Editor: Both the Ministry of Defense in Britain and the Department of Defense in the United States play pivotal roles in the appropriate siting of wind farms. In these countries, wind energy companies must consult with the military early in the planning process to ensure that the project does not interfere with civilian or air defense radar. Many wind energy proposals are turned down as they could negatively affect national security. This begs the question – Where is Canada’s Department of National Defense with regards to wind energy projects affecting air defense radar? Sadly, it appears to be MIA. It is not mandatory for even large wind energy projects to consult with the DND during the planning process. They have put up a website at: www.airforce.dnd.ca/8wing/squadron/atess_turbines_e.asp which explains that the effects of wind turbines on civilian and air defense radar and recommends that proponents contact the DND during the planning process. Does the DND have the authority to stop an inappropriately-sited wind farm? Given the costly improvements in Canada’s air defense radar now underway, one would think the DND would be more proactive on this issue.
The root of the problem seems to be in the environmental screening process for wind energy proposals. These are handled by the provincial Ministry of the Environment, which is supposed to involve federal agencies if certain aspects of the project affect federal jusrisdiction. The last time that I checked, the Department of National Defense was not one of the agencies on the notification list. It is essential for the Federal government to become more involved in these projects.
Unfortunately, comprehensive policy directives on the effects of wind energy projects on civilian air traffic and safety, are also lacking. Airport operations, air traffic control and safety are the responsiblility of Transport Canada and NAV Canada. Most people would assume that if a wind energy project is proposed in an area that would compromise the use and/or the safety of a nearby airport, that Transport Canada would stop the project. In that assumption, most people would be wrong. As it turns out. if the local planning authorities unwittingly grant approval for a wind project that would affect the navigational aids on one of the runways at the municipal airport, Transport Canada and NAV Canada have NO AUTHORITY to stop any proposal (including wind energy) that could negatively affect an airport or air safety. They exercise their authority by applying sanctions to the airport (ie. limit access to a runway) to ensure that the project does not pose a danger to air traffic and the public.
Increasingly, matters regarding the positioning of wind farms to airports and airstrips are being made by the Ontario Municipal Board Chairs and lawyers for the proponents and the appellants, rather than by the Civil Aviation Safety Specialists at Transport Canada. I find this unacceptable. If the Federal Government is going to facilitate the installation of wind energy in this country, then the appropriate federal agencies reponsible for national security, civilian and air defense radar and aviation safety MUST play an integral (and mandatory) role in the assessments of wind energy projects.
January 20, 2008 in Lowestoft Journal
The Ministry of Defence has been accused of trying to put a “blanket ban” on onshore windfarm development in East Anglia.And in the wake of a succession of high-profile MoD objections to turbines on the grounds of radar interference, leading developers warned they could be forced to scrap future windfarm plans in the region – at great cost to the local economy – unless the planning climate changes.Representatives of four regional companies, Wind Power Renewables, Mellinsus Renewables, SLP Energy and Enertrag UK, will lobby MPs and officials for less prohibitive planning procedures.Their move, decided at a meeting with officials from the East of England Energy Group (Eeegr), the industry’s regional voice, comes after a leaked MoD letter was sent to every planning authority in the UK reminding them “of the importance of ensuring proposals from windfarm developers are submitted to the MoD at the pre-planning stage to ensure any concerns we have are adequately assessed and addressed”.
The letter gives the assurance that the MoD will try to work with developers but Andy Hilton, who runs Windpower Renewables from his home at Catfield, near Yarmouth, said practical evidence from the past three years did not support this.
He said: “I am currently working on five projects in Norfolk and Suffolk – at Catfield, Bacton, Wyverstone, Stalham and one near Norwich – and the MoD has raised concerns about them all. They say turbines at Wyverstone would affect their Trimingham radar -and that must be 70km away.
“Almost anywhere you put a planning application they say it will affect their radar. It seems they are trying to achieve a blanket ban on onshore windfarms in East Anglia.”
Mr Hilton said the MoD-prompted planning refusal for six turbines at Swaffham earlier this week had now left developers “disappointed” and “totally confused”.
He said: “What’s going on? If the MoD can live with the existing turbines in the area, surely it can live with six more. It highlights their total inconsistency concerning windfarm objections.”
Mr Hilton was project manager during construction of the Scroby Sands offshore windfarm, at Yarmouth, but insisted onshore wind was a vital part of the energy mix as offshore projects were three times as costly and “90pc of the UK coastline is totally unsuitable”.
Kerry Gauntt, a spokesman for Lowestoft-based SLP Energy – which has withdrawn its application for four turbines at Hemsby, near Yarmouth, for further consultation in the wake of concerns, including those raised by the MoD – said: “If we cannot change the planning climate in the next 12 months we will have to look outside the East of England for onshore wind development and that will be a real shame for the region, not least in terms of employment.”
In addition to problems posed by the MoD, she said the 18-month planning stalemate on their two-turbine project at Kessingland, near Lowestoft, highlighted the problem of winning over local residents concerning visual impact.
An MOD spokesman said: “We fully support the government’s renewable energy policies and targets, and treat each windfarm case on its merits. Objections are only raised when absolutely necessary, and we will always engage with landowners and developers to try to find solutions to any concerns we may have.
“However it is vital that we protect our air defence and air traffic control radar from interference from any development which would unacceptably jeopardise national security or the safe movement of aircraft.”