FAA and Air Force Ground Wind Farm Development
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.”