German army stops wind turbines as security threat

BERLIN (Reuters) - The German army has identified a series of wind park projects as a threat to national security and blocked investments worth 1.5 billion euros because it fears spinning wind turbines will interfere with its radar systems.

The Bundeswehr has launched an investigation into the impact of the wind turbines planned for northern Germany’s coastal area amid concerns they could compromise air defense -- because they could in theory provide a shield for enemy aircraft.

But German environmentalists and the renewable energy agency dismissed their objections, saying the military should modernize their radar instead of blocking the renewable energy projects -- especially 20 years after the end of the Cold War.

“The Bundeswehr says their radar cannot detect what is going on behind the new wind turbines and so they’re refusing to grant approval,” said Peter Ahmels, head of the renewable energy section of the DUH environmental lobby group in Berlin.

“We don’t think that’s a credible argument,” he added.

Germany is the world’s leading wind energy nation with a third of global wind power produced between the Black Forest and the Baltic. It gets eight percent of its electricity from the wind; the government wants to double that to 15 percent by 2020.

Wind parks have been springing up across Germany in the last decade thanks to a renewable energy law promoting green energy.

Sometimes local residents oppose wind turbines due to the noise created or for aesthetic reasons and local agencies can find bureaucratic reasons to block renewable energy projects.

Chancellor Angela Merkel sees her government as a leader in the fight against climate change, especially ahead of the U.N. climate summit in Copenhagen in December. But Germany is still the world’s sixth leading producers of greenhouse gases.

A spokesman for the German army, Marco Jentsch, cited national security for its opposition. He said the military wants to ensure its radar can identify everything around the turbines.

“We’re pursuing two goals -- surveillance of any approaching aircraft as well as our own aircraft,” Jentsch said.

The DUH wants the Bundeswehr to invest in modern radar equipment that would not be affected by the wind turbines.

“We want to build this wind park but the whole project has been held up by the Bundeswehr,” said Hans Reims Tiesen, an investor in Kronprinzenkoog. “We have the financing all lined up. But the army is blocking it and I don’t understand why.”

Additional reporting by Andreas Dolmov; writing by Erik Kirschbaum; editing by Ralph Boulton