Working to ensure the safe and sustainable integration of wind turbines into air traffic control

12 December 2016

Many European states have set ambitious targets to achieve sustainable energy by 2020. As a result, the use of devices that can generate electricity in an ecological way is rapidly growing. One such device is the wind turbine and the capacity of electricity generated in Europe by wind turbines is expected to double in the next 25 years.

However, wind turbines can potentially have a detrimental impact on the performance of surveillance systems used in air traffic control. For instance, a wind turbine could create false targets, or lose or corrupt information on an aircraft’s position.

Recognising that these devices are now a given part of the ATM operational environment, EUROCONTROL has continued to build on the work developed by the Wind Turbine Task Force (WTTF), a group created by the Agency, composed of civil and military representatives from European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC) states. The WTTF’s goal was to define a recommended methodology on assessing and avoiding or minimising the potential impact of wind turbines on ATC Surveillance.

This goal was achieved in 2009 when a set of guidelines were published. But understanding of the issues, technology and technical solutions have evolved since then. In this context, EUROCONTROL organised a workshop in November, bringing together some of the guidelines’ users, such as air navigation service providers (ANSPs) and wind energy developers.

During the workshop, EUROCONTROL and the multiple and international stakeholders discussed whether the document remained fit for purpose, and, if not, how to update and improve it. In addition, the event nurtured an exchange of views on the experiences and perceptions regarding the use and value of the guidelines.  

The core guideline detailed in 2009 remains equally applicable today: that establishing a path for transparent and reciprocal exchange of information between ANSPs and Wind Farm developers at the earliest possible opportunity remained the best mechanism to ensuring a safe and efficient ATM capable of operating in concord with a comprehensive wind turbine infrastructure.  

A common methodology helps ANSPs maintain the necessary levels of safety by making sure that their surveillance systems are protected, while supporting the installation of wind turbines to the greatest extent possible. Without doubt, this requires a continuing review of the parameters and results provided by the document to respond and adapt in harmony with the developments to come.

Related news