Danish wind turbine manufacturer Vestas announced recently that it had successfully tested a new ‘stealth’ wind turbine near Prestwick Airport in Ayrshire, Scotland. This new turbine technology could see large areas of land previously deemed unsuitable for wind turbine development opened up to the renewable energy technology.
Currently wind turbines cannot be placed in areas near airports and military installations because the turbine blades interfere with radar. The interference is caused by radar signals reflecting off of turbine blades. These new blades, however, are coated with materials originally developed for stealth bombers, and as such have vastly reduced the level of interference caused by turbines. Vestas places this reduction at a level of 99% or 20 decibels compared to standard turbines. Crucially such modifications do not affect the the performance or appearance of turbines. The President of Vestas Technology, Research and Development, Finn Strom Madsen commentated that: “Our testing has demonstrated that we have successfully adopted military stealth technology to make Vestas wind turbines viable for placement in many locations that have been restricted by radar concerns. This is a critical step forward towards the commercialisation of stealth turbines and holds potential to open a significant number of wind power locations for Vestas customers.” However no timescale has yet been given for the commercial availability of this technology but Vestas has stated that this technology will not significantly increase the price of their turbines.
It has been estimated that radar issues are blocking around 20 gigawatts worth of planned turbines worldwide. In our work in Scotland we have encountered a large number of areas that are currently unusable by turbines due to the radar problem. Parts of Lothian, Ayrshire, Renfrewshire, and South and North Lanarkshire are all currently deemed to be no go areas. The development of such new technologies can then only help Scotland to achieve the ambitious renewable energy targets that have been set at multiple levels of government.