Hooray … wind farms make tornadoes disappear! Well, they don’t really go away … Doppler just can’t see them!

This is perfect – “when severe weather approaches or moves over a wind farm, meteorologists may not be able to pick out certain features; most specifically tornadoes.”  Oh, but not to worry – “this isn’t an issue when the weather is fair.”  What???

This little gem is from an article posted at our friends, National Wind Watch.

Here’s the full article.  It only takes a moment or two and you’ll be very interested.  Click here to watch the video:

LINCOLN — Last year a weak tornado touch-downed near Holder in eastern McLean county. That’s near the Twin Groves wind farm, one of the largest in the state.

Chris Miller, Warning Coordinating Meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Lincoln explains what happened next.

“When that storm enter the wind farm area, because the rotation was weak we lost that signature as it went through the wind farm.” Says Miller. “We had to rely strictly on storm spotter reports in the area.”

Here’s the concern: The Doppler Radar beam hits the blades on a wind farm tower, causing interference. That interference looks similar to a thunderstorm. Current Doppler Radar uses software to filter out objects that are stationary, but rotating wind tower blades are an issue.

“We don’t want to eliminate actual moving storms, but somehow the Radar would need to decide in what area the wind turbines are located and how fast they’re moving and then try to remove some of that.” Says Miller. “That’s a very difficult problem to try to do software related.”

This isn’t an issue when the weather is fair; but when severe weather approaches or moves over a wind farm, meteorologists may not be able to pick out certain features; most specifically tornadoes.

There are two wind farms that impact the Doppler Radar in Lincoln. Railsplitter in southern Tazewell and northern Logan counties is the closest and most commonly seen on Radar. A proposed wind farm may be built in western Logan county, which could also affect Radar images once completed.

So what’s next? National Weather Service officials are educating wind farm developers on their potential impact on Doppler Radar.

“There is open dialog for the wind farm developers, but if anything we just want to educate them on what some of the concerns are.” Says Miller. “Hopefully we have future discussions about what can be done to help mitigate the problem.”

Tom Vinson, Director of Federal Regulatory Affairs with the American Wind Energy Association says wind developers are in discussions with the National Weather Service on this matter. The Association hope that the Weather Service can develop software to take care of the problem.

“The preference on the industry side would be for a technical solution that would resolve the problem without having to necessarily give up energy production at certain times.” Says Vinson. “It’s certainly something that should be discussed but it’s not something that we have definite agreement on today.”

We contacted Horizon Wind Energy, the owner of the Railsplitter wind farm. They had no comment on our story. Oklahoma University scientists are conducting studies on the issue.

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One Response to Hooray … wind farms make tornadoes disappear! Well, they don’t really go away … Doppler just can’t see them!

  1. Rene Taylor says:

    I live in the wind farm in which this tornado occured last year. We live a 1/2 mile from the tiny village which has tornado sirens. They did not go off because NWS could not see the tornado. My daughter and I saw it from our front porch and called 911 to report it. Since we were not licensed weather observers, they could not sound the sirens. This is dangerous beyond belief and we brought this up as a concern when the wind farm was approved.

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