While companies from the U.K. have reportedly begun testing a wind turbine blade that can absorb radar signals, wider adoption of this technology in the U.S. is still a ways off.
Defense firm Qinetiq and turbine manufacturing firm Vestas are developing so-called stealth turbines, with the same radar-absorbing materials and coatings used to make Stealth Bombers invisible to radar. Conventional wind turbines can confuse aviation radar signals, making aircraft in wind farms' vicinities difficult to track.
The results of Qinetiq and Vestas' five-year testing effort is expected to help U.K. wind farm projects that are currently on hold because of radar concerns.
The project, partly-funded by the U.K.'s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, recently saw a full-scale 44-meter prototype turbine blade fitted at a wind farm in Norfolk, England.
‘It is exciting to see the advances in 'stealthy blades' and other technologies coming out of the U.K. to reduce effects of wind turbines on radar systems,’ says Laurie Jodziewicz, manager of siting policy at the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). ‘However, testing and verification will be needed in the U.S. before these techniques can be used here,’ she adds. ‘We have different types of radar systems and many different government agencies operating those systems that will need to confirm these methods work.’
According to Jodziewicz, AWEA is looking to the U.K. model of an industry-government partnership. ‘A memorandum of understanding between the British Wind Energy Association and the British government is something we would like to adapt for use in the U.S.,’ she says.
Collaboration, she notes, is key.
‘While it is not always easy to work together, collaboration among parties is necessary to develop solutions that work for everyone,’ Jodziewicz states. ‘I expect we will see new mitigation techniques and technologies coming out over the next few years as the research is done, the methods are tested and all parties can verify their usefulness.’