Editor’s note: The following is testimony made before Washington’s Environment, Energy & Technology Committee by Paul Krupin, regarding SHB 1173. The bill requires implementing technology that shuts off blinking red lights on top wind towers when no aircraft are nearby.
My name is Paul Krupin. I am a retired environmental protection specialist with a BA, MS, and a well-used law degree. I live in Kennewick, Wash.
Wind energy is increasing and pilots flying aircraft at low altitudes at night rely on obstruction lights on wind turbines.
For many others, they are an eyesore and an invasive disturbing nuisance. Senate House Bill 1173 turns off the flashing red lights at night, unless they are needed to keep aircraft safe.
The lights need not be on all the time.
Dark skies can be safe skies with light mitigation technology known as “Aircraft Detection Lighting Systems,” or ADLS.
This FAA-approved technology operates a lot like the motion sensors that automatically turn the lights on and off at highway rest areas all across the state. How novel!
Seventeen states have laws to reduce light pollution. North and South Dakota, Vermont, New Hampshire — all require ADLS on wind energy projects.
Colorado, Minnesota, and Kansas have bills under consideration. Federal, state, county and city government agencies routinely require ADLS on wind projects.
Using ADLS to reduce light pollution at night produces an enormous sense of relief to people near and far away from projects.
No matter what gets built, Senate House Bill 1173 can reduce the negative concerns people have.
ADLS’s improve the social acceptance of wind energy.
House Bill 1173 helps a growing ADLS industry. Wind farm operators concerned about costs often change their minds once they learn that the costs for ADLS are not prohibitive.
Each single new radar site costs $1 to 2 million, plus additional infrastructure as necessary, which is barely noticed in the capital expense costs of a large project.
When ADLS was first installed at sites in North Dakota, migrating geese flying at night caused lights to go on repeatedly. ADLS operators learned to use AI to train the radar computers to know the difference.
Look! That’s not a bird — it’s an airplane! And the lights go on.
Cost savings are produced when the ADLS takes the wind out of the publics’ most vocal concerns — the night-time visual impacts.
Reduced public opposition can save time and projects can derive benefits from reduced litigation, faster permitting, and improved public and community relations.
I believe Senate House Bill 1173 is a win-win for all stakeholders. Safe skies can be dark skies.
Paul Krupin is a Kennewick scientist and attorney, and member of a group seeking to ban a planned wind project on the Horse Heaven Hills skyline.