New technology to ensure future offshore windfarms do not affect the UK’s air defence radar system will be developed as part of a £2.0M (US$2.6M) innovation competition launched on 5 March 2020
Proposals for innovative solutions and advances in technology that alleviate the impact offshore wind turbines could have on military and civilian radar systems are being sought by the UK Ministry of Defence’s innovation hub, the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA).
DASA is leading the work on behalf of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Royal Air Force, and Defence Science and Technology Laboratory.
Defence Minister Jeremy Quin said, “Defence technology has a huge amount to offer the UK, including addressing the challenge of climate change.
“We have an incredible skills base in the UK and this initiative will harness the power of wind turbines while ensuring our air defence standards.”
RAF air command air capability development wing commander Helena Ramsden said, “We are investing in cutting-edge innovation and harnessing the best technology from the brightest minds in the country.
“This competition demonstrates our commitment to keeping the skies above the UK safe from aerial threats while accelerating crucial work to allow the nation to do more to combat climate change.”
DASA delivery manager Adam Moore said, “Crucial innovation like this is vital if we are to meet our renewable energy targets. This competition will not only help us meet our green energy needs but it will help boost UK prosperity, entrepreneurs and innovators by investing in their game-changing technology.”
Multiple proposals are expected to be funded with up to £2.0M (US$2.6M) available in total from the BEIS Energy Innovation Programme.
According to the project documentation, continued development of wind turbine sites has the potential to cause a number of negative effects on civil and military air traffic control and defence. “Offshore windfarms, when in the line of sight of radar, have a detrimental effect on Ministry of Defence’s primary surveillance radar capability used to deliver a recognised air picture for air defence.
“Radar returns from within radar line-of-sight wind turbines comprise reflections from both the static and moving elements, providing different challenges for the radar operator. While reflections from the stationary elements of wind turbines can be removed by utilising stationary clutter filters, the rotating turbine blades impart a Doppler shift on the reflection that cannot be easily removed.
“A number of recent trials have demonstrated the adverse impact this has on the UK’s air defence capability. The Doppler shift on ground radar returns mimics the signals of fast moving aircraft, curtailing the RAF’s ability to detect incoming, low flying, aircraft threats.
“Analysis of these trials has concluded that current mitigation methodologies including non-automatic initiation zones are insufficient to meet the agreed aviation specification. In addition, many of the mitigations applied to civilian radar systems cannot be applied to primary surveillance radar assets, in part due to the age and type of these assets.
“Air defence staff cannot rely on transponder data, standard flight paths, and standard flying heights of potential enemy aircraft who may intend to remain hidden. The detrimental effect of offshore windfarms will be exacerbated by the increasing size, number, and scale of future installations.”
The project document said that given these challenges, more than half of current windfarm developments are subject to objections from the aviation sector, civilian and military, preventing the development of radars within the line of sight of many air defence radar installations.
“With accelerated deployment of offshore windfarms needed to meet the goals set out in legislation, there is a clear need to mitigate the impact of wind turbines on radar and allow developments to go ahead. The Ministry of Defence’s objections to offshore wind facilities in radar line of sight are causing attrition in the deployment pipeline, which risks endangering the decarbonisation trajectory of the UK.”
Full details and scope of the competition can be found here.