Windmills And Wireless

Posted by Joanna Lynch on April 18, 2012


You may have heard the old expression “tilting at windmills,” but did you know this phrase has a modern day analogy in the wireless telecom world?


Modern windmills, called turbines, are impressive structures with their blades gracefully rotating around a cylindrical hub hundreds of meters in the air. Over the past decade, turbines have rapidly sprung up across the country as a form of alternative energy, but this rapid growth has also led to a new obstaclewireless signal obstruction. Unlike knight-errant Don Quixote, this obstacle is not imaginary and it can be overcome.

Wind developers have always known they should carefully consider the impact of wind turbines on wildlife, habitats and the surrounding environment. So, how about the wireless environment? Studies show that wind turbines can obstruct microwave links by physically blocking the transmission path between two microwave transceivers. They can also cause signal degradation and reflections (“ghosting”) to television reception. Broadcast radio, wireless Internet, cable headends and even radar can be impacted by the presence of wind turbines.

In the United States, the federal government has turned a keen eye toward evaluating the impact of wind farms on military and other federal communication systems. More and more frequently, individual states and local jurisdictions are recognizing the need for regulations addressing turbine obstructions to wireless signals. Many local planning authorities require project developers to perform impact assessments and specify mitigation techniques to ensure local communication services aren’t affected.

Working with Comsearch, a CommScope company, wind developers have recognized the value of a proactive conflict mitigation approach that can help avert regulatory delays and promote goodwill within the community. Over the past decade, Comsearch has performed hundreds of wireless impact assessments to help overcome turbine obstruction issues. This “good neighbor approach” has proven successful in addressing and mitigating these issues before turbines are built, saving developers the cost of moving turbines and helping communities enjoy the benefits of green energy.

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About the Author

Joanna Lynch

Joanna Lynch is the manager of data solutions at Comsearch. Joanna has more than 15 years of spectrum management and wireless engineering experience with a background as a design engineer working with PCS, cellular and satellite systems. In addition, she has spent seven+ years advising on wind energy obstruction and interference issues. Joanna earned her BSEE, with an Honor’s Citation, from the University of Maryland at College Park. She is an active member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, American Society for Healthcare Engineering and Eta Kappa Nu, the Electrical Engineering Honor Society.