DEFENCE chiefs could fight plans for a major wind farm in the Hampshire countryside over fears of radar interference.
Developer EDF Energy Renewables plans to build 14, 126-metre masts on farmland at Bullington Cross, north of Winchester.
But wind turbines, whose spinning blades are about the same size as a passenger jet wing, disrupt radar systems.
Radar operators find it hard to distinguish between low-flying aircraft and wind turbines, causing confusion for civil and military air traffic controllers.
Bullington Cross is “an extremely busy aviation site with a high density of both military and civil aviation activity,” according to an impact statement submitted as part of the planning application to Winchester City Council.
The proposed wind farm will interfere with air traffic control systems at Middle Wallop – home to the Army Air Corps – and Boscombe Down, an aircraft testing site. All 14 turbines will be visible on radar screens at the two bases and the The Ministry of Defence may object, says the report.
Bullington Cross is also close to the approach and holding area for aircraft on runway 20 at Southampton International Airport.
Some of the turbines may be visible to radar at the regional airport and all will be in the line of sight of radar at Lasham, home of the UK’s largest gliding centre and a company that services airliners.
Bullington Cross is also within an MoD low flying area for battlefield helicopters and 4km from Popham Airfield used by civilian light aircraft.
Defence chiefs are likely to ask for the turbines to be lit, probably with flashing infra-red lights, says the energy giant.
The MoD has fought plans for wind farms in other areas because they interfere with radar at defence bases.
But French-owned EDF said the impact on aviation and radiation can be “negligible” once measures are taken to overcome concerns, such as new radar systems that can distinguish between aircraft and turbines.
Douglas Paterson, of Keep Hampshire Green, a campaign set up to fight the wind farm, questioned who would pay for the new equipment.
“It is normal for the developer to cover the costs but that will bump up household electricity bills further and is only necessary to build the wind farm.
“This is on top of the £3million a year the wind farm will harvest in subsidies – £75m over its 25-year lifespan – which will add to our electricity bills and there are other hidden costs.”
The wind farm proposal has provoked opposition from locals who say the giant turbines – taller than Battersea Power station chimneys– will destroy previously unspoilt countryside.
However, EDF argues the wind farm will generate enough energy to power eight per cent of domestic electricity needs of Winchester, Test Valley and Basingstoke and Deane district council areas combined while cutting 26,000 tonnes of carbon emissions per year.
Seven of the turbines are in Winchester district, two in Test Valley and four in Basingstoke council areas. Planning applications have been submitted to all three councils. The public consultation ends on May 24 with a decision expected by October 30.