Wind turbines could affect weather forecasts

The nearly 200 wind turbines between Lowville and Barnes Corners provide a surreal image to the Tug Hill plateau, but they could also be interfering with weather forecasts. It's an ideal location for wind energy, a high plateau where the winds from Lake Ontario are nearly constant. But ten miles away is a doppler radar tower operated by the National Weather Service.

While doppler radar systems can be programmed to accommodate buildings, cell towers and other stationary objects, they become confused by the spinning blades of a wind turbine. The doppler systems are designed to detect air movement. According to CNYcentral Meteorologist Mike Brookins, doppler radar systems are so sensitive they can even detect the migration of birds.

Brookins says an ideal location for a wind turbine is often an ideal location for a doppler radar tower. So as the nation moves toward a greater reliance on wind energy, he says the problem could get worse. "It's going to make it more difficult for meteorologists to pick up certain things, hail, tornadoes even lake effect storms with the blockage of the radar." Brookins says.

The American Wind Energy Association is advising its members of the potential conflicts between wind turbines and doppler radar.