GIBSON CO., Ind. (WFIE) - On alert days, the 14 News weather team uses doppler radar to warn you about incoming storms.
The National Weather Service operates more than a hundred dopplers across the country, including one in Gibson County. Now, some people are worried that radar may soon not be able to do its job as well.
About a dozen of those concerned citizens showed up to the county commission meeting Tuesday night.
That doppler radar sits right outside of Owensville.
A group of concerned citizens says the newly proposed wind turbine project may jeopardize the radar and, in turn, public safety.
Bringing numerous concerns to the surface, Sarah Newton took the floor in front of Gibson County Commissioners expressing why she and others have issues with a proposed wind turbine project through company E-ON.
“Because they don’t have zoning, there is no stopping a wind turbine project or mitigating, moving, the turbines that could cause interference to doppler radar,” Newton stated.
One of their top concerns is this National Weather Service doppler radar which provides roughly 125 miles of coverage in all directions.
“So when they cause interference on multiple elevation stands, you can’t see that low rotation, that low activity that may be indicative of a tornado,” Newton explained.
The German-based energy company expects to build 80 turbines across 15,000 acres in Gibson and Posey counties.
As of May, their reps told us they have about 10,000 acres secured.
“The elderly in the nursing home, the patients in the hospital, the kids in the schools, they all rely on that advanced warning time that the doppler gives,” Newton told 14 News.
“There are no other wind turbine projects located this close to a doppler or are as big as this one that is proposed,” Newton expressed. “591 feet is the top height they are proposing and there is just nothing like that.”
The National Weather Service Radar Operations Center says rotating wind turbine blades can impact the radar in several ways including their large structure possibly blocking the radar beam or reflecting enough energy back to the radar to damage the radar’s receiver hardware.
"Without the NTIA analysis, Gibson County will not know the exact severity of the impact on our radar,” Newton said.
The NTIA is a governmental agency who looks into various issues including interference.
Right now, there is no known way to filter out turbine blade clutter.
The Paducah office operates three doppler radars sites to cover the Tri-State.
Representatives from E-ON were not Tuesday’s meeting. We’ve reached out to them for comment, and received this response:
“E.ON is committed to protecting the communities which host our projects and where our employees live and work. We work closely with NOAA, NWS, and other government agencies to ensure our projects present as little impact as possible on their operations. We submit plans to NTIA for review and feedback by all applicable agencies. Even in unzoned counties, we submit an NTIA and take the feedback and recommendations we receive into account when determining our project layouts. Where there are identified impacts on radar facilities, we work with the relevant agencies to mitigate those impacts and ensure the safe and responsible development and operation of our projects, with an ongoing commitment to protecting public safety.” - Karsen Rumpf, Development Manager, Gibson and Posey County Projects