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Wind Farms become Collateral Damage:

Opponents of a proposed wind farm off the coast of Massachsetts inserted a provision into the 2006 Defense Authorization Act barring federal permits for new wind projects pending completion of a study on whether wind turbines may interfere with military radar. As a result, some one-dozen wind power projects arond the country are on hold, according to the Washington Post.

More than 130 wind turbines are proposed for the hilltops of central Wisconsin, but that project and at least 11 others have been halted by the Defense Department as it studies whether the projects could interfere with military radar.

Wind farm developers, Midwestern legislators and environmentalists say the farms pose no risk, noting that there are already numerous wind farms operating in military radar areas. They say a renewable, domestic source of energy such as wind is crucial to energy security and independence. . . .

Defense and FAA officials said the "proposed hazard" letters are not prohibiting the wind farms, just delaying them until any risks to military operations can be assessed and resolved.

"We're not saying, 'No, you can't do this,' " Spitaliere said. "We're looking to work with the proposals to mitigate the hazard."

UPDATE: There's some more detail at Prometheus.

AppSocRes (mail):
That's what you get for threatening to obstruct Ted Kennedy's ocean view.
6.10.2006 6:46pm
Constantin:
Ted Kennedy will cause the 9/11 Memorial to flood.

An inconvenient truth indeed.
6.10.2006 7:17pm
dew:
Teddy Kennedy is being outrageously hypocritical about the whole issue (no surprise). He thinks the Nantucket sound wind farm is a horrid spot, with public reasons like the negative effects on birds and shipping. He seems to think though that nearby Buzzards Bay, that just happens to have a large population of an endangered bird species and several times the shipping traffic, but also coincidentally a lot fewer rich people with summer mansions on the coast (just a lot of blue collar year-round residents) is a good spot for another proposed wind farm.
6.10.2006 7:35pm
logicnazi (mail) (www):
Ugh, it really pisses me off the way people claiming to be concerned about the enviornment object to wind turbines because they might harm wildlife. Prioritize! If building enviornmentally friendly power sources and taking other pro-enviornment measures doesn't protect you from enviornmental criticism there is a lot less incentive to be enviornmentally friendly.

It's exactly complaints like this which cause people not to take enviornmentalists seriously. Yes I realize that many enviornmentalists support wind power but if they want to fix the global warming problem they need to play hardball with the people using enviornmental excuses to avoid building renewable power and not play nice just because these people claim to be concerned about the enviornment as well.
6.10.2006 7:35pm
Eric Anondson (mail):
Comical. I just finished Basic Training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. There are wind farms all over the hills down there. Such a curious strain of NIMBYism, those progressive NIMBYs against environmentally clean energy who use federal Defense legislation to protect views.
6.10.2006 7:49pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
We just turned on our first commercial wind farm in my county yesterday. The idea that they could interfere with radar is a hoot.

A 300-foot-tall pillar at 3,000 feet elevation on a 5,000-foot mountain is not going to present any problems to radar that the mountain does not already.
6.10.2006 10:32pm
Stephen Macklin (mail) (www):
I think seizing the Kennedy compound under eminent domain and putting the wind farm there is a much better idea.
6.10.2006 10:33pm
K Bennight (mail):
NIMBY = not in my backyard

BANANA = build absolutely nothing anywhere near anybody

NOPE = not on Planet Earth
6.10.2006 10:38pm
Raymond Smalley (mail) (www):
Hello,

I am contacting you on behalf of Raj Bhakta for Congress. I am writing because this campaign respects your impressive website which showcases your immense talent.

Blogs are underutilized in politics. This campaign is interested in developing a strong relationship with you, so that your blog may reach it's maximum potential. Please contact upon receiving this e-mail, as I would like future communication.

Sincerely,
Raymond Smalley
Raj for Congress
www.rajforcongress.com
6.11.2006 12:24am
Raymond Smalley (mail) (www):
Hello,

I am contacting you on behalf of Raj Bhakta for Congress. I am writing because this campaign respects your impressive website which showcases your immense talent.

Blogs are underutilized in politics. This campaign is interested in developing a strong relationship with you, so that your blog may reach it's maximum potential. Please contact upon receiving this e-mail, as I would like future communication.

Sincerely,
Raymond Smalley
Raj for Congress
www.rajforcongress.com
6.11.2006 12:24am
Lev:
I thought the raj ended in 1948.
6.11.2006 1:16am
The Volokh Conspiracy (mail):
Hello,

I am contacting you on behalf of the readers of the Volokh Conspiracy. I am writing because your campaign for congress is making a complete fool of itself by spamming a blog with a national readership.

Blogs may be underutilized in politics, but since this is a legal, rather than a political blog, we're happy with its (note the lack of apostrophe) potential just as it is, thank you very much. We don't think it would be increased by participating in your egotistical, no-hope campaign.

Sincerely,
The entire Volokh Conspiracy
6.11.2006 1:42am
Jim B. (mail) (www):
logicnazi: Just for the record, Ted Kennedy's hypocrisy is not lost on environmentalists. It's very disappointing to all of us who are trying to walk the walk. There are some poll results in the article linked to there that show that the general public is ready, even if their senators are not.
6.11.2006 1:58am
Questioner:
"Teddy Kennedy is being outrageously hypocritical about the whole issue"

Sigh...well, I guess there's a first time for everything...
6.11.2006 2:20am
Bruce:
Cool. I think repealing the estate tax would interfere with military radar too; they should study that.
6.11.2006 2:37am
James968 (mail):
So to protect Ted Kennedy's view, EVERY windfarm project accross the nation has been suspended.
6.11.2006 3:08am
A. Zarkov (mail):
So why not settle this with a calculation? What's the military radar wavelength? What's the scattering cross section of a windmill at that wavelength? How many windmills in a wind farm? What are the targets, and where are the radar transmitters. It should take less than a day to do the calculations, perhaps even minutes if some experts are set to go. Sometimes I think in today's political and legal climate we would never have finished any of the great projects in the 19th and 20th centuries. Examples: transcontinental railroad, Panama Canal, Hoover Dam. We have been trying to build a radioactive waste repository (The Yucca Mountain Project). It was scheduled for completion for 1997, but has been delayed until something like 2012. I doubt it will ever get completed.
6.11.2006 4:41am
Ron Hardin (mail) (www):
Windmills occupy phase space as well as physical space, the short idea being that they produce clutter with a doppler shift that mountains do not have.

Radars operate on some mix of delay and doppler chosen for the purpose; you'd have to speculate from the concern to what that might mean about how they're constructed, assuming it's not NIMBY driven in the first place.
6.11.2006 8:04am
dwillo:
It's funny, none of the commentors here, nor the originator of the post, nor even linked article itself, seem interested in identifying who actually put the rider in the Defense Authorization Act. It just must have been Kennedy, right? Unless it was Republican Senator John Warner:

But the project continued to move forward until late last year, when Warner, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, slipped an amendment into a military spending bill. The one-sentence congressional order directs the Defense Department to study whether wind towers could mask the radar signals of small aircraft.


Not to say that Kennedy hasn't had his hand in blocking wind farms near his home, but the request for these DOD studies seems to have come from a different source, according to available evidence. You may now return to your regularly scheduled rant...
6.11.2006 10:43am
The Drill SGT (mail):
I'm curious about the sort of environmentally friendly energy production that environmentalists (or Kennedy) do support?

1. Wind farms seems to be problematic. Bad for birds and visually polluting :)

2. Nuclear? Horror of horrors!! pretty global warming neutral, but NIMBY again

3. ANWAR? Birds and Caribou, even though the North Slope turned out pretty well and Alaska thinks it's a good idea, but we know better.

4. Tar Sands? can I say strip mines writ large?

5. Offshore in Florida? Those environmentalist Chinese are allowed to do it on Cuba tracts there, but not BP on US tracts

6. Raise Gas prices by a factor of two, reaching normal EU levels? Nope, can't flog Bush for 10% increases to less than historic levels (79) if we advocate 100% increases

7. Hydroelectric? The good spots have dams, they are bad for fishes, and destroy nature.

8. Solar? hundreds of square miles of panels using technology that has a short useful life and is not cost effective. Did I talk about heating your house with electricity during that winter snow storm?

9. Coal? what? send miners underground again? or strip mine? ugh!

10. Biomass? small power plants near urban areas (the tyranny or transmission inefficiencies combined with transport costs) burning garbage? big power plants in Iowa (red states) require a new electric grid to get that power to red states. power lines? NIMBY!


Personally I like a mix of these with an emphasis on Nuclear, but I guess I'm not an environmentalist. Just an average guy.
6.11.2006 11:25am
Freder Frederson (mail):
Unless it was Republican Senator John Warner:

Which makes sense, since there is a plan to put a huge windfarm in the flint hills of Kansas, one of the last large virgin stretches of tall grass prairie in the country, that is very controversial.
6.11.2006 11:25am
Freder Frederson (mail):
Never mind, I was thinking of Pat Roberts.
6.11.2006 11:26am
Robert Racansky:
I think seizing the Kennedy compound under eminent domain and putting the wind farm there is a much better idea.


I think the Kennedy compound is a wind farm.
6.11.2006 11:38am
Freder Frederson (mail):
I'm curious about the sort of environmentally friendly energy production that environmentalists (or Kennedy) do support?

It's funny that your list includes all these energy alternatives that you claim "environmentalists" are against.

You're right that most environmentalists think that it is insanity to think we can drill or mine our way out of our problems and that continued fossil fuel exploitation will only make our problems worse. However, offshore drilling in Florida is just as adamantly opposed by Jeb Bush, the real estate and tourism industry in Florida, hardly friends of the environment.

As for increasing the price of fuel, most environmentalists are all for increased taxes on gasoline and other fossil fuels as the best way to encourage conservation. It is much better that the money we spend on gasoline go into the treasury of the U.S. rather than Saudi Arabia especially if it is used to research energy alternatives.

Supporters of the status quo always like to paint the solar alternative as massive arrays of solar panels cover thousands of acres of land. This of course is a ridiculous way to generate solar power. The best way is to support distributed systems where solar panels are installed on rooftops and new construction is built with passive and active solar design.
6.11.2006 11:46am
The Drill SGT (mail):
Freder,

I said I was for a bit of all of those things, but don't consider my self an environmentalist, just a practical guy.

Take one example. I agree that lots of Floridians are against drilling by anybody off shore, my point is that:

1. Drilling is going to take place offshore in Cuban areas, done by the Chinese, who are the worst folks (environmentally speaking) to attempt it.

2. The Cubans and Chinese will tap the same oil areas that we would, if we were drilling under US laws

3. The results (environmental dangers, lack of regulation, etc) will be the same, except that the US and Florida will have no say or benefit.

4. Not wanting it to happen, won't stop it. We should be drilling.

My point was that I dislike folks who are against everything. If you don't support xxx, then provide a reasonable, affordable, implemenentable alternative as a trade off. not BANANA

I don't think that is your position here and I generally agree with your intelligent posts.
6.11.2006 12:02pm
K Bennight (mail):

"As for increasing the price of fuel, most environmentalists are all for increased taxes on gasoline and other fossil fuels as the best way to encourage conservation. It is much better that the money we spend on gasoline go into the treasury of the U.S. rather than Saudi Arabia especially if it is used to research energy alternatives."


Higher taxes place the United States at a competitive disadvantge with the rest of the world and merely feed the federal beast. The notion that any significant portion of increased tax proceeds would fund research instead of pork is fatuous.

But a higher market price keeps us on an even playing field with international competitors and stimulates both (a) energy conservation and (b) development of alternative energy sources. I don't like paying more at the pump than anyone else, but the higher oil prices of late are beneficial. Our problem has never been an oil shortage. It is that Middle Eastern oil in general and Saudi oil in particular are so cheap to produce that they drive out alternatives. If the increased price of oil lasts long enough for us to develop better conservation and significant alternatives, we'll all be better off.

It is in the Saudis' interests to keep the price of oil just below the threshhold at which we develop meaningful conservation measures and alternative sources of oil and other energy. It seems they've lost control of that lately. Let us hope that loss is permanent.
6.11.2006 1:56pm
Frank Drackmann (mail):
I'm sick of these hypocritical gas bags,what kind of car was Sen Kennedy driving at Chappaquidick, a thrifty VW bug? No a big gas guzzling Oldsmobile. Now 37 years later hes still being chauffered around in gas guzzlers cause thats the only thing his 300 pound fat ass can fit in.
6.11.2006 2:06pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
I am obviously not an expert on radar and how in particular the doppler phase shift could affect radar (which does seem somewhat credible, given that the speed of the rotors may be in the same order of magnitude of a airplane), but wind turbines are fixed. They don't move - or shouldn't. So, I would think with the marvels of modern programming, it would be possible to, for example, we have object at these precise locations that may appear to be moving at between zero and some expected top rate of speed, etc., and then compensate for that.

But I would think that the argument then for wind turbines interferring with radar would be stronger when located on mountain tops than in the ocean - esp. since they would seem to have a radar signature more akin to a airborne aircraft (i.e. above stall speed) that just happens to be stationary, as opposed to ships that are moving at a significantly different order of magnitude. Also, because of less wind sheer, wind speeds are typically more constant over water.

Actually, as I look at it a bit more, wind turbines would seem to have a very interesting, but also very distinctive, doppler, and thus radar, profile. Most large wind turbines today are forward facing Horizontal Axis Wind Turbines (HAWT) with typically three blades. Most of these attributes are a result of the stress that turbulence places on other designs - for example, rear facing HAWT have to deal with the change in torque caused by a blade passing through the tower's wind shadow. Forward facing HAWT have the blades in front of the tower, and thus don't have to compensate for this.

The speed of different parts of the rotors varies from zero to a maximum at the rotor tips, with this maximum varying up to approximately 6-7 times the wind speed. However, esp. in large wind turbines, this isn't constant, since too much rotor speed will ultimately fatigue the system, so top speed is typically governed through stalling or furling (i.e. rotating the rotor blades to increase or decrease their angle of attack).

But note that this would be a very notable radar signature. The center of the rotor is essentially a point of zero speed at a fixed location in space. Then, there is a disk spinning around the fixed location in space, with the aspect of the disk varying from a vertical line segment to a circle (with a diameter equal to the length of that line segment), as the wind direction changes (which to some extent can also be measured as can wind speed). Hopefully, you get the idea.
6.11.2006 2:18pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
Higher taxes place the United States at a competitive disadvantge with the rest of the world and merely feed the federal beast.

Actually, the U.S.'s lower energy taxes in comparison to the rest of the developed world have consistently placed us at a competetive disadvantage with the rest of the world.

Why do American made cars sell so poorly in the rest of the world? Because we make cars with crappy gas mileage because gas is (comparitavely) so cheap here. Consequently, when there is a spike in gasoline prices, who has the car models that American consumers turn to when they want more fuel efficient cars?

Why are European and Japanese industries and homes so much more fuel efficient than American ones? Because our energy prices are so cheap.

How is it that alternative fuel sources are going to be explored when the funds that could be used to research those alternatives are being siphoned off to the countries that are sitting on the oceans of oil and therefore have a vested in interest in continuing to sell oil and into companies that exploit those resources and have a vested interest in suppressing the development of alternative sources of energy? It is in Exxon's best interest to find that sweet spot where oil can be sold for maximum profit but not high enough that people are concerned enough to demand alternative sources of fuel (and of course convince people that global warming is a myth and alternatives to oil are impractical or alternately nothing but dangerous environmentalist luddite fantasies).
6.11.2006 2:56pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
Yes, Bruce, a good summary of what wind farms might mean to radars.

However, we don't have to go through that. The biggest wind generator in the world (though no longer operating), the MOD-5-B, is at Kuhuku, Oahu, Hawaii, just a hop, skip and a jump from an important Marine aviation base. There were no complaints.
6.11.2006 3:17pm
Joe7 (mail):
Ted Kennedy is a hypocrite, but if his hypocrisy stops wind farms, all power to him. They are ugly monstrosities. Build them and the day will come when mankind will shake their heads and wonder what in hell people were thinking.
6.11.2006 3:39pm
Ron Hardin (mail) (www):
So, I would think with the marvels of modern programming, it would be possible to, for example, we have object at these precise locations that may appear to be moving at between zero and some expected top rate of speed, etc., and then compensate for that.

Depending on the radar, the location isn't precise.

Take my favorite radar, a chirp radar.

This transmits a long pulse (as strong as they can manage) with a swept frequency, say upwards.

When the return comes back, they run it through a delay line that delays lower frequencies longer than higher frequencies, and as a result all the long pulse piles up in at one place as one big tit in the middle.

In effect, they've transmitted a hugely powerful short pulse instead of a weak long pulse, they getting really good detection and range resolution for free.

Except, if you doppler shift the pulse, it changes the range it seems to come from. Normally, you track the object and compensate its position for its determinted velocity, and you're set.

A windmill, though, is doppler shifted without moving, and so appears at some other range entirely, to a chirp radar.

The strange effects come from radars really operating in phase space, able to trade frequency and time for the precision they happen to want for their purpose in life.

Modern pulses are much more sophisticated, I'm sure; chirp was the old days. But the tradeoffs are still there.
6.11.2006 3:51pm
t e (mail):
Boy, what are the wingnuts going to have to complain about when Ted Kennedy dies?

But I can understand why people obsess about this almost as much as they obsessed about Clinton's willie: I mean everything is just going so absolutely super in this country right now, there is nothing important to talk about.
6.11.2006 8:00pm
Constantin:
Awesome analysis, TE. Glad to know you think an issue sitting at the intersection of political hypocrisy, national defense, and energy policy is a mere diversion, "nothing important."
6.11.2006 8:59pm
TJIT (mail):
Feder,

You said

"Why do American made cars sell so poorly in the rest of the world?"

I'd say probably becasuse of poor quality and lack of understanding of how to work in the international market.


You also said

"It is in Exxon's best interest to find that sweet spot where oil can be sold for maximum profit but not high enough that people are concerned enough to demand alternative sources of fuel"

The only figure I could find said ExxonMobil has 3% of the world crude market, the other figure I have heard is 7% of the world crude marke so they are not in the position to do much price setting. If anybody has information on ExxonMobils market share I would be interested in hearing it. However, OPEC has a strong interest in having a price that is high enough for their members to meet national needs but not so high as to drive production of other petroleum reserves.

You said

"(and of course convince people that global warming is a myth and alternatives to oil are impractical or alternately nothing but dangerous environmentalist luddite fantasies)"

Producing petroleum is not easy. In a record high priced environment with record high profits ExxonMobil managed to make a return on investment of around 10%, not a massive profit by any rational standard and this is in a market with high crude prices.

A working alternative energy source will provide massive profits to the companies that develop them. The fact that it has not taken off to date shows that it is not a trivial matter to come up with a working, feasible alternative energy source.
6.11.2006 10:14pm
TJIT (mail):
My personal opinion on the aesthetics of windpower, FWIW is this.

They are striking to see during daylight hours and they definitely stand out against the background. But they don't look too ugly.

However, because the windmills are so tall they must have navigation lights at night so aircraft can see them. The navigation lights and strobes have a huge visual impact at night. They provide lots of light pollution and interference with viewing the night skies.

I don't think they would make a very good neighbor if you lived in a rural area and enjoyed the stars at night.
6.11.2006 10:32pm
Hank from Holland:
The US is lagging behind with the implementation of windenergy technology, consequently you are complaining about problems that have been met, and solved, elsewhere.

The Uk militairy assessed the possible wind turbine radar interference and found that their is mostly no problem. In the few cases that there was a problem it could be solved by an adaptation of the radar software.

Also see:

the newsgazette

bwea
6.12.2006 7:01am
Hank from Holland:
6.12.2006 9:03am
K Bennight (mail):

Why do American made cars sell so poorly in the rest of the world? Because we make cars with crappy gas mileage because gas is (comparitavely) so cheap here.

Whether you or I think Detroit has made bad choices in, among other things, the energy efficiency of the cars it has produced, is beside the point. They get to make the choices and reap the rewards and penalties. The last thing any of us should want is the government to make the choices for which any private company reaps the rewards and penalties. That's a recipe to wind up like the Soviet Union.

How is it that alternative fuel sources are going to be explored when the funds that could be used to research those alternatives are being siphoned off to the countries that are sitting on the oceans of oil and therefore have a vested in interest in continuing to sell oil and into companies that exploit those resources and have a vested interest in suppressing the development of alternative sources of energy?

Again, money we pay in taxes will not go into research. It will go into bridges to nowhere.

It is in Exxon's best interest to find that sweet spot where oil can be sold for maximum profit but not high enough that people are concerned enough to demand alternative sources of fuel (and of course convince people that global warming is a myth and alternatives to oil are impractical or alternately nothing but dangerous environmentalist luddite fantasies).

It is Exxon's responsibility to sell its product at a price that maximizes its income. How many of us sell our labor for less than we can or sell our homes for less than we can get?
6.12.2006 1:43pm
Hank from Holland:

They get to make the choices and reap the rewards and penalties.



Unfortunately this is not true. The penalties for a high gas use of cars are paid for by all of us. Detroit does not pay the threatment of asthma of children living near highways. Detriot does not pay for building higher dikes here in the Netherlands. Detriot does not pay for the relocation of island inhabitants.

This is the problem with right wing free-market groupies: They forget the so-called external costs, i.e. the damage to third parties that is not incorparated into the price.

I do believe the market mechanism is a good way to optimise the economy of a society. However in this optimation price is the information carrier. And without adding the externalities to the price of a product, the information is incomplete and hence the proces does not arrive at a real optimum.
6.12.2006 2:19pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
Again, money we pay in taxes will not go into research. It will go into bridges to nowhere.

While pork barrel spending is a horrible curse, the government has spent lots of money on some very good basic research. If not for government spending, we wouldn't have computers or nuclear power, which you libertarians just seem to love.
6.12.2006 3:30pm
M. Brown (mail):
"Detriot does not pay for building higher dikes here in the Netherlands."

Nor should they. It should be the Army Corps of Engineers and the City of New Orleans, who in the process might actually learn how to build dikes that work.
6.12.2006 5:22pm
Hank from Holland:

Nor should they.


OK, I seem to need to go in more detail:
Inefficient AMerican cars contribute considerably to global warming. Global warming causes rising sea levels that threaten the safety of our low lying country. So we Dutchies have to pay for the consequences of your gaz guzzlers.

It is not more than fair that the price of gaz is increased with a dike-tax that is used to build and strengthen dikes world wide.

Before you all fall over me for me being anti-American, we are not holy overhere either. Unfortenately we have a right wing government in the Netherlands as well, for which money in the pocket now is more important than a future for our childeren. (But still we have half the energy usage of US-citizens.)

Anyway my main point is that a neo-classical free market theory cannot deal with environmental problems, because the caused damages are not taken into account. Consequently, the idea that an optimation at individual level is also an optimation for the whole society is not valid.
6.13.2006 6:22am
Hank from Holland:
By the way; I seem to remember that the king of bridges to nowhere is the republican senator don Young from Alaska.
6.13.2006 6:29am