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United Kingdom

United Kingdom

Minimal navigation and safety risk -- Shipping and wind plant

Trials at the UK's first offshore wind farm have shown it has only a minimal impact on the radar, communications and positioning systems of marine vessels. Two sets of complementary trials were carried out at North Hoyle wind farm off the north coast of Wales by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and research body Qinetiq.

The work was commissioned by North Hoyle's owner, npower renewables, and the Department for Transport. The trials were conducted using local vessels and radar systems -- including two lifeboats and one of P&O's major merchant ships -- around the wind farm's 30 turbines, which cover six square kilometres. The conclusion from the trials is that the majority of navigational aids operate satisfactorily within and in close proximity to a wind farm, says Stephen Bolton, manager of North Hoyle wind farm.

The report by MCA and Qinetiq shows no problems with global positioning system (GPS) reception; no compass deviation; no noticeable effects on communications systems -- VHF radios or cell phones; and no significant effect on Automatic Identification Systems (AIS) of ships. On radar, vessels in the wind farm could be readily identified at long range, but closer up, the turbines produced spurious echo effects. On small vessels' radar, they also produced "blind" areas in which other vessels could not always be detected. The report concluded: "Most of the effects of offshore wind farm structures on the practical operation of marine radar, communications and navigations systems are not anticipated to significantly compromise marine navigation or safety."

Bolton points out that the effect on radar was understood from theoretical studies before the wind farm was built. "What we have now is information in a format that will both assist current radar operators and aid further investigation, therefore helping to mitigate any effect." The MCA's Simon Gooder says the trials have added significantly to the agency' understanding of the implication of wind stations on mariners and that the report will be valuable in assessing future applications for offshore wind farms.

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