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By Lloyd McGraw on Apr 15, 2010 with 4 responses

FAA and Air Force Ground Wind Farm Development

The Air Force claims that wind turbines that Caithness Energy plans to erect in Shepherd's Flat could create safety issues.

The Air Force has concerns that erecting wind turbines in Shepherds Flat could create safety issues.

The Federal Aviation Administration has issued a “notice of presumed hazard” halting Caithness Energy’s development of what would be the world’s largest wind farm in Shepherds Flat, Oregon that was scheduled to break ground on May 1.

The FAA’s order resulted from increasing concerns from the Air Force that the three hundred and thirty eight turbines would interfere with transmissions from a radar station in Fossil.

“We’re just sitting here in no man’s land,” said Les Gelber, a Caithness Energy partner.

Oregon stands to lose 706 jobs and millions of dollars in royalties for Oregon farmers if the venture is canceled. Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley are assisting Caithness Energy in trying to resolve the issues and permit the project to continue.

“If the Defense Department allows this project to go down the drain after years and years of development, the (wind farm) investors are going to walk,” Wyden said. “We don’t see why they should be able to come in at the last minute and put the kibosh on this program.”

Gelber claims that the Air Force and Navy were notified of the project years ago and never raised any concerns.  He asserts that Caithness has invested four to five years in obtaining proper permits from federal and local authorities to enable construction of the 845 megawatt capacity farm.  Now, after signing a $1.4 billion agreement with General Electric, workers are arriving for construction on roads and turbine foundations, however, Caithness cannot put them to work.  They may be prevented from ever completing their venture.

The Air Force’s concern stems from two factors.  Turbines can reflect radar and create blind spots that erase airplanes from the radar screen.  Additionally, the varying speeds in turbines due to changes in wind clutter the radar screen.

According to the FAA notice, the proposed turbines could “seriously impair the ability of the (Department of Defense) to detect, monitor and safely conduct air operations in this region.”  The FAA further states that the Fossil radar station “already experiences significant clutter and target tracking issues in this general area.”

  1. By Kit P on April 15, 2010 at 8:30 pm

    “As a result of the FAA’s permit
    refusal, work has halted on the nine-year venture. The Energy
    Department has stopped working on the project’s loan-guarantee


    First thing here, when people about how
    long it takes to build a nuke; they do not consider how long it takes
    for other things.


    And what is the hurry to ignore an
    important safety question?


    “will lose its eligibility for
    federal stimulus funds unless it’s finished by the end of 2012. In
    addition, the farm is supposed to start supplying power to Southern
    California Edison by late next year, and the utility is under
    pressure to meet the state’s strict renewable portfolio standards.”

  2. By BilB on April 18, 2010 at 4:27 am

    This one smacks of “no brainism”. If the Airforce can’t find a solution to their minor problem they should all be sent back to primary school. This land would once have been covered in trees higher than the windturbines about to populate it. The simple quick answer is to put their radar on a higher tower, duh. But then the aviation services industry has a history of backward thinking. It was my brother, an accountant, who found the site for the radar installation at Sydney airport when the second runway was being built. A consultancy firm had been working on that specific task for a year and a half and were then holding up the runway construction. It took less than 5 days of clear headed thinking by one person to find the only suitable location. The USAF should wake up to itself.

  3. By russ on April 18, 2010 at 6:22 am

    @BilB – Covered in trees – Fossil, OR? İt seems they are talking about electronic interference – not visual

  4. By Kit P on April 18, 2010 at 11:18 am

    Fossil, Oregon does not have an
    airport. Looking west from this part of the Oregon and Washington
    State you see the peaks of the Cascade Mountains.


    In the last 10 years, 2000 MWe of
    windfarms so I would expect that the effect on air traffic control
    radars is known. I also suspect that after looking closely at the
    hazard, permission will be granted unless the wind farm south of
    Arlington interferes with the radar installation looking north.

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