by Kirk Moore, National Fisherman

The push to build big ocean wind turbine arrays off the U.S. East Coast could bring problems for marine vessel radar, requiring new planning to ensure wind power and other maritime operators can safely operate together, according to a long-anticipated report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

The Biden administration has set a goal to build out 30 gigawatts of offshore wind power capacity by 2030. It is an ambitious endpoint – even wind power advocates say the U.S. plans could be slowed by the limited availability of wind turbine installation vessels.

But the National Academies report says change is needed now to ensure vessels can operate safely around the wind turbine generators, or WTGs, envisioned by the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and wind developers.

“Marine vessel radars are not presently optimized to operate in a wind turbine generator environment,” the report states upfront. “Marine wind turbine generators are very large structures, with towers on the order of several hundred meters and blade lengths exceeding 100 meters. Being heavily composed of steel, the nominal wind turbine generator structure has a large radar cross-section.”

With the potential for building hundreds of turbines on the East Coast outer continental shelf, “the combination of high radar reflectivity and vast number of wind turbine generators leads to many strong reflected signals entering the radar receiver, further complicated by other factors, such as multipath and range ambiguous returns,” the report says. “In addition, blade motion generates aspect-dependent, Doppler-spread interference. These various effects, left unresolved, combine to complicate navigation decision-making.”

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