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Earth Power Technology

Wind Farms Can Interfere With Doppler Radar 179

Posted by timothy
from the whiteout-on-the-right-parts-of-the-screen dept.
T Murphy writes "Wind farms can appear like storms or tornadoes on Doppler radar when placed too close to the radar. Tornado alley is a good area for wind farms, and good terrain for the turbines is also ideal for Doppler radar. With many new farms being constructed, the problem is growing. A false tornado warning was issued in Kansas by a computer, although canceled by a meteorologist aware of the problem — there are fears that false positives will grow. Worse would be a tornado ignored as a wind turbine. While meteorologists are trying to work with wind farm owners to shut off the turbines during bad weather, they have no control over the placement or operation of the turbines. Efforts are being made to improve detection technology to avoid further problems."
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Wind Farms Can Interfere With Doppler Radar

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  • Re:Simple fix? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jmerlin (1010641) on Sunday August 30, 2009 @03:20PM (#29253705)
    The problem is likely that the technology is very simple and as a result -- imprecise.

    To "naive" persons like you and I, we may say it's too small or well couldn't you just program in that a vortex seen at this height (100m is quite a bit lower than where most funnel clouds are formed, cumulonimbus clouds are at 2000 ft), but it may be technically very difficult to distinguish in such a way. I've never worked with the data they gather so I can't speak expertly, but I'd imagine if it were a true 3 dimensional scan, you'd be able to easily determine the height and size of an anomaly and discount it or mark it way down on the danger scale, but that could be totally unreasonable.

    Any meteorologists around?
  • Maps? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by maxume (22995) on Sunday August 30, 2009 @03:20PM (#29253707)

    If only the wind turbines were on stationary towers, then they might be able to map them, and use such a map to inform their interpretation of the radar data.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 30, 2009 @03:25PM (#29253747)

    Wind speeds above the maximum design speed will tear the mechanical gearing apart - that is if the wind surfaces don't rip off first.

    Most wind turbines already automatically lock themselves when wind speeds exceed certain design specifications to protect themselves from damage.

  • by pw700z (679598) on Sunday August 30, 2009 @03:25PM (#29253755)
    I am not a meteorologist, but don't tornadoes occur because there is a horizontal boundary between two different types of air masses, and the tornado acts as a funnel to equalize the pressure between the two or something? Maybe wind turbines, and the mixed and turbulence they cause actually prevent tornadoes. Who knows? And, don't many tornadoes occur over particularly flat land? The turbines might reshape the landscape enough to disturb the atmosphere enough to prevent them. Turbines looking like tornadoes on radar make me think i'm not totally crazy.
  • Re:Simple fix? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by E-Lad (1262) on Sunday August 30, 2009 @03:26PM (#29253757) Homepage

    I'm not sure that you realize the limitations of the radar systems themselves.

    The nexrad doppler radar system uses systems designed in the early-mid 80's. Three meter resolution? Try 1km during the best situations.

  • by negRo_slim (636783) <mils_oRgen@hotmail.com> on Sunday August 30, 2009 @03:31PM (#29253801)

    Very small investment considering the cost of the actual wind farm itself.

    I'm sure the hardware investment would be relatively small, but the cost to put eyes in front of the screens would probably be much more significant.

  • by Scrameustache (459504) on Sunday August 30, 2009 @03:33PM (#29253815) Homepage Journal

    My question is: how do you "shut down" a wind farm? The wind blows, the windmills turn.

    It's called a brake [wikipedia.org].

    This is what slashdot is for, making you aware of complicated technology which you couldn't possibly have heard of from other sources ;-)

  • Solvable problem (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hcdejong (561314) <hobbes AT xmsnet DOT nl> on Sunday August 30, 2009 @04:06PM (#29254013)

    Wind turbines should have a more or less predictable (and hence, recognizable) radar signature. IIRC the US military use turbine signatures (of aircraft engines) as part of non-cooperative target recognition (NCTR), i.e. the ability to recognize the aircraft type from a radar return, without having to rely on IFF transponders. But this probably requires better radars and processing than Nexrad can provide.

  • Re:Simple fix? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pixelpusher220 (529617) on Sunday August 30, 2009 @07:22PM (#29255431)
    yes the blades move in a circle obviously and yes that can be perceived as a tornado. But this 'tornado' would literally never move from the spot the pole is planted on.

    Unless the radar is imaging the 'downwind' effects of the turbine, this should be a trivial thing to look at and see clearly for a false positive.
  • Re:Maps? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by joocemann (1273720) on Sunday August 30, 2009 @07:38PM (#29255563)

    If only the wind turbines were on stationary towers, then they might be able to map them, and use such a map to inform their interpretation of the radar data.

    If only the tip voitices stayed at the blades, rather than trailing for miles downwind.

    If only "downwind" was always the same direction, rather than moving around when the wind changes - especially when it changes rapidly during a storm.

    If only the vortices were reliably visible to the radar, rather than sending a variable strength return depending on how many raindrops are getting blown around by each section of it at any given moment.

    You see the glass half empty, I see the glass half full. Someday, a PHD student is going to gather all that "useless interfering noisy junk data", filter it back into an extremely detailed physical wind model, to improve tornado formation detection and write their dissertation. I say someday, assuming that someone isn't already doing it. Possibly, in the future, it will be a marketing advantage to have a wind turbine generally upwind of a trailer park, because suitably advanced radar DSP technology makes it easier to detect tornadoes headed for the trailer park...

    Most people do not quite grasp the entirety of the level of technology and innovation that humans have attained to date. It is hard for those who do not understand this to see the glass as you did.

    An example of this:
    Right now I hear a TON of people constantly upset about plastics going into landfills "FOREVER!!"... I laugh about this because I kinda see it more of a temporary storage (given it doesn't get lit on fire or something lame).

    We have, in today's mechanical/software/systems engineering capacities, the ability to design and produce Wall-E like robots that detect and sort complex mixtures of substrates into separate bins/allocations for recycling. This is not a hard thing to do, at all, if you follow and see the current state of robotics, software engineering, etc... I read physorg.com all the time and see so many potentials between the lines.

    And so until someone (I hope some rich investor reads this and takess my idea and makes these robots) gets this idea and develops it --- yes, the plastic will be there 'FOREVER!'... but hopefully, someday, we'll allocate resources either privately or publicly to make what is already possible 'happen' and undo the damnation of 'forever'. lol.

    Some estimates of technology place 90% of human activities to be automatable. When I think about it, I smile about how true it is when I imagine the possibilities, and then frown at how we presently 'waste' our time by not innovating these automations today.

  • On Fox? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Valdrax (32670) on Sunday August 30, 2009 @09:12PM (#29256123)

    So a Fox affiliate employee took the opportunity to...

    1) Downplay some senseless and sensationalist bit of fear-mongering...
    2) While saying something nice about a green technology that suffers from a lot of NIMBYism...
    3) And he based it all on solid science and some common sense?

    He was fired immediately after, right?

  • Not News (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Nikola Tesla and You (1490547) on Sunday August 30, 2009 @09:45PM (#29256305)
    Buildings cause the same problem; anyone familiar with coherence and/or constructive and destructive interference of electromagnetic waves (or any other type of other wave) would say "No sh*t, Sherlock!"

For every bloke who makes his mark, there's half a dozen waiting to rub it out. -- Andy Capp

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