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Another Voice: Military bases have raised concerns about wind farms

By Daniel Engert

The recent Another Voice “Resolution contributes to wind farm misinformation” failed to contemplate the impact that Lighthouse Wind, a proposal of 70 industrial wind turbines at 620 feet or greater littering the towns of Somerset and Yates, will have on the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station.

In July, U.S. Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Jack Reed, D-R.I., drafted a bill to cause the examination of every military facility across the country to determine which will be shuttered through a Base Realignment and Closure process in 2019. Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station has been on the closure list in two previous BRAC proceedings.

Over the past several months, two branches of the U.S. military have spoken publicly, raising concerns about specific wind projects and problems with placing them near their military installations. For the military, it isn’t about a renewable energy policy; it’s about national security and mission readiness.

Army officials at Fort Drum near Watertown say industrial wind turbines near the post could put pilots at risk, negatively impacting instrument approaches and air traffic control, creating a potential “black hole” of visibility and producing false weather data. The turbines “would have an impact on radar as it increases clutter on the scope,” said base spokeswoman Julie Halpin.

In North Carolina, the Department of Defense has moved to halt an industrial wind turbine project based on concerns it would interfere with a bombing range and military radar.
At Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission claims 495-foot wind turbines “don’t provide enough clearance” for pilots whose training runs are as low as 500 feet. Flight instructor Adam Bergoo told NPR News there is a need to fly close to the ground. “That’s one of our military missions, to fly low-level …” He said wind turbines are blocking training routes.

The same thing is happening in Texas. The Department of the Navy has written to Texas Sen. John Cronyn, stating a new study has found wind turbines could hinder flight operations.

“The general conclusion of the study confirmed that primary radar detection may be significantly degraded in airspace immediately above wind farms and in some cases in areas beyond the windfarm,” wrote Deputy Assistant Secretary James B. Balocki.

It’s clear that base officials across the country are consistently opposing wind projects being sited near their military installations. They cannot risk negative impacts that will devalue the mission capabilities of their base, either now or in the future. They are fully aware of the fierce competition to survive a BRAC proceeding.

What’s at risk for Niagara and Erie counties? The air base employs 3,000 people with annual payroll exceeding $88 million. The regional economic impact is more than $143 million annually. Lighthouse Wind must get shut down now, Governor Cuomo.

Daniel Engert is supervisor in the Town of Somerset.

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