Think wind energy is not political? How about two US Senators holding up White House Defense Department nominees because a wind farm developer is pouting?

Amazing stuff when you think about.  A useless form of energy which markets itself as a force for national security whines to two United States Senators that testing for a conflict between wind towers and military radar systems will cause them to miss their groundbreaking ceremony.

Here’s the full article from Oregonlive:

Pentagon calls for more study of radar conflicts from Shepherds Flat wind farm

By Scott Learn, The Oregonian

April 16, 2010, 5:24PM

The Department of Defense said today it has asked radar experts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory to evaluate whether the huge  Shepherds Flat wind farm in north-central Oregon would interfere with signals from a radar station in Fossil if built.

The study will take up to 60 days and extend past the long-planned May 1 groundbreaking date for the Shepherds Flat project, which at 338 turbines and 845 megawatts of capacity would be the largest wind farm in the nation and perhaps the world.

Delays would likely increase if the laboratory, a specialist in national security research, confirms significant conflicts with military radar.

“It is a delay that we and the project cannot tolerate,” said Les Gelber, a partner with Caithness Energy, the wind farm’s developer.

Dorothy Robyn, deputy undersecretary of defense for installations and environment, said this afternoon that the laboratory will analyze whether the towers pose a security threat and, if so, what can be done to mitigate that threat.

Potential options including upgrading or replacing the Fossil station, adding radar that is less sensitive to the turbines and adding “gap-filler” radar to offset problems caused by the turbines.

The laboratory’s experts will work “as fast as they can,” Robyn said. “It will provide an independent assessment of how much of a risk this poses to radar operations and an important look at mitigation options.”

Robyn agreed that  Federal Aviation Administration and military review of wind projects is flawed, coming well after wind farms have already received other regulatory approvals. “It is by definition an 11th-hour process,” she said, “and that is not satisfactory.”

The FAA, with Air Force backing, issued a “notice of presumed hazard” to the project in March, effectively barring wind turbine construction after the company had already signed a deal with General Electric for the new turbines and lined up investors.

The Shepherds Flat turbines — combined with about 1,800 other turbines built or proposed within the Fossil station’s range — would “seriously impair the ability of the (Department of Defense) to detect, monitor and safely conduct air operations in this region,” the notice said.

There is no overlapping radar coverage in the area, the notice said, and the station “already experiences significant clutter and target tracking issues in this general area.”

Gelber said the Lincoln Laboratory study should have started three years ago, when the company first talked with the Air Force about the project.

The company also tried to get the military to pursue solutions after the FAA issued its notice in March, with no success and no elaboration of the conflicts between the farm and the radar system, he said.

Caithness is working with Oregon Sens.  Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley as well as White House officials to try to push for a quicker solution. On Friday, Wyden and Merkley placed holds on three Obama Administration defense nominees to protest the military’s position and try to speed resolution of the dispute.

Shepherds Flat will provide 706 construction jobs, Caithness says, and millions in royalty payments for farmers and ranchers in Gilliam and Morrow counties.

Scott Learn

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