councils against wind farm applications? Of course they didn’t! They accepted them because they were necessary.”

He will lay the blame for the slow progress of the UK’s wind energy industry firmly at the door of “the squires and the gentry” who have “had it their way for far too long”, arguing that the government’s plans are being thwarted by local councils.

“We cannot let the squires and the gentry stop us meeting our moral obligation to pass this world on in a better state to our children and our children’s children,” he will argue. “The government has developed a strategy for the UK’s contribution towards a global solution to climate change. It has created national and global policies but it also requires the successful delivery of this strategy at a local level. It is absolutely scandalous that three-quarters of applications are now being refused – the highest it has ever been.”

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