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Public Policy and Minimizing Visual Impacts: Automatic Activation of Obstruction Lighting with a Radar-based Visual Warning System (VWS)

Wind farms are required to install and maintain aviation obstruction lighting systems to provide aircraft a visual warning of the collision risk. Stakeholders recognize the environmental and social impacts of obstruction lighting at wind farms and are exploring strategies to mitigate the impact on surrounding communities. Community planners and supporters of dark skies initiatives are looking for technological advances to minimize the visual impacts of obstruction lighting while maintaining safety of the airspace surrounding wind farms. Changes in policies have favored synchronization of lights and increased the distance required between lit turbines, and the FAA is finalizing regulatory guidance to allow wind farms to install obstruction lighting systems that are automatically activated when aircraft are present and deactivated when aircraft are absent.

The HARRIER Visual Warning System (VWS) developed by DeTect, Inc. and installed at NextEra’s Perrin Ranch wind farm and on PSEG’s Susquehanna-Roseland transmission line minimizes the time when obstruction lights are illuminated using a ground, radar-based aircraft detection system. When the high-resolution airspace surveillance radar detects aircraft within defined perimeters the system signals the activation of wind farm obstruction lighting, and when aircraft depart a countdown initiates to turn the lights off. The DeTect VWS system provides extended-range detection of cooperative and non-cooperative aircraft, including ultralight aircraft, with 360-degree coverage and integrated failsafe operations.

Karen Voltura

AUTHORS/INSTITUTIONS: T. Kelly, T. West, J. Lewis, K. Voltura, D. Ruppel, DeTect, Inc, Panama City, Florida, UNITED STATES

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