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Why is the wind farm radar problem difficult to solve?

Why is the wind farm radar problem difficult to solve?
October 13, 2014 Jan Georgopoulos

The problem has had many people frustrated for over 10 years.  Attempts at solutions have been made from aviation stakeholders, wind farm developers, investors, planners and governmental agencies. However, up to date there has not been a single fix that has managed to completely solve it. Just why is that?

A bit of background…

If we were to look at it as a simple mathematical problem, there are three key variables: radar, wind turbines and radar operator judgement.

Radar operation is well understood by the aviation industry. However:

  • There are different radar types that can be affected
  • Each radar type can have different technology
  • Different radar types are affected in different ways technically and operationally

Let’s look for instance most common radar types that are affected by wind turbines:

  • Air Traffic Control Primary Surveillance Radar (Civil)
  • En-Route Primary Surveillance Radar (Civil)
  • Air Traffic Control Primary Surveillance Radar (Military)
  • Secondary Surveillance Radar
  • Precision Approach Radar (Military)
  • Weather (Meteorological) Radar

Wind turbine developments can be comprised of single or multiple turbines, different heights, different turbine designs (i.e. horizontal vs vertical axis), and different materials used affecting the Radar Cross Section (stealth blades vs fibber glass) among other.

Each radar operator can have a different view of the wind turbine radar interference problem whilst this opinion may vary in time.

Trying to put it all together:

Putting all the wind turbine radar variables together

Radar x Wind Turbines x Radar Operator = A multivariable problem which cannot be boxed into one solution fits all. Hence, it is more likely that specific solutions for certain cases will be found but due to the overall complexity these may not always apply to all cases.

What is more likely to happen?

The founder of Pager Power, Mike Watson, was first approached to develop software for the wind farm radar problem in 2002. After working on this problem for 12 years, in 9 countries, and for 100s of wind farms we have seen numerous solutions being brought forward. Certain solutions worked in specific cases but up to date the problem is more complicated than ever.

Technological solutions to the wind farm radar problem currently exist and more are likely to be found. However, due to the problem complexity it is more likely that solutions will apply to certain cases and it is unlikely that there would be a one solution fits all.

As radar equipment is getting older it is likely that new replacing radar will be better equipped to deal with wind turbine interference. However, these will also be more sensitive and they may be able to detect turbines at greater distances.

What do you think will happen?

image accrediation:Nice talk by @wycats on hard problems and complexity in open source communities” by jm3 on Flickr / CCBY / Image cropped from original.

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