Need-based beaconing

Radar on, lights off

Bernd Müller, 18 Dec 14
The flashing lights on wind turbines are an annoyance for people living nearby. Some German companies are now marketing radar technology that can detect aircraft and turn the lights on only when they are needed. Who will win the race?

For drivers on the motorway, the red flashing lights on wind turbines add welcome variety to a long night-time journey. Although intended not for motorists but for aircraft, they create a sense of security. For people living nearby, however, they are a source of irritation. A flash of light penetrating the bedroom curtains every few seconds can deprive light sleepers of a good night’s rest. Alongside the noise of the rotors and the impact on the landscape, the lighting is one of the main reasons why people set up citizens’ initiatives against new wind turbines or the repowering of old ones in their locality. On the Baltic Sea island of Fehmarn, for example, the old wind turbines are due to be replaced by new ones over 100 metres high – but they will not have constantly flashing lights that might deter potential visitors to a holiday island.

Illumination with white and red lights is mandatory in Germany. The General Administrative Rules (AVV) on the Marking and Lighting of Obstacles to Air Navigation stipulate that aircraft must be warned by means of lights – white by day and red by night – if the obstacle is more than 100 metres high. Alternatively the tips of the rotor blades can be lit – although this does nothing to improve the situation for nearby residents.

This is an abridged version of the article – the full text is available in new energy issue 06/2014

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