In an innovative approach to aviation safety, an Australian wind farm has employed a radar-activated aircraft detection lighting system to assist aeroplanes approaching it.
The Lal Lal Wind Farm just east of Ballarat, Victoria is utilising an effective tactic to both save electricity and improve aviation safety. Radar-activated lights on their wind turbines turn on when an aircraft approaches within four to six kilometres.
A plane’s distance and speed are picked up by a controller when the plane enters into a particular warning zone. The controller then decides whether or not the lights should activate. It saves the farm having to keep their lights on at all times.
The lights are provided by Danish-based sustainable energy provider Vestas InteliLight. This video explains how the lights work in practice.
The radar-activated aircraft detection lighting system will hopefully make it easier for pilots to navigate at night.
The lights may be activated in whatever weather condition, whether it be foggy, cloudy or clear.
The presence of light aircraft at night in that area is not very high, but that does not mean planes never fly there. Emergency aircraft may need to attend to fight bushfires, for example.
Aircraft detection lighting system a first for Australia
This particular technology is common throughout Europe and the U.S. but it is a first for Australia.
In the United States, Laufer Wind made its own radar-activated aircraft detection system available for customers in January 2016. This was after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved it and published an Advisory Circular update introducing guidelines for radar-activated light technology.
In its Planning Consolidated Report, the Lal Lal Wind Farm’s permit reads that aviation obstacle lighting may be installed but only if they meet the below requirements:
• Turbines can only have a pair of red medium intensity, intermittent obstacle lights;
• The lights cannot restrict the vertical spread of light to certain measurements;
• The lights must illuminate in unison; and
• The activation and de-activation of the lights must be triggered by a luminance sensor with a trigger luminance of 50 candela per square metre (unless legally required otherwise)
At present, just under forty of the turbines in the northern part of the project are undergoing testing. Construction on the south part of the project is planned to commence soon.