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Energy companies have agreed to pay for a new radar system to allay Ministry of Defence concerns about the threat to national security posed by wind farms.The deal paves the way for a £7 billion investment in offshore wind turbines.

The MoD had objected to five new wind farms off the Norfolk coast, but it withdrew its opposition yesterday after an agreement between the Crown Estate and four energy companies.Plans for 924 wind turbines off the East Coast had alarmed the Royal Air Force, which said that the turbines could cause a security threat by creating blind spots in air defences.

In a landmark deal brokered by Serco, the defence services company, a Lockheed Martin TPS-77 radar system will be installed at Remote Radar Head (RRH) Trimingham in the autumn of next year to coincide with the opening of an offshore wind farm, with 88 turbines, at Sheringham Shoal.

As the number of wind farms has increased, the number of radar blackout zones has also risen. Aircraft passing through the area can disappear in the blackout and air traffic controllers can lose their position. Tests have shown that the Lockheed Martin radar can filter the movement of offshore turbines with other air and seaborne activity.

The £20 million cost of the system will be shared by the Crown Estate (which owns the seabed out to 12 nautical miles from the coastline of the UK), the Department of Energy and Climate Change and four energy companies, which are proposing to build wind farms in the Greater Wash in the next few years.

The companies are Scira Offshore Energy, which is behind the Sheringham Shoal farm; Centrica; Warwick Energy; and RWE npower renewables.Nicola Vaughan, head of aviation at RenewableUK, the trade body, said: “This was a major obstacle to offshore wind farms in the Greater Wash, which has now been lifted.”Planning applications for four further wind farms, in the line of sight of Trimingham, are expected to be brought forward. If all five farms were developed, the turbines could deliver more than 3,000 megawatts of energy — enough to power 1.7 million homes.

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