In France, Generals Block Wind Farms for Fear of Jamming Radar

As many as 6,000 megawatts of wind power may be blocked from development by France’s military and national weather service, which say they interfere with radar surveillance, a developers’ lobby said.

Rules enforced by the Defense Ministry to safeguard French airspace and guidelines imposed by state forecaster Meteo France for radar used to monitor weather patterns are stricter than in other countries and may become even tougher, according to Syndicat des Energies Renouvelables, representing renewable-energy companies. The military is also seeking to restrict development on swathes of land reserved for training.

“It’s a real problem,” said Marion Lettry, deputy director of the industry group. She was speaking on the sidelines of a renewables-energy conference in Paris this week. Talks with the authorities are ongoing, she said.

France plans to have 19,000 megawatts of wind power by 2020 from 9,120 megawatts at the end of last year. The goal is considered ambitious as rates of new installations slow in part because of local opposition. French industry representatives and politicians such as Greens lawmaker Denis Baupin have estimated it takes about eight years to develop a wind farm in France compared with four in Germany.

“France’s national defense aims to be able to detect threats at all times,” Colonel Thierry Raymond of the military air traffic directorate said at the conference Wednesday. The force is revising rules about building near radar zones and developing the means to simulate potential interference from wind turbines, he said.

Radar Sites

Any evidence that France places more restrictions on wind-turbine development than other countries may stem from the country’s military doctrine, he said. Turbines are also getting bigger and so can cause more disruptions to radar installations.

France has 50 military radar sites spread across the mainland and another 25 along its coasts while Meteo France has 28 installations, according to presentations at the conference. Plans for wind farms within 30 kilometers (19 miles) of radar can be blocked.

Wind energy turbines erected as far as 40 kilometers away can hinder weather radar data-gathering, making it erratic and unreliable, according to Christophe Maocec, director of strategy at Meteo France.

Wind-park operators are counting on research into so-called stealth blades that may allow deployment near defense sites, civilian airports and weather stations, Lettry said.

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