Signal Interference from Turbine Towers

Wind turbines, like all structures, can interfere with communication or radar signals when these signals are interrupted by the turbine’s tower or blades. During the project development phase, wind developers retain companies with expertise in modeling these signals to assess and mitigate potential problems.

Relocating some of the planned turbines is one approach to mitigating signal interference. Radar interference can often be mitigated by working with the Department of Defense and the Federal Aviation Administration to determine how to change turbine heights, location, or sizes. Making hardware or software alterations to radar stations is another option.

Radar, TV, and Radio Signal Interference

Wind turbines can cause electromagnetic interference and affect TV and radio reception. Electromagnetic interference can be caused by near-field effects, diffraction, or reflection and scattering. Such interference can typically be mitigated by using satellite TV or wireless cable TV.

Although instances of TV or radio interference are infrequent and typically straightforward to mitigate, the interaction of wind turbines and navigational or defense radar signals is the subject of considerable recent attention.

Interference with Navigational and Defense Radar

Wind developers must address navigational and defense radar interference. In the majority of cases, interference is either not present, is not deemed significant, or can be readily mitigated. Understanding the extent of a wind installation’s radar interference potential and developing mitigation techniques can be more complicated than for other forms of potential interference, as it depends on turbine height, rotor-sweep area, blade rotation speed, and the landscape surrounding a wind energy project. Learn more at the Department of Defense Siting Clearinghouse, the Department of Defense Preliminary Screening Tool, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration NEXRAD Screening Tool.

Types of Interference

Wind turbines, like other large, metallic structures—such as buildings, TV towers, and satellite dishes—are radar reflectors, and as such, all of these types of structures have the potential to cause radar interference if placed in sensitive locations. There are two types of interference:

  • Direct interference happens with high reflectivity and reduces radar sensitivity, sometimes producing false images (“ghosting”) or shadow areas (“dead zones”)
  • Doppler interference creates false targets and impacts airborne and fixed radar.

Tools and Practices

Tools and practices are available to manage or mitigate the potential impact of wind turbine interference on signal interference, including the following:

  • Conducting studies to ensure that the wind farm location is not in an area of high radar activity. Studies should also analyze the potential interference effects of the individual turbines and the wind project as a whole
  • Coating equipment with absorbent or reflective materials to minimize the turbine’s radar signature
  • Starting early communications between wind developers and the potentially affected federal agencies, such as the Department of Defense and the Federal Aviation Administration, to mitigate potential radar interference
  • Installing post-processors or adding hardware (such as processors, transmitters, or receivers)
  • Deploying extra radars to cover the shadow spots
  • Relocating radar installations to accommodate the new wind farms
  • Altering air traffic routes around new wind farms.

Even with these mitigation methods, in some proposed locations wind turbines will cause disruptive radar interference. In such cases, wind development would likely be unable to proceed at the proposed site.