NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 9, 2006

The federal government has stopped work on more than a dozen wind farms, saying research is needed on whether the giant turbines could interfere with military radar.

However, wind power advocates say the action has little to do with national security and more to do with what a group of wealthy vacationers think of Cape Wind -- a proposed wind farm off the coast of Cape Cod, Mass., that could become the first offshore wind farm in the United States.

According to Michael Hawthorne of the Chicago Tribune:

  • Opponents of Cape Wind include many high-profile celebrities, business executives and several influential members of Congress, like Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), who believe the project would spoil the view at their summer homes.
  • The project continued to move forward until late 2005 when Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) slipped an amendment into a military spending bill that directed the Defense Department to study whether wind towers could mask the radar signals of small aircraft.
  • Since then, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has blocked any new wind turbines within the scope of radar systems used by the military.
  • It also reversed the government's position on the Cape Wind proposal; both the FAA and the Air Force had previously signed off on the project, which would be located within miles of a missile defense radar system.

While there are some legitimate concerns about wind farms interfering with radar, developers have solved the problem by installing new software at the radar installation and realigning some towers, but U.S. officials say they still need more information before allowing projects to move forward, says Hawthorne.

Furthermore, for companies trying to develop more alternative energy sources, the sudden change in government policy is just another frustrating hurdle, says Hawthorne.

Source: Michael Hawthorne, "FAA takes the wind out of wind farms: Critics blame politics after agency suspends projects in Midwest," Chicago Tribune, May 31, 2006.


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