Environment agency testing radar software

Environment Canada is preparing to roll out new radar technology in order to combat wind farm clutter, which clouds weather forecasts, misleads meteorologists and can even block radar signals.

Jim Young, who works at the agency’s national radar program, said new software will be incorporated into Canada’s radar system this Autumn in an effort to address the “contamination” caused by wind turbines. He has been working with research groups at McGill University and the University of Oklahoma on software for the past year. The project will allow forecasters to better distinguish between weather and wind farms, but it still might not be enough in extreme weather, he said. As an “extra layer of protection,” Environment Canada is in the process of finalising a curtailment agreement with a major wind energy company, he said.

Environment Canada uses Doppler radar to predict storms, but the movement of wind turbine propellers can mimic weather. Young said accurate radar data relies on movement — still objects including buildings, trees and towers are filtered out to allow for an analysis of the weather.

In extreme circumstances, wind turbines can block radar scans, which Young compares to beams of light emanating from a flashlight. “If you put a large obstruction in front of your flashlight, you are going to create a shadow behind it, where you can’t see anything,” he said, adding that the same thing can happen when scanning wind farms.