The U.S. Navy does not plan to shut down a controversial wind farm in North Carolina because of concerns it would interfere with a nearby radar facility.
The clarification by the Navy comes after a group of state legislators sent a letter to President Donald Trump's nominee for U.S. Department of Homeland Security Gen. John Kelly. It called for the Avangrid Inc. and Iberdrola Energy Amazon Wind Farm US East in Pasquotank County, N.C., to be shut down before it even begins operating.
The lawmakers who signed the letter, including Republican state Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown, and nine other lawmakers, said their concerns were due to a "relocatable over the horizon radar," or ROTHR, receiver at the Navy's Northwest Annex in Chesapeake, Va. The letter called the issue an "incredibly important time-sensitive homeland security matter."
The lawmakers claimed a 2012 MIT government-funded study found that wind farms within 28 miles of a ROTHR receiver would "seriously degrade the ROTHR's operational performance." According to the letter, all of the turbines built for the Amazon wind farm are within the 28 mile radius, and are larger than the ones used the in the study and therefore should be separated by an even further radius.
The project should be shut down unless major changes are made, the lawmakers said.
Navy spokesperson Katisha Draughn-Fraguada said the department had not reached out to the North Carolina legislature to communicate concerns about the wind farm and plans to proceed with the project.
"The Navy and [Department of Defense] are working with wind energy developers on ensuring compatibility with the ROTHR so it can meet its missions/operations with proposed wind energy developments in eastern North Carolina," Draughn-Fraguada said in an email.
Draughn-Fraguada explained that the ROTHR system "provides critical surveillance capability to support United States Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) Counter Narco-Terrorism (CNT) mission." She added that the Navy and Navy-established mitigation response teams coordinated with Avangrid/Iberdrola to ensure that the project would not interfere with the mission of the ROTHR.
Draughn-Fraguada also noted that in 2014, MIT modeled the Amazon windfarm and determined 104 turbines at the distances proposed from the ROTHR site would be acceptable. The developer also chose a specific wind turbine with the ROTHR facility in mind, which was also modeled by MIT and given the go-ahead.
MIT will conduct additional field measurements following completion of construction, which will be utilized to validate the modelling results, Draughn-Fraguada said. Additionally, the Navy plans to conduct post-construction testing of the wind farm.
The Defense Department, Navy and Iberdrola signed a memorandum of agreement in November 2014 allowing the development of only 104 turbines out of 150 proposed, Draughn-Fraguada noted. Some 208 MW of the 300 MW wind farm is expected to be online sometime in January, according to S&P Global data.