If the Biden administration’s net zero green new deal goals are even to be attempted, offshore wind is the key. Particularly for the states in the northeastern United States (which unlike West Texas, don’t have miles and miles of empty prairies), green dreams must go offshore.
But as Thomas Sowell tells us, there are no solutions – there are only tradeoffs. And the tradeoffs of offshore wind include a degraded early warning radar system, limits to search-and-rescue missions due to radar interference, and problems with airport radar.
What’s more, the Department of Defense and other federal agencies have warned about these problems for years – and been ignored. Radar blindness is just one of the tradeoffs the Biden administration is willing to accept in the name of net zero – along with the deaths of critically endangered North Atlantic right whales, the decimation of the fishing industry and the leaking of toxic chemicals into our waters.
“Waters off the coasts of North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and Delaware are prime real estate for wind farms because they are relatively shallow,” a Wall Street Journal editorial notes. “But they are also training grounds for the Navy and Air Force, including North Carolina’s Dare County bombing range.”
Even more disturbing were warnings from the Pentagon about the nation’s defensive radar systems, including the Air Route Surveillance Radars (ARSR).
“The ARSR-4 is a long range, L-band radar that is used by the FAA and DoD to monitor airspace on and around the U.S. border,” a Bureau of Ocean Energy Management report from 2020 notes. “…In addition to the detection degradation, there will be many false targets… This can allow aircraft to hide within these false targets, making detection of an aircraft difficult while over the wind farm.”
Likewise, green dreams will result in degraded capabilities of another kind of radar, high frequency (HF).
“Wind turbines interfere with HF-radar (HFR) measurements,” the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management acknowledged in 2021. “These measurements are used to produce data products such as surface currents, waves, winds, drifter simulations, and tsunami and vessel detections – which in turn have both scientific and practical applications.”
Those applications include search-and-rescue missions and oil spill response.
Finally, offshore wind interferes with the kind of radar air traffic controllers rely upon. As an Energy Department report from 2020 shows, airport radar systems “were not designed to cope with wind turbine clutter… Unlike some ARSR systems, existing ASR systems do not incorporate sea clutter processing which would alter performance in the off shore versus terrestrial case.”
The federal government has known about these issues for years.
A 2013 report warns, “Wind turbines sometimes present a source of interference with our nation’s radars. The effects of this wind turbine interference are of concern to flight safety, homeland security, national defense, and protection of life and property from weather events (weather radar, however, were not evaluated as part of the program).”
Of course, the federal departments objecting to offshore wind say they’re not against it – they say they’re looking for ways to mitigate the effect of turbines on radar. What else would we expect from Biden’s “whole of government” approach to on affordable, reliable energy.
In fact, the political pressure to implement offshore wind has been intense. The Interior Department’s “Smart from the Start” program fast-tracks offshore wind development, improperly granting permissions allowing foreign-owned energy companies to move forward despite the harms to our safety, our domestic industries and our environment.
As the WSJ points out, “National defense appears to have been a fifth or sixth thought for Interior, which is in charge of offshore wind leases in federal waters.”
This is unacceptable. Putting Americans in danger is no tradeoff worth making.