Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wind farms can appear sinister to the weatherman

FILE - In this May 19, 2006 file photo, a group of 260-feet tall wind towers are silhoutted against a bright orange sky at the Elk River Wind farm near Beaumont, Kan. The spinning blades atop 200-foot towers might appear to the naked eye as ... well ... spinning blades. But to Doppler radar, wind farms appear as a splatter of green, yellow, orange and red _ much like a violent storm or even a tornado. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, file)

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Wind farms have been blamed for disrupting the lives of birds, bats and, most recently, the land-bound sage grouse.

Now the weather forecaster?

The massive spinning blades affixed to towers 200 feet high can appear on Doppler radar like a violent storm or even a tornado.

The phenomenon has affected several National Weather Service radar sites in different parts the country, even leading to a false tornado alert near Dodge City, Kansas, in the heart of Tornado Alley. In Des Moines, Iowa, the weather service received a frantic warning from an emergency worker who had access to Doppler radar images.

The alert was quickly called off in Kansas and meteorologists calmed the emergency worker down, but with enough wind turbines going up last year to power more than 6 million homes and a major push toward alternative energy, more false alerts seem inevitable.

New installations are concentrated, understandably in windy states like Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado and Iowa, all part of Tornado Alley.

(Crazy huh? Now I've heard everything! Click here for the rest of the story).

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