The World's Largest Solar Plant Is Blinding Pilots

The World's Largest Solar Plant Is Blinding Pilots

We probably should have seen this coming. At the Ivanpah solar power plant near Las Vegas, a massive glittering field of 170,000 garage door-sized mirrors reflects sunlight. And all those mirrors are making flying near Ivanpah not so fun — or safe.

The Clark County Department of Aviation sent a letter earlier this week urging the plant's designers to do something about the glare, reports KCET. The letter included two separate complaints from August 2013, before the plant even opened.

One pilot describes flying near Ivanpah was like "looking into the sun." An air traffic controller also describes receiving constant complaints but being told, chillingly, that nothing was to be done:

The World's Largest Solar Plant Is Blinding Pilots
The World's Largest Solar Plant Is Blinding Pilots

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. They usually ask us what it is because they don't know. On this particular morning, an air carrier complained about the brightness and reiterated that it was "nearly blinding." I reported this to Management and was told that they were going to do nothing about it. They then suggested that I tell the pilot to report it through the safety reporting system that they have and to report it myself. 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.

At Ivanpah, the 170,000 mirrors shift to track the sun across the sky, focusing light onto three 45-story towers that collect the solar energy. Environmentalists and engineers had been worrying that Ivanpah could blind pilots even before the plant was built. Aside from planes, other flying objects are faring even worse in Ivanpah. The concentrated beams of sunlight fries birds who unknowingly fly through them.

As glittering and even beautiful Ivanpah looks in photos, enthusiasm for massive solar projects like this have waned, in part due to its environmental impact. California recently rejected a similar project due to concern for the birds. Meanwhile, it remains to be seen what will happen at Ivanpah. [KCET]

Pictures: Ethan Miller/Getty



    How can this blind pilots when they can use their instruments to navigate as well? What do you suppose a pilot uses in pitch black nights with dark clouds about, their eyes? Unlikely. The passengers I can understand a little more but then all they have to do is close their window-shade for 10-20min. Not exactly hard.

      Pilots like to be able to look outside, especially near airports, to look for small private aircraft that don't have the transponders and anti collision equipment.

    Meh... Hydrogen production is getting more efficient all the time. It won't be long before these things are a memory...!

      Yes because tankers full of hydrogen gas being driven around by tired, pinging drivers in poorly maintained rusting trucks will be much safer than the same tankers carrying petrol.

        Da F*ck are on about mate...! Whether they are delivering hydrogen or anything else, isn't going to change the amount of bad drivers or trucks on the road, it still needs transporting, and hydrogen won't be any more dangerous to deliver either, because they have methods of storage that are safer than other combustibles...! Plus there's a good chance they will be able to make it locally as well, because it's just a matter of cracking water, not pumping oil. Take a pill and chill...!

        Last edited 15/03/14 11:54 am

          Though there will be more trucks needed to transport the same energy (read: lower volumetric energy density of hydrogen, (That is in liquid form or hydride storage)), unless it is all piped from a central distribution point, or as you say, made onsite (using cheap, "carbon neutral"(BS), pollution-free energy, probably from a solar farm such as the one above). Hope Cootes get their maintenance issues sorted out.

            Does it really matter how it gets transported in the scheme of things...? I answered a rather short sighted comment about the quality of trucks and drivers, which I don't think is even really relevant, and apparently @lbd has no more of a frigging idea than @tonyintsv on the subject. I'm pretty sure that the newest methods of cracking water into oxygen and water, and in particular, the upcoming methods that can just use solar to power the system, are going to make it more and more cheap to crack. All in all, it will be made cheaper and be produced locally, without the heavy infrastructure. No way will it be more expensive or anywhere near as bad for the atmosphere.

            On ya @lbd, not enough guts to actually make an argument eh....

            Last edited 15/03/14 6:07 pm

              A MW or energy used to decompose water with return 700KW of energy at the end user. Tell us again how this is more efficient?

              Do you know where they get the Hydrogen used now? Even the huge quantities used by rockets and such? Methane.

                Search the internet for the new and upcoming methods of cracking water using solar energy or a recently developed photosynthesis method, is a good start, but there are others if you bother to look. If you're going to mouth off about something you think you are an expert on, at least have all the facts mate. I didn't say I was an expert at any stage from the beginning of this farce, I simply thought it was a moot point given the new technology coming up....!

                  It's not a moot point. How often are we told about these great new technologies and how they're going to fix everything and everything will be great. The fact is that the first law of Thermodynamics will always be applicable. Even assuming a solar plant, the energy required to crack the water is the same as the energy returned when you react the Hydrogen with Oxygen again. The problem is that there will always be losses in the system from voltage drop to the electrolysis and the like. Even if a new tech comes along that does away with electrolysis you sill have to compress the Hydrogen gas, or even liquify it. That's a huge amount of energy there as well. Then you use still more energy on transport, keeping it cooled during transport/storage.

                  It would be safer and more efficient, to have these power plants transmitting electricity to the grid to be used insitu rather than invent new technology, build new infrastructure and all the problems that go with it.

                  Better to use those resources on inventing new lighter more powerful batteries and solar panels. Make all new houses have enough panels to meed expected and foreseeable future needs, running hybrid grid feed systems to meet our energy needs.

          A tanker of Hydrogen ruptures versus a tanker of petrol.

          Hydrogen tanker - All of the hydrogen burns within a few seconds at a temperature to boil steel. in a fireball the size of 2 football fields end to end. Sucks all oxygen out of the air at a range of 4 times that. causes building fire over a kilometer away due to the radiant heat

          Petrol tanker - pool of burning fuel on the ground. burning at around 1700K makes its way to any soil and the fuel seeps into the soil. Is smothered by ordinary aqueous foam. Buildings in the immediate vicinity may catch on fire.

            There are now methods of transporting Hydrogen sequestered in a sponge like alloy matrix, that only allows it to release at a controlled rate. Besides that, there are safer regular tankers anyway. How the hell do you think they transport it now mate... Balloons...? And so bloody what if they have to build safer methods, that's what happens with any dangerous or combustible new material. It will still be cheaper than it is now...! Now bugger off, you arrogant twit, I'm done with you...!!

              Why expend resources to invent new ways to transport a dangerous substance when we can get better, safer results in different ways?

              I'm sorry, that you are so sensitive. Perhaps if you have to resort to a tantrum when someone points out flaws in your ideas, the internet is not the best place for you to spend your time.

                Arrogant.... that's how come off to me... just arrogant. You think you have all the answers, however....
                Anyway I'm done with this nonsense...

                  You said you were done with it before, and yet here you are.

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