Research to make sure that future offshore wind farms do not interfere with crucial military communications is underway following a £2 million grant from the UK Government.

Contracts have been awarded to Thales, QinetiQ, Saab, TWI and Plextek DTS to fast-track their ideas for technologies that could mitigate the impact of wind farms on the UK’s air defense radar system.

According to the Ministry of Defence:

“By guaranteeing essential defense communications are not affected, more wind farms can be built, creating a greener and more technologically sustainable Britain.”

The MoD’s Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) is spearheading the innovation competition on behalf of the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the Royal Air Force, and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl).

Defence Minister Jeremy Quin, said:

“We want more offshore wind farms to help deliver our ambitious environmental agenda while retaining the protection that radar provides. This is a great step forward in achieving this goal and shows Defence’s determination to support sustainability and deliver our green goals for Britain.”

Minister for Energy and Clean Growth, Kwasi Kwarteng, said:

“The continued growth of offshore wind is a national success story and this funding will ensure we continue to build bigger and more advanced projects vital to tackling climate change. The UK’s innovative spirit is second to none, which is why we are drawing from all areas of the country’s expertise to drive forward our incredible renewable energy fleet.”

DASA say they launched the Windfarm Mitigation for UK Air Defence competition in March, to find innovative solutions that lessen the impact off-shore wind turbines could have on military and civilian radar systems.

Wing Commander Helena Ramsden, Air Capability Strategy, Air Command, said:

“This is a positive first step in getting cutting-edge innovation off the ground to harness the best technology from the brightest minds in the country. We are committed to keeping the skies above the UK safe from aerial threats whilst accelerating crucial work to allow the nation to do more to combat climate change.”

The following proposals have also been mentioned:

  • Thales, in collaboration with the University of Birmingham and SMEs, will develop surveillance to mitigate wind farm ‘clutter’, whereas Saab is developing a radar mitigation system using Artificial Intelligence and Doppler filtering.
  • QinetiQ is developing two proposals — the first approach uses new materials to stop the radar from being distorted. Their second proposal will develop radar-absorbing materials that can be put on off-shore wind turbines to limit interference.
  • TWI will develop novel methods for creating conductive coating for turbine blades that adsorb radar in partnership with the University of Exeter’s Centre for Metamaterial Research and Innovation. Finally, Plextek DTS is developing techniques to remove the effects wind farms have on radar data.

Robert Hammond-Smith, DASA delivery manager, said:

“This competition will not only help us meet our green energy needs but it will also help boost UK prosperity, entrepreneurs and innovators by investing in their potentially game-changing technology. DASA is proud to be working closely with BEIS, the RAF and Dstl to lead this important work which could transform the UK’s approach to offshore wind power generation.”

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Andrew Crisp

Why not as an interim step simply position remotely monitored radar station beyond the wind farm – using Aesa radar (ie flat plate) couldn’t we just mount it on a turbine stand ?

Watcherzero

Technical and feasibility issues. Range, fighter radars have a range of around a hundred or so km, ship radars several hundred whereas ground stations positioned at altitude have a range up to a couple of thousand. Power, requires an awful lot of electricity, several MW. Data, the radars produce an insane amount of raw data that needs to be processed. You would either have to install processing equipment as well (in effect you might as well just mount it on a ship for ease of access and maintenance instead) or you run a dedicated high bandwidth fibre optic cable all… Read more »

Andrew Crisp

Well the radar station on remote Scotland is entirely remote so connectivity must be achievable. Height I get the point but not all our coastal radars were up a mountain. Power might be an issue but then it’s sitting next to a wind farm 🙂 slightly tongue in cheek reply

Andrew Crisp

Typically it’s the curve of the earth that limits radar range which is why height matters and the bigger the radar – range terms more power required but unless it’s an over horizon radar I bet the distance one based on a pole in North Sea vs land wouldn’t be hugely different

Joe16

Most wind farms already run high bandwidth data connections back to shore, it wouldn’t be out of the question to run another one at the same time. The newer 5+ MW turbines are really very big, with very heavy nacelles on top of a 100 m tower. I think they’d likely be able to take a pretty sizeable AESA array. Even if not, many wind farms include a jacket leg structure used to take the transformers for distribution back to shore, there’s no reason why they couldn’t put another one on the far edge of the field. Wind farms do… Read more »

Daveyb

It has been thought of before, but using disused oil/gas platforms. The advantage of the platform is the size. You can mount a much larger antenna (more power + greater receiver sensitivity) on the “rig”. This was plan a devised in the 80’s towards the end of the Cold War. It was binned after the ending of the cold war, but the concept would still be valid today, except the signal processing could be done remotely. Today, you would use two different frequency band radars. If you use the lower end of the L band or the UHF band. The… Read more »

Watcherzero

Towing a decommissioned but still structurally sound oil rig there and mounting it may be the best approach though you likely would want a token garrison of a dozen or so to negate the risk of foreign special forces raiding it for intel.

I think the cheaper and less risky approach might be the idea of a reference signal being broadcast from the edge of the field so that the shore based radar can calculate a noise filter.

Daveyb

The main issue with wind turbines is that they generate a doppler return when illuminated by a radar. Not only that, they also move in azimuth to always be pointing into the wind. So not only does the signal looks like it is moving, but it also varies in amplitude. This means for pulse doppler radars in particular, the signal becomes quite confusing. For radars using frequency modulated interrupted carrier wave (FMICW) it is a problem, but can be overcome by processing. The processing problem is that moving target algorithms use doppler shift comparison to indicate a moving target amongst… Read more »