Radar modification to unlock new wind power
Following more than five years of research and development, a solution to help mitigate the impact of wind turbines on radar performance, known as Project RM, has been successfully implemented at the Great Dun Fell and Lowther Hill radar sites.
It will enable the release of more than half a gigawatt – 600MW – of renewable energy by allowing turbine developments to go ahead that would otherwise have been impossible.
Project RM is the result of an unprecedented coalition made up of the air traffic services provider, NATS, radar manufacturer Raytheon and two of the UK’s major wind power providers, SSE and Vattenfall.
Under UK planning rules, NATS must be consulted on all wind turbine applications. In around two per cent of cases, the turbines would cause interference and appear as ‘clutter’ on radar screens and be potentially mistaken for aircraft.
In these cases NATS often has to object to the development on the grounds of aviation safety, resulting in the application being turned down by the planning authority.
The technical modification now made to the Lowther Hill and Great Dun Fell radars mitigates that interference and will allow developments, including those by SSE and Vattenfall, which would otherwise have raised an objection to proceed through the planning process.
Yet despite this success, the RM solution is not yet performing as originally hoped.
Andy Sage, NATS Information Director, said: “Enabling the release of 600MW of renewable energy is great news. However extensive flight trials and evaluation has shown us that the area of detection does not yet meet all of our operational expectations and wider ambitions for the renewables sector.
“As such we are now working with Raytheon to understand how we might further optimise the radars to increase the benefits being achieved so that we can reach the 1.1GW that was originally estimated.”
NATS is also investigating the use of alternative mitigation technologies that may also help address the issue of turbine interference and enable the release of further renewable energy.
Project RM has been the result of five years’ work between NATS, Aviation Investment Fund Company Limited (AIFCL) Developers, DECC, Crown Estate, Scottish Government and Raytheon.