When it comes to renewable energy, there are a number of considerations beyond the obvious ones (cost, appearance, CO2 emissions saved, etc.) This may not have been on your radar, but wind power and National Security have had an uneasy co-existence… until now.
The U.S. Defense Department has recently announced that the Pentagon is stepping up to address issues between wind farms and aging radar systems. In response to the Shepard’s Flat wind farm in the Columbia River Gorge, which separates Oregon and Washington State, the Defense Department is ensuring that renewable energy growth is not blocked by outdated radar systems over concerns of national security.
With older radar systems, rotating wind turbines can interfere with transmissions, creating “clutter.” This is a serious issue, as discussed in a 2008 report commissioned by the Department of Homeland Security. Aircraft could become invisible due to the clutter, or the spinning turbines could be mistaken for a tornado with some weather software.
So how can wind power and national security coincide? According to the Defense Department Deputy Secretary for Installations, Dorothy Robyn:
“We love renewable energy. We consider dependence on foreign oil and dependence on a fragile electricity grid a potential national security issue.”
With the common goals of reduced reliance on fossil fuels, and safety/security, the Defense Department has announced plans to upgrade the older analog radar systems that could be affected by wind farms, addressing the interference issues. In addition, the Department has implemented a system to be used by agencies evaluating proposed wind turbine applications to determine if and to what extent there are potential radar conflicts.
Perhaps most importantly, wind developers will get early notification in the process as to whether their proposal may interfere with radar.
In addition to the Defense Department and Pentagon procedures, new wind power technology can also address potential radar conflicts. Stealth turbine blades include both digital circuitry and design that can make the blades virtually invisible to military radar.
Removing the barriers to prompt and efficient renewable energy projects is key to a safe and secure future. As BP deals with the fallout of the biggest oil debacle since the Exxon Valdez Spill, the rest of the country should be moving forward to clean and much safer alternatives like wind.
Addressing the interplay between wind power and national security is a top priority. As long as we have the issues on the radar… and are working to make sure that radar systems operate properly without undue interference … renewable energy should be a breeze!