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New research could solve wind and radar problem

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New research that could solve the problem of radar interference from wind turbines starts today. Energy and climate change secretary Ed Miliband announced the £5.15m pound research in his speech to the British Wind Energy Association conference today.

The £5.15m fund is made up of £1.6m from wind companies, £2m from the Crown Estate and £1.55m from DECC.

Aviation radar objections are one of the largest causes of wind planning applications being rejected or withdrawn in the UK. There are currently objections to over 5GW of wind farms that are in the planning system by NATS, (formerly National Air Traffic Services).

Miliband said "I know that delays in the planning process can cause uncertainty and be a barrier to investment in renewables and there are specific issues in connection with aviation and radar that need to be addressed. This R & D project could resolve wind impacts on radar in the UK and potentially release 5 gigawatts of wind power.

"By 2020, around a third of UK electricity needs to be from renewables, the bulk of that coming from wind. We are making very good progress – it took the UK 14 years to build our first 1 gigawatt of wind and we've now passed the 4 gigawatt mark, with the last gigawatt added in just a year."

Aviation objections are currently holding up over 5GW of wind energy in the planning system and a further 5.5GW in early stages of development.

A number of these projects have been granted consent by DECC, the Scottish Executive and local planning authorities on the proviso that a solution to their potential radar interference is implemented. If the research is successful then these conditions could be lifted, allowing these projects to start construction.

Any solution to the problem will mean a much swifter and more certain planning process for future wind projects.

NATS director for development and strategy, Ian Hall, said: "NATS is delighted to be at the centre of a project to support the UK's renewable energy target and we welcome the funding to enable us to continue our work in this sector. The investment is a significant step and our experts will work with Raytheon to examine the potential of this approach."

Rob Hastings, director of marine estate at The Crown Estate, said: "Offshore wind energy generation is starting to mature, as the landowner of the seabed we are activity supporting this new industry, demonstrated today by this project which forms part of our enabling actions commitment to accelerate and de-risk the development of Round 3. This is another step towards the successful delivery of 40GW by 2020, that industry has put on the table."

This is the first industry-wide contract to be placed under the Aviation Memorandum of Understanding, which was signed between DECC, BWEA, NATS En Route, CAA, DfT and MoD in June 2008.

The research will conclude in April 2011. It will be conducted by a team of NATS technical experts overseeing Raytheon's investigations.

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