NATS criticises £500m turbine project

Aviation firm, National Air Traffic Services (NATS), has raised concerns about a proposed wind farm near Prestwick Airport, claiming that the blades of wind turbines could create "clutter" on radar screens, endangering nearby aircraft.

The farm, which is being managed by Scottish and Southern Energy Renewables (SSE), will be located 35 miles east of Prestwick, on either side of the M74 motorway.

SSE wants to build 152 turbines on the site, with a view to infusing the Scottish power grid with an extra 548 megawatts of electricity, enough to keep toasters running in 320,000 homes.

However, the development could ‘blind’ NATS’ traffic tower at Prestwick Airport to approaching aircraft. The aviation firm appears to be particularly concerned about light planes, which have smaller radar signatures, and are more likely to be hidden beneath other radar objects, such as windmill blades.

Criticism from NATS appears to have taken SSE by surprise. The energy firm has “miscalculated the impact” that the windmills could have on Scottish aviation, according to local newspaper, the Evening Times, prompting organisers to delay the project for up to a year and a half.

A statement on the NATS website reads, “Wind farms can degrade the performance of voice communications facilities and en-route navigation aids.” To compensate, the company has been given 18 months to build a new traffic tower in Glasgow, which should counteract any negative effects that the wind farm has on radars.

NATS regularly assesses the impact of near-airport developments on aviation through a specialist department known as NERL (NATS En Route PLC).

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