More notes from AWEA’s Siting Workshop: Day 2

SEATTLE–Wind is on the radar screen these days, and not necessarily in a good sense. The opening segment today at AWEA’s Project Siting Workshop here centered on the fact that on radar screens, wind farms masquerade as thunderstorms. This is disconcerting not only to weather forecasters, but also to those who depend on radar to keep track of commercial aircraft (the Federal Aviation Agency, FAA), and keep an eye out for the bad guys (the Department of Defense, DOD).

Luckily, for most problems there are solutions, and after representatives of NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which monitors weather), the FAA and DOD explained the technical aspects of the issue, session moderator Stu Webster, Manager of permitting for Clipper Windpower, explained efforts underway in the industry through AWEA to come together with the government agencies to “mitigate” the impact. Webster also noted that the U.S. effort is modeled after successful cooperation among all parties involved in Great Britain.

Thousands of people live near wind farms without complaints. But some residents have complained, and since sound is often regulated at a local level, community acceptance is essential before a wind farm is developed. Panelist Mark Bastasch, of CH2M Hill, noted that the industry has to “provide clarity once and for all” on the sound question. That means, among other things, assembling an advisory panel to determine whether more research is needed. He also stated that developers should make sure that the community understands beforehand that “turbines can be heard.”

One of the final speakers, Robert Kahn, of Robert D. Kahn & Co., noted that he doesn’t “do” Power Point presentations, then proceeded to deliver perfect verbal bullet points on getting wind projects approved:
–You have to get the science right. He who has the best data wins.
–You have to send in lawyers and (hired) guns and money.
–You must reach accommodation with the (government) agencies. And you need to be prepared to mitigate where appropriate.
–If you get those steps right, your chances for success are vastly improved.

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