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Monday, April 13, 2009

Turbine interference "just a minor blip"

From an article by Scott Williams in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

The National Weather Service has issued a new kind of warning because of a Dodge County wind farm that is disrupting the agency's ability to monitor storms in southeastern Wisconsin.

The wind farm's giant turbines - each as wide as a football field and as tall as a 20-story building - are sending false storm signals to the government's weather radar system.

Weather service officials say they see no significant public safety threat, although they say the wind farm has caused radar interference and could confuse some storm watchers.

Meteorologist Marc Kavinsky said the approaching summer storm season will be the federal agency's first opportunity to gauge the wind farm's full impact.

"It'll be interesting," he said. "I'm hoping the effects will be minimal."

Located just outside the Dodge County community of Iron Ridge, the wind farm includes 36 turbines that began operating over the past few months, generating electricity for several surrounding communities. . . .

Weather service officials said they began to notice the problem almost immediately after the Dodge County wind farm began operating.

According to a report on the agency's Web site, the spinning wind turbines have presented "persistent interference" that mimics storm systems and could "negatively impact warning effectiveness" when real storms move into the area.

Rusty Kapela, the agency's warning coordinator meteorologist, said officials have tried to adjust the radar system to block out the wind farm readings.

But because it affects such a small geographic area and is easily recognized by the weather service's trained experts, Kapela said, the situation is not a significant problem. It was posted on the Web site only as an informational report for the general public, he said.

"It's just interesting science stuff," he said. "In the grand scheme of things, it's just a minor blip."

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