Following a missed deadline, and in response to a lawsuit
from Sierra Club, the Defense Department released their Congressionally mandated study on national security impacts of windmills.
“The good news is that there is nothing in the report to prevent the
construction of new windmills from proceeding as long as proper siting and
mitigation measures are taken,” said Dave Hamilton, Director of Sierra
Club's Global Warming and Energy Program. “Unfortunately, the Department
of Defense's report fails to answer its own questions about the
effectiveness of mitigation measures, and thus is not authoritative,”
The DOD report calls for additional research and development to improve methods to mitigate windmills' impact. While the report appears to downplay the effectiveness of current mitigation measures, it importantly concludes that efforts must be taken “to allow for construction of wind turbines while maintaining defense readiness capabilities.”
“The Sierra Club will hold DOD to its word that windfarms with potential
impacts on radar will be reviewed to find ways to make them work–not to
shut them down,” said Kristin Henry, Staff Attorney for the Sierra Club.
“With proper siting, windfarms and military readiness can clearly
“Our collective ability to solve this problem has been borne out by the
fact that 614 new turbines that will generate more than 1000 MW have been
cleared to move forward since the original FAA alert,” said Hamilton.
Background: In June, the Sierra Club filed suit against Donald Rumsfeld and the U.S. Department of Defense for creating a virtual moratorium on the construction
of new wind power plants by failing to complete a congressionally mandated study of windmills' impact on radar. In the meantime, DOD, Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Aviation Administration had halted wind farm construction “within radar line of sight” of any military radar–which had effectively stopped project construction in many places across the U.S.
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, claimed that the Department of Defense violated the Administrative Procedure Act and will seek to “compel agency action unlawfully withheld or unreasonably delayed.” 5 U.S.C. § 706(1). The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006 contained a
last-minute amendment, inserted by Senator John Warner of Virginia, requiring Donald Rumsfeld and DOD to complete a study on the effect of windmills on military readiness and the operation of military radar installations by May 8, 2006.
In order to operate and construct a windmill in the U.S., an energy developer must obtain a notice from the FAA stating that the installation is not a hazard to air navigation. The Federal Aviation Administration is
interpreting DOD's “Interim Windmill Policy” to mean that it cannot approve any wind projects “within radar line of sight.” Instead, the agency has been issuing “Notices of Presumptive Hazard,” which decline to provide the required notice until more information is obtained regarding possible interference with military radar installations. Since much of the nation and almost all of the Midwest is “within radar line of sight,” this policy
has a sweeping effect and has essentially created a de facto moratorium on new wind power projects.
Federal officials have declined to reveal how many wind projects have been blocked from construction, but, according to media reports, at least 15 wind farm proposals in the Midwest have been shut down so far. The list of stalled projects includes one outside Bloomington, Illinois, which would have been the nation's largest source of wind energy, generating enough electricity to power 120,000 homes in the Chicago area. Coal and natural
gas will likely replace the lost wind generation, resulting in higher energy costs and increased soot, smog and global warming pollution.
On June 2, 2006, Senators Russ Feingold, Dick Durbin, Herb Kohl, Kent Conrad, Byron Dorgan, and Barack Obama wrote a letter to the Department of Defense and the Federal Aviation Administration requesting that they stop
unnecessarily obstructing the construction of clean, renewable energy sources.
Wind energy is the fastest-growing source of power on the planet. Already, wind turbines in this country produce enough electricity to meet the needs of more than 1 million households. A single modern wind turbine can produce enough power to meet the annual electricity
needs of 500 average homes.