Government agencies come to grips with wind turbine-caused clutter for U.S. radar systems

WASHINGTON, 8 Nov. 2008. Electricity-generating wind turbines are considered an essential part of reducing U.S. reliance on fossil fuels, yet these massive multi-bladed structures can cause big problems for the nation's radar systems that watch for enemy aircraft and threatening weather.

Nov 8th, 2009

Posted by John Keller

WASHINGTON, 8 Nov. 2008. Electricity-generating wind turbines are considered an essential part of reducing U.S. reliance on fossil fuels, yet these massive multi-bladed structures can cause big problems for the nation's radar systems that watch for enemy aircraft and threatening weather.

Wind farms create big blobs of radar clutter on radar screens, which can hide friendly and enemy aircraft from military air surveillance and civil air traffic control, as well as complicate weather forecasting efforts to detect and warn of potentially damaging storms.

In response, researchers at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in Washington are asking industry to develop a wind turbine radar modeling tool to assess the influence of wind turbines on the nation's radar systems.

Radar ground clutter caused by wind turbines has become major issue over the past year as officials in the U.S., United Kingdom, and other countries struggle to find ways for wind power generation and surveillance radar to coexist easily.

Engineers at Vestas Wind Systems A/S in Randers, Denmark, have found a way to apply radar-evading military aircraft stealth technology to make their company's wind turbines and blades almost invisible to radar (http://bit.ly/3IYjr1).

The Vestas approach, however, is only one potential solution for the radar clutter problem caused by wind farms. It may not help detect an enemy trying to hide in wind farm radar clutter or help provide early warning of approaching damaging weather.

DHS officials in the U.S. are trying to find a tool that models the radar cross sections of wind turbines such that signal processing could filter out wind turbine radar returns, and that researchers could use the modeling information to find better ways for turbines to coexist with radar installations.

The DHS project is called Development of Wind Turbine/Radar Modeling Tool for Assessing the Effect of Wind Turbines on Radars (BAA 10-03). Agency officials intend to make this tool available for experts in the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Federal Aviation Admiration (FAA) and other government departments, as well as to companies in the wind industry.

Developing this wind turbine/radar interactive modeling tool will involve designing the user interface; modeling the radars, wind turbines, radio frequency (RF) propagation environments, and control systems performance; validating system hardware and software; and planning for testing, training, and system deployment.

The tool will assess how wind turbines influence radar and command-and-control system performance, based on radar target probability of detection degradation, false target analysis, and track performance. The tool also should be able to model other obstruction types, such as buildings, towers, antennas, tanks, and poles.

Proposals are due to DHS by 4 p.m. 5 Jan. 2010. E-mail questions about this project to ST.SpecialPrograms@dhs.gov. The contracting officer at DHS is Susan Eicher, who is available by e-mail at susan.eicher@dhs.gov.

More information is available online at https://www.fbo.gov/index?s=opportunity&mode=form&id=1aa7d54db35e8d8aabc8c5b4d3751eb6&tab=core&_cview=0.

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