By Stephen Naysmith
Air passengers might worry about bird strikes, or even drones disrupting
their flights, but now planes taking off and landing from Glasgow Airport
have been made safer – from the threat of wind farms.
A high tech radar system installed at the airport is designed to ensure
wind farms in its vicinity do not cause problems for pilots and air traffic
controllers. While they might not appear an obvious concern, the height and
movement of wind turbines can have a disruptive impact on aircraft.
They can be detected on traditional radar screens, mimicking real aircraft
so readily that they have to be avoided by other planes, and can distract
air traffic controllers. As a result, the airport says, wind farms can have
a detrimental impact on the safety, efficiency and capacity of its local
But the airport’s new radar system, Terma SCANTER 4002, mitigates this
effect from turbines, and as a result will allow the development of the 26
turbine Kype Muir Wind Farm to go ahead near Strathaven, Lanarkshire. By
law the airport must be consulted on any wind farm development plans within
a 50 kilometre radius.
Britain’s largest onshore windfarm, Whitelee, south of Glasgow is nearer to
the airport, and while the airport has measures mitigate its impact, the
equipment is limited and was installed nearly two decades ago.
However a spokesman said the more advanced radar system could eliminate
concerns about turbines, effectively “removing” them from the air traffic
control picture on an individual basis. He said the airport must be sure
that any proposed wind farm development did not pose a risk to the nine
million-plus passengers using the airport every year, but the new system
should allow it to support both Kype Muir and other future proposals.
Glasgow Airport Managing Director Mark Johnston said: “For the last three
years, the Airport’s planning team has been worked extremely hard to
develop this wind turbine mitigation solution in what is a very complex and
safety critical environment. As well as resolving the issue with Kype Muir,
the mitigation may also have the potential to resolve issues with other
future wind farm proposals.”
The development was welcomed by Cabinet Secretary for Transport,
Infrastructure and Connectivity Michael Matheson who described it as “a
significant development for aviation safety.”
Meanwhile Paul Beat, General Manager for air traffic control company NATS
at Glasgow Airport, said: “We’re delighted to have worked with Glasgow
Airport, Banks Renewables and TERMA to deliver a solution that both
supports safe and efficient air traffic services, while also allowing this
important wind farm development to be built.”
Glasgow was one of the first airports in the world to deploy large scale
wind turbine mitigation in the form of infill radar, a spokesman said.
As a result, it has approved 90% of the 495 wind turbine applications it
received between October 2012 and August 2016. These projects have the
potential to generate more than 700MW of energy.