WASHINGTON — One of the Obama administration's prime initiatives — the development of sources of alternative energy to reduce U.S. reliance on foreign oil, create American jobs and combat climate change — is being undermined by the Defense Department.
The department is threatening to scuttle what promises to be the world's largest wind farm in eastern Oregon, arguing that the giant turbines could interfere with the Air Force's radar system.
Caithness Energy had planned to break ground two weeks from now on an 845-megawatt, $2 billion wind farm near Arlington, Ore., an economically depressed rural community. But last month Pentagon officials moved to deny the developer its final Federal Aviation Administration permit.
The move has sparked an intense lobbying battle and White House-led negotiation, as senior Obama officials hope to avert a showdown that could cost 16,000 American jobs. The Pentagon's objections could jeopardize three other major wind projects by another developer in the same region, along with proposed farms in states from Illinois to Texas.
The standoff centers on whether the blades of the Shepherds Flat project's 338 turbines will interfere with the sensors of a radar system in Fossil, Ore. Just this week the British Defense Ministry announced it is ordering a long-range air surveillance radar system from Lockheed Martin that is compatible with wind turbine blades, but Defense officials have given no indication that they are considering adopting a similar system.