Microwave telecommunication systems are wireless point-to-point links that communicate between two sites (antennas) and require clear line-of-site conditions between each antenna. Obstructions between transmitters reduce the reliability of the transmission.
Protection against lightning strikes is built into the electrical systems of all wind energy projects.
A Licensed Microwave Search and Worst Case Fresnel Zone (WCFZ) Analysis can be carried out to identify microwave paths within a project area. The results of this analysis provide a map that shows the location of the microwave paths and the WCFZ around each path. Structures within a WCFZ could obstruct microwave transmission.
Consultation with federal agencies such as the National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA) and the National Weather Service is necessary to identify federal government microwave communication systems (Section 4.1.6). NTIA maintains a classified database, the Government Master File (GMF), that contains all of the government telecommunications systems. The NTIA notifies federal agencies operating telecommunication systems in areas near wind project sites. This notification method consists of sending site maps and a letter that describes the wind energy project and the turbines to be used, including turbine locations if known. The NTIA distributes the letter to the Interdepartmental Radio Advisory Committee (IRAC), which is made up of government agencies that operate telecommunication or radar systems. These agencies typically include the FAA, the DOD, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Homeland Security. The NTIA normally responds to a consultation request within approximately thirty days. The response either will state that government telecommunications concerns within the project area have not been identified or will identify potential impacts that will have to be addressed in coordination with the relevant federal agencies. However, the IRAC consultation process may not reach all relevant federal entities and does not eliminate the possibility that a federal agency may raise concerns about impacts to radar systems.
Although the FAA receives the NTIA letter, the FAA primarily depends on its FAA Form 7460-1 (Section 4.1.5) to analyze air safety issues and any potential degradation or obstruction of communication, navigation, or radar operations, including secondary radar relied upon by the military but operated by the FAA. The FAA has created a Long Range Radar Tool for preliminary radar clearance analyses. Project site coordinates can be entered to determine whether the site is in a no problem area (green zone), a possible problem area (yellow zone) or a definite problem area (red zone). Placement of turbines in yellow or red zones would require further consultation with the FAA and other relevant federal agencies to determine the proper mitigation measures to accommodate their radar and communication requirements.
As described in Section 4.1.6, the Long Range Radar Tool allows for a preliminary screening of only Air Defense and Homeland Security long range radar systems. A number of agencies have jurisdiction over other radar facilities that may be of concern at a particular wind project. Consultants that are familiar with FAA regulations, DOD radar concerns, and other radar systems can conduct screening analyses to examine the potential for interference with federal radar. Consultation with agencies such as the FAA and NTIA early in the development process may also identify potential impacts to radar systems.
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