Can wind turbines blow away Tri-State weather warnings?

Local News

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) – When clouds turn dark and storm sirens blare, Doppler radar keeps spinning. It tells meteorologists what’s happening in the center of severe storms.

Everyone in the Tri-State, including the Eyewitness News weather team, relies on Doppler to look ahead and issue warnings. But what if there was something blocking the eye in the sky?

When it comes to turbines, there is never enough wind. But there is some worry about a proposed E.ON Energy wind farm in Posey and Gibson counties.  There is fear it could blow away early weather warnings.

If the farm is built, USI Physics Professor, Dr. Kent Scheller believes it could get tougher to see through the noise to deliver lifesaving information.

“It can mask existing weather systems including tornadoes,” he said.

As far doppler is concerned, turbines are just another large moving object with fast-moving air, so it often shows up as a small severe storm even when nothing is there.

The local Doppler radar which serves the Tri-State stands in a field in Owensville, Ind. It gives low-level coverage other radars in Louisville and Paducah can’t see.

The National Weather Service recommends wind farms be built outside a 30-mile radius of its radars. Most of the proposed E.ON farm is within 10 miles of the Doppler in Owensville.

Scheller thinks it could potentially compromise radar signal to Henderson, Newburgh, Boonville, and Fairfield. Most meteorologists understand false returns, but Scheller believes it could cause a gaping hole in the radar coverage.

“Because we don’t believe our signal, well that’s a problem,” Scheller said. “That’s a problem when a scientist doesn’t have the data that they’re supposed to have.”

There is no technology available to filter out noise from turbines.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has a FAQ page about the effects of turbines on radar.

Officials with E.ON say they work with the National Weather Service. The company is aware of concerns, but they don’t yet have a plan.

“We understand the proximity to and concern over radar interference and will consult and coordinate with the appropriate weather agencies as part of our development process to properly site, design and operate the project so as to avoid or minimize any potential interference to Radar operations.  E.ON is committed to protecting the communities which host our projects and where our employees live and work. We work closely with NOAA, NWS, and other government agencies to ensure our projects present as little impact as possible on their operations.”

Karsen Rumpf – E.ON Wind Development Manager

Scheller says turbines inside 10 miles of a Doppler can send mixed signals more than 25 miles out.

“You put it far away, it hardly sees it. But you bring it in within 10 miles, now it’s going to cut out a cone,” he added. “The closer that wind farm is to the Doppler radar, the wider that cone is. That’s the problem.”

Eyewitness News has its own Doppler radar at the station in Henderson, Ky. If the wind farm is built, there would be no effect on it.

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This story was originally published on August 23, 2019

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