Wind Farm MET Masts Become Crop-Dusters’ Mortal Enemies

MET-tower

For flyers, what you can’t see can kill you.

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There are at least 2 critical dangers for flyers created by giant fans: 1) air turbulence – generated by a sea of 50-60m blades with their outer tips travelling at around 400km/h – interfering with the ability of the pilot to control their kite (see our post here); and 2) slamming into them – with reasonably predictable results (see our post here).

For light aircraft, turbines are bad enough, but the MET Masts used to gather wind speed data are even worse.

A few posts back we covered efforts by Scottish community defenders to avoid turbine-terror when they decided to drop the MET mast installed by a wind power outfit, that heralds the threat presented by all planned wind farm disasters (see our post here).

In that same post we covered a tragic (and entirely unnecessary) story from the US about a crop-dusting pilot killed as he flew into a MET mast, which even highly experienced pilots find are practically invisible.

Here’s a take from the US on the threat to life and limb thrown up by the great wind power fraud and faced by crop-dusters on a daily basis.

For Crop-Duster Pilots, Wind Towers Present Danger
Harvest Public Media: npr.org
Jacob McCleland
17 December 2014

Crop-dusting pilots are the adrenaline junkies of the agriculture world. They whiz through the air, flying under power lines to sow seeds or spread pesticides on farmers’ fields.

It’s a dangerous job, and now these pilots are facing a new challenge — short towers that can sprout up in fields overnight. These towers are used to gather data for wind energy companies.

Pilot Mike Lee started Earl’s Flying Service in Steele, Mo., in the early 1970s and has been flying ever since.

“I know some people who have had accidents. I’ve had friends that got killed in these things,” he says.

When he’s crop-dusting, Lee flies at 155 mph at the crazy-low elevation of 12 feet. Farmers hire him because it’s a quick, efficient way to get things done. There’s no driving out to remote fields or slogging equipment through the mud. It’s all done by air from the cockpit.

Crop-dusters are the ultimate multitaskers. They fly while dodging obstacles like trees and power lines. They don’t want to pour pesticides on a farmhouse by mistake or sprinkle the wrong seeds on a neighbor’s field. Pilots are stumbling across a new hazard now: unmarked towers that are used to prospect for wind energy projects.

cropdust-lee

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Missouri pilot Mike Lee stands next to a crop-duster. “I know some people who have had accidents. I’ve had friends that got killed in these things,” he says.

“You have to be able to just … fly by the seat of your pants and not even think about flying to do all of that. You gotta spend all your concentration looking outside and doing all the controlling the seed or fertilizer or chemical or whatever it may be at the time,” Lee says.

That’s part of what makes this job so dangerous. Pilots’ attention is divided, and they work long hours. During the growing season, they fly sunrise to sunset.

“Radio towers seem to be the No. 1 problems. You know, these little weather MET towers they stick up overnight and nobody knows about. It’s been a major problem in our industry,” Lee says.

Those METs — or meteorological evaluation towers — are thin and metal; they kind of blend in from the air. Farmers lease some of their land to wind energy companies that use them to gather data.

National Transportation Safety Board investigator Jennifer Rodi says these towers are very hard to see.

“They are below the 200-foot requirement that the FAA has that requires them to be lit and marked to increase their visibility,” she says.

In a report earlier this year, Rodi and the NTSB made recommendations to the FAA to mark and light those towers and to create a database with the location of each one.

Tom Vinson of the American Wind Energy Association says the wind industry supports marking towers with orange-and-white paint, and putting up orange balls on guy wires.

But lighting is trickier because towers are often in remote locations without a power source. And wind farm development is a very competitive process. That’s why the database with each tower’s location is a thornier recommendation.

“People are very hesitant to let competitors know where they may be looking, and so there has been some concern about having widely available public databases,” Vinson says.

Since 2000, three pilots have died after striking unmarked METs. Just this September, the family of a California pilot was awarded a $6.7 million wrongful death settlement after his crash into an unmarked MET.

When you look at the big picture, crop-dusting has become safer. Accidents are down, and fewer crashes are fatal.

Pilots have better training, and Mike Lee says the airplanes now are designed for safety. Pointing to one of his planes, he says it was made to absorb energy in a crash.

“Kind of a like a NASCAR, it’s going to disintegrate around you, and most likely you’ll still be holding the stick and in the seat when it’s all said and done,” he says.

That may be reassuring for some crop-dusters, but from the pilot’s perspective, knowing the exact spot of every potential hazard works even better.
Harvest Public Media: npr.org

cropduster1

Tough enough, without MET masts or giant fans.

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.

Comments

  1. Noel Dean. says:

    The use of met masts would have to the biggest fraud imaginable! At the Waubra wind farm none of their data is collected or used. The so-called ‘compliance testing’ has never used any data from three masts that were placed originally for pre-construction noise monitoring. None of this data is available.

    The reference mast Pyrenees06 was not approved to be used or built at the time of preconstruction testing. So now the extrapolation data for the post construction testing has resulted in monitoring reports saying that the turbines produced less noise when operational, compared to the time before they were constructed.

    When there is no data at 10 metres above ground level, the developer calculated the data to be used. So the data from the preconstruction testing was with three masts at three different locations. Testing was done over the same time frame. There was three different wind mast locations:

    1. one mast wind speed was 10 mt per sec at St Marys
    2. another mast was 14 mt per sec at three sisters
    3. the third mast was 18 Mt per sec at Big hill

    The reference mast, Pyrenees06, was placed about three kilometres away to the west and about 150 metres less in altitude than the three original masts.

    The Planning Minister requested to see the met mast data to support the post construction report as well as to see the missing complaint registration information. This was a requirement to declare compliance to his satisfaction such that the permit conditions have been met. This was from a letter to Acciona dated 10/12/10 from the Planning minister. Needless to say, the Planning minister did not receive the requested information. When he requested it again in a letter dated 15/9/2011, again the information was not provided.

    In the mean time the facility manager left (or was pushed).

    The same fate occurred for the CEO of Acciona, who had claimed that we had got a report that we never received.

    The bully at the Melbourne office who asked us to answer nineteen questions before they would progress with our complaint that was made in May of 2009, has also left. Remove the evidence is what these guys are doing.

    Yesterday, after a inquiry to Paul Jarman Department of Planning, I was advised that the complaint I made is still work in progress. It is now 5 and half years after the complaint was reported.

    In September 2013 the new CEO of Acciona wrote to the Planning minister and offered to do compliance testing. Going by the information the Planning minister and Paul Jarman have sent me, it appears that a ‘section 10’ may have been added to the wind farm operator controlled New Zealand standard. This was still a draft in March 2014.

    On 15/1/2014 the Planning minister accepted the deal confirming that no low frequency testing would be done at Waubra, but testing for impulsivity, tonality and amplitude modulation were to be done (this testing is low frequency sounds by definition). There appears to be no requirement to be competent to perform the assessments. Assessments are just go and listen for ten minutes, five times. There is no requirement for the turbines to be operational. Section 10 of the EPA has been used for ensuring compliance. My understanding of section 10 is that it is an audit to ensure someone has come and done the assessment only. I suspect that will be the plan for all Victorian Wind Farms. In other words, no measurements done what so ever and nothing that we can do about it. This deal was done I believe about 10 Months ago.

    Jail time for these guys for sure is the only answer now.

    Noel Dean.

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