Pentagon: Offshore Wind Farms May Threaten ‘Military Readiness,’ National Security

LIVERPOOL, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 12: Turbines of the new Burbo Bank off shore wind farm lay
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

A Department of Defense assessment of locations proposed to build offshore wind farms on the Atlantic coast found several areas to be “highly problematic” due to their proximity to U.S. military training sites, Bloomberg reported on Monday, publishing a Pentagon map of the areas in question.

A Pentagon spokesperson confirmed to Fox News on the same day that the warnings published by Bloomberg were an authentic assessment of proposed areas for offshore wind development, stating that the Defense Department would “continue to work” with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), responsible for greenlighting the offshore wind deals, to find the “best locations for development.”

The assessment, dated October 2022, is the latest complication for President Joe Biden’s sweeping plans to replace much of the current American power grid with offshore wind turbines. Two large-scale projects approved for development off the coast of New Jersey – the Ocean Wind I and II planned farms, developed and owned by the Danish company Ørsted – have triggered protests attracting hundreds of people along the Jersey shore. Protesters, supported by local Congressmen Jeff Van Drew (R-NJ) and Chris Smith (R-NJ), have expressed alarm that the wind projects will kill off local maritime ecosystems, devastating the local tourism and fishing industries.

Many also accuse preliminary work to find locations to build the wind farms, which requires sonar, of adversely affecting the echolocation abilities of marine mammals, leading to a surge in the number of dead whales and dolphins washing ashore. BOEM and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have both denied any relationship between the dead marine mammals and offshore wind development.

The Pentagon map published on Monday by Bloomberg concerns waters off the coasts of North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware, far to the south of the Ocean Wind projects. According to the outlet, the Defense Department warned that the Navy and Air Force would struggle to engage in routine operations should wind turbines be erected near North Carolina’s Dare County bombing range and a weapons station in Yorktown Virginia, among other areas. These are the “highly problematic” areas in red.

“Four of six potential wind lease areas outlined by the ocean energy bureau last November are completely shaded red, including two deep-water parcels that might require floating turbines,” Bloomberg detailed. “The remaining two tracts, in yellow, are identified as requiring further study. The areas deemed highest priority by the Pentagon span a large portion of potential lease areas off the Maryland and North Carolina coasts.”

Wind turbines generate electricity at the Block Island Wind Farm on July 07, 2022 near Block Island, Rhode Island. (John Moore/Getty Images)

Bloomberg reported that the assessment “spooked” potential investors in wind energy.

Responding to a request from Fox News regarding the Bloomberg report, Defense Department spokesperson Kelly Flynn confirmed, “the initial assessment performed by DoD found complicated compatibility challenges with wind turbines near Navy and Air Force training.”

Discussions regarding potential locations for windfarms continue, Flynn added, and listed the concerns involved as including “impacts to the environment, shipping, fishing, viewshed and military readiness.” The discussion also includes, Flynn continued, “mitigation strategies to overcome the impacts.”

The spokesperson described the October documents as “the first step in the process,” leaving the door open for the Pentagon to later approve modified proposals.

The concerns in the Bloomberg report differ from potential national security problems raised during a Congressional hearing in Wildwood, New Jersey, chaired by Rep. Van Drew in March. Testifying to multiple regional lawmakers, Meghan Lapp, the fisheries liaison for the Rhode Island commercial fishing company Seafreeze, said that she had attempted to address national security concerns with BOEM to no avail, expressing concern with potential radar interference and blocking military and civilian missions.

“NASA has said that these areas interfere with all their missions out of Wallops Island; the Navy has said there is not an area in that whole lease block that does not interfere with DOD [Department of Defense] missions, but BOEM [the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management] is continuing ahead,” Lapp explained.

“When I’ve asked them [BOEM] on webinars, like – the Navy said that this is a problem how can you still be leasing it?” she recalled, “‘Well, we’re just going to be continuing the discussions.’”

Robert Stern, a former director of the Office of Environmental Compliance at U.S. Department of Energy who also testified at the hearing, noted that one of the proposed wind farm locations lies between nine to 14 miles out of Long Beach Island, a barrier island off the coast of New Jersey, and appears to conflict with Pentagon exclusion territory.

File/As the first offshore wind project in New York gets approval, elected officials, environmental groups, activists and concerned New Yorkers rally to support Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) and ask for more offshore wind commitment in New York. (Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty)

“The first half of the side [of one of the wind farm leases] off LBI from about nine to 14 miles out is labeled by the Navy as a DOD exclusion zone,” Stern said. “We tried to contact DOD to find out what that means; we could not get any information, maybe it’s classified, I don’t know.”

“But right now, you have a lease area out there, half of which is classified as a DOD exclusion zone and, as Meghan [Lapp] indicates, all you get from BOEM is ‘we’re working out with DOD’ … I’d rather hear something from DOD,” Stern said.

At the hearing, Rep. Smith recalled prior studies indicating that “vessel navigation including U.S. Navy ships, merchant ships, and search and rescue operations … their radars will be compromised.”

In 2022, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine published a report concluding “wind turbine generators have significant electromagnetic reflectivity, and therefore can interfere with radar systems operating nearby.”

“The rotating blades can also create reflections in Doppler radar systems. In particular, these forms of interference could obfuscate smaller vessels and stationary objects such as buoys on radar, complicating navigation decisions and increasing the risk of collision with larger vessels,” a summary by the Academies of the report read.

Rep. Van Drew issued a statement on Monday again calling for a moratorium on offshore wind development in light of military concerns.

“This President and this administration continue to disregard these valid concerns, and now the Pentagon is reiterating the potential impacts the industrialization of our coast will have on our national security,” the Congressman said. “We need to put America first and we need a moratorium on these projects until it is far too late.”

Bloomberg reported that BOEM responded to its revelation of the Pentagon report by stating that America is “well positioned to satisfy state and federal offshore wind goals as we develop the clean energy economy.” It also noted that supporters of wind energy have dismissed the military’s concerns by arguing that relying on fossil fuels is its own national security threat.

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