FAA Signs Off On Cape Wind
By: Michael C. Bailey
The good news keeps coming for the Cape Cod Wind Farm, which this week received a crucial approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
On Monday the FAA issued a “determination of no hazard” for the wind farm, which indicates that the 440-foot-tall turbines would not pose a risk to air traffic, assuming the developers implement the proper safeguards such as flashing hazard lights.
“This aeronautical study revealed that the structure would have no substantial adverse effect on the safe and efficient utilization of the navigable airspace by aircraft or on the operation of air navigation facilities,” the FAA stated in its nine-page ruling.
The study “considered and analyzed the impact on existing and proposed arrival, departure, and en route procedures for aircraft operating under both visual flight rules and instrument flight rules; the impact on all existing and planned public-use airports, military airports and aeronautical facilities; and the cumulative impact resulting from the studied structure when combined with the impact of other existing or proposed structures.”
Cape Wind must also pay $1.5 million to help modify air traffic control radar systems at Otis Air National Guard Base, and place another $15 million in escrow for a two-year period in case the initial modifications prove insufficient and more are required.
“We are pleased the FAA has approved Cape Wind so that we can get to work on building America’s first offshore wind farm that will create jobs, increase energy independence and contribute to a healthier environment,” Mark Rodgers, director of communications for Cape Wind said in a press release.
He added that Cape Wind would comply with the mitigation requirement and provide Otis with funding for radar modification.
The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound blasted the FAA for the decision, claiming the federal agency issued its determination in defiance of concerns from pilots, airline companies, and airport commissions.
In a press release entitled “FAA Favors Cape Wind Over Public Safety,” Alliance President and CEO Audra Parker said the decision was “entirely political…federal agencies such as the Minerals Management Service (MMS) and the FAA should not be the ‘rubber stamps’ for the energy industry – not when lives are at stake. We are prepared to file a petition seeking review of these determinations.”
The Alliance claimed that the FAA itself admitted within its approval that “each of the 130 wind turbines were identified as having an adverse effect on the use of air navigation facilities or navigable airspace” and that proposed mitigation might not resolve the problem.
However, the Alliance did not fully quote the report, which went on to explain that the negative impacts could indeed be effectively mitigated.
According to the FAA the turbines, once determined to have an adverse impact on navigation, were subjected to further study under Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR), Part 77, Subpart D, “Aeronautical Studies of Effect of Proposed Construction on Navigable Airspace.”
The FAA reviewed external analyses conducted by stakeholders on their own as part of its analysis, and found that the turbines could create false readings and clutter on primary search radar systems operating within two nautical miles, i.e., aircraft conducting search and rescue operations.
Land-based radar systems in Truro and Nantucket would not be so affected, the FAA said, adding that the Otis radar system was the most vulnerable to clutter, distortion, and false readings, and this issue is what led to the mitigation requirement.
The FAA said the Otis system “in its current configuration…has no effective means of mitigating clutter created by wind farms” and could require two rounds of extensive upgrades to effectively mitigate the problem. The initial $1.5 million provided by Cape Wind would cover the cost of re-optimizing the system and, if that proved insufficient, the remaining $15 million would be available to pay for the additional upgrades.
“With this agreement and the re-optimization/modification of the radar systems at [Nantucket] and [Otis], the FAA believes that there will not be a significant adverse effect to radar service in Nantucket Sound,” the report stated.
Formal challenges must be filed with the FAA by June 16. Petitions must contain a full statement of the basis upon which it is made and must be submitted in triplicate to: Manager, Airspace and Rules Division - Room 423, Federal Aviation Administration, 800 Independence Avenue, Washington, D.C. 20591.
If no substantial challenge comes forward, the FAA determination will be finalized on June 26.
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