Environment Canada Testing Radar Software to Combat Wind Farm Clutter

By Clancy, Clare | The Canadian Press, August 10, 2014 | Go to article overview

Environment Canada Testing Radar Software to Combat Wind Farm Clutter


Clancy, Clare, The Canadian Press


Environment Canada testing radar software

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TORONTO - Environment Canada is preparing to roll out new radar technology in order to combat wind farm clutter, which clouds weather forecasts, misleads meteorologists and can even block radar signals.

Jim Young, who works at the agency's national radar program, said new software will be incorporated into Canada's radar system this fall in an effort to address the "contamination" caused by wind turbines.

"I certainly have very high hopes," he said, adding that Environment Canada has been concerned about wind farm clutter for years.

The agency uses Doppler radar to predict storms, but the movement of wind turbine propellers can mimic weather.

Young said accurate radar data relies on movement -- still objects including buildings, trees and towers are filtered out to allow for an analysis of the weather.

On its website, Environment Canada warns that the degradation of data can be "significantly misleading for forecasters under storm conditions."

Young said the disruption caused by wind farms is based on their proximity to radar sites.

"The closer you get, that clutter becomes larger and larger," he said.

In extreme circumstances, wind turbines can block radar scans, which Young compares to beams of light emanating from a flashlight.

"If you put a large obstruction in front of your flashlight, you are going to create a shadow behind it, where you can't see anything," he said, adding that the same thing can happen when scanning wind farms.

He said so far Environment Canada hasn't had to deal with full blockages.

"Environment Canada will be very concerned if any wind farms are built that close to a radar site," he said.

Young added that he has been working with research groups at McGill University and the University of Oklahoma on software for the past year.

The project will allow forecasters to better distinguish between weather and wind farms, but it still might not be enough in extreme weather, he said. …

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