Skip to comments.Airplane pilots hit by ‘nearly blinding’ glare from massive Calif. solar facility
Posted on 03/19/2014 11:09:27 AM PDT by Red Badger
Airplane pilots cruising over southern California have been complaining about a nearly blinding glare emanating from a massive government-funded solar thermal facility.
The Ivanpah solar energy plant in San Bernardino County is the worlds largest solar thermal plant and has 173,500 large mirrors that reflect sunlight onto boilers in three 459-foot towers. A feat of modern engineering to green energy advocates, but a flying hazard to pilots.
The Federal Aviation Administrations Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) got two anonymous complaints in August that mentioned a blinding glare coming from the Ivanpah solar facility. One complaint came from a Los Angeles air traffic controller and the other from a small transport plane pilot that took off from an airport in Boulder City, Nevada.
The FAA is aware of potential glare from solar plants and is exploring how to best alert pilots to the issue, an FAA spokesman told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
Dozens of flights per day fly over or near the Ivanpah solar facility on routes between the Las Vegas area and Southern California. On its initial climb leaving Boulder City airport, the pilot of the small transport plane experienced a very bright, intense light from three solar complexes which interfered with their ability to scan for traffic, according to the ASRS filing.
[T]he Co-pilot and I were distracted and momentarily blinded by the sun reflecting off of mirrors at the solar power plant facility located near the CA-NV border near the town of Primm, the pilot wrote to ASRS. This solar power plant which I believe is still under construction consists of three massive circular arrays of thousands of mirrors oriented inward toward a central tower.
From the pilots seat of my aircraft the brightness was like looking into the sun and it filled about 1/3 of the co-pilots front windshield, the pilot added. In my opinion the reflection from these mirrors was a hazard to flight because for a brief time I could not scan the sky in that direction to look for other aircraft.
Daily, during the late morning and early afternoon hours we get complaints from pilots of aircraft flying from the northeast to the southwest about the brightness of this solar farm, wrote the Los Angeles air traffic controller in August.
On this particular morning, an air carrier complained about the brightness and reiterated that it was nearly blinding, the controller continued. I have no idea what can be done about this situation, but being a passenger on an aircraft that flew through this airspace and saw it for myself, I would say that something needs to be done. It is extremely bright and distracting.
In August, the Ivanpah solar facility was still being built. During the time of the complaints, the facilitys developer BrightSource Energy was testing and calibrating the mirror assemblies, called heliostats, but it is unknown if that had anything to do with the reflection, reports the Press-Enterprise. The Ivanpah facility was brought online last December.
Ivanpahs co-owner and operator, NRG Energy, was notified of the blinding complaints this week and said it would respond within 10 days. The FAA received the complaints last November and the Clark County Department of Aviation was notified of them at the end of January.
BrightSources environmental impact study for Ivanpah included mitigation measures for glare issues related to the sites reflective mirrors. The aviation community actually raised such worries during the environmental review process.
Ivanpahs environmental impact study found that the solar thermal plant could cause temporary blindness to pilots flying within 3,300 feet of the heliostats, which compromises safety. BrightSource had to develop a heliosat position plan to mitigate the potential harm from Ivanpahs glare.
At the right angle, you will get the intensity, which is similar to looking at a car headlight at night. If you were to look away youd still have that shape in your vision, Chad Davies, president of Riverside Air Service, told the Press-Enterprise.
If you see a reflection, you turn your head, you dont look at it, said Phil Shallenberger, who regularly flies over the project to refuel his plane. Its not going to stay there long. When you move, it goes away.
How much heat is generated/reflected by this “farm”? What is the environmental impact? Any wildfires being sparked?
It doesn’t look like there’s much vegetation around there to incinerate anyway.
More $$$ to fix a problem caused by an unnecessary project to begin with.
I imagine there have been a few rear-end collisions on Interstate 15 because of that facility as well.
They do incinerate birds. Perhaps the fried birds can be fed to the homeless.
Glare being the “unintended consequence” of 173,500 large mirrors. Does anybody me remember that the operators wanted to change this plant to an array or low cost Chinese solar panels but DOE forced them to continue with their original plan and build it this way?
Dennis prager had a guest a few years ago. She said it would take a seven sq mile solar facility to replace one nuclear reactor
Wonder how much it costs to keep the mirrors clean.
So a few planes go down. Forward!
Obama shall pen an EO providing a pathway to citizenship for illegal aliens who volunteer seven years of labour keeping the panels clean and polished.
Wonder if they can aim it? Might come in handy if we are ever attacked by space aliens or a colony of giant ants.
Uuummm Ray Bans?
The mirrors can be aimed to track sun position, but probably couldn’t tilt down to ground level. If we get attacked by giant killer pigeons, on the other hand...
I have read stories that this altar to green technology is roasting birds who inadvertently fly over the place.
So, you see, environmental nazi only are concerned with the welfare of wildlife when it comes to projects that affect Conservatives, otherwise they are perfectly willing to roast birds or let windmills kill bald eagles.
That unnecessary project puts money in the pockets of the lobbyists and congress critters that approved that boondoggle.
I was stationed on Kure Atoll Coast Guard Loran Station in the middle of the Pacific. We had 3 generators with their exhaust and mufflers on the roof of the power building. In the salt air those things rusted pretty fast so I asked for some special paint, basically liquid chrome. When the next C 130 logistics flight came in the pilots said they could see the sun’s reflection off of those mufflers for miles and were wondering what that was. I can imagine what these huge mirrors are doing.
“I imagine there have been a few rear-end collisions on Interstate 15 because of that facility as well.”
I have not seen the articles that report that the facility is causing blinding reflecting light on I-15.
That is just horrible and much worse than even blinding pilots.
The glare is really bad from both the air and ground. I’m a pilot, but not commercial, and I thought it was a concern when I’ve viewed it from both on multiple occasions. It is a definite hazard IMHO.
We have gone by a few times it is like an arc welder in a dark garage
Giant killer pigeons... it is possible you know. Maybe exposed to radiation or a laboratory experiment gone wrong. Either way, we have to prepare ourselves.
I’ve driven by this monstrosity several times and had a passing thought about its effects on pilots.
These solar and wind farm are two of the biggest eyesores ever created by man. Talk about visual pollution, but the environmental whackos dismiss all that along with the large bird kills caused by both.
Actually I wasn’t thinking about drivers being blinded by it. It’s just so weird looking and the field of reflectors is so enormous that drivers stare at it as they drive by.