Wind Turbines Affect Weather Forecasting - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

3/26/08

Wind Turbines Affect Weather Forecasting

The South Plains skyline is rapidly changing as wind turbines continue to pop up across the area. Experts say the turbines will blow more money into our local economy as well as provide electricity to homes at half the cost.

But NewsChannel 11 learned when it comes to forecasting the weather the turbines can be quite a nuisance.  Because the turbines stand 200 to 300 feet tall, the Super Doppler HD3 radar beam intersects right through them. But instead of showing up on the radar as a turbine, our forecasters see what looks like a storm in the making.

"You can see it stays right there. See it doesn't move," says a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. At first glance meteorologists at the National Weather Service think a thunderstorm could be developing in the area. But a wind turbine is actually what is whirling around at the direct location.

"It's probably one of the more significant false echo's that we've seen through the years so its something we defiantly have to deal with," says Jody James, with the National Weather Service.

It's something that also catches the eye of these guys as they monitor the weather on the Super Doppler HD3.

"I guess about a year or so ago before we got our latest HD3 upgrade down around Post we thought there were showers. But we knew there was no reason for showers to be there. We began to check with weather service first day thought that may be rain and we realized it was the wind turbines," says NewsChannel 11's Chief Meteorologist John Robison.

Of course the NewsChannel 11 forecast team has become familiar with where wind farms are located across the South Plains. But Steve Divine says they will have to be more vigilant in their tracking as new turbines pop up over night.  "It does make our job a little more difficult," says Steve.

Another issue forecasters face is when severe weather actually strikes where a wind farm is located.

"If we had a severe thunderstorm or strong thunderstorm in the Post area, we could start picking up some of the returns from the wind turbines in that area and it could give us a false indication that the storm is worse than it actually is," says Steve. At that point meteorologists use other sources to determine the severity of the storm.

"We look at other data sources. We look at satellite. We look at visible satellite pictures from space and if all those confirm there's not a rain echo out there we know it's probably a false target," says James.

Steve says there's already some software that can filter out some objects. Also some radars can be set to ignore certain reflectors that are constant.

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