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Solar plant provides renewable energy, blinds pilots in the process

Posting in Energy

 

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Airline pilots have reported that a solar plant on the California-Nevada border is blinding them during flights.

The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System is based 40 miles from the Las Vegas airport. Pilots with flight paths close to the plant have complained profusely that the energy plant's 340,000 mirrors reflect light that temporarily blinds them -- but regulators don't appear to be listening to these safety worries.

The Ivanpah solar plant uses heliostat mirrors placed on 140 meter-high towers. Boilers within the towers contain water which is heated by the concentrated sunlight, which in turn creates steam that generates enough energy to power turbines. These turbines then generate 377 megawatts of electricity, enough to power roughly 150,000 homes.

In a report filed with the Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS), one pilot said the brightness caused by the heliostats was "like looking into the sun," writing:

"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."

The complaints of the pilot and air traffic controllers were filed with the ASRS in 2013, but did not reach solar plant watchdog the California Energy Commission until March this year.

This is not the first time the plant has raised eyebrows. In February, reports suggested a number of birds have been hurt while flying in the area, with many found dead or injured -- sometimes with burnt wings -- near the site.

Read on: Quartz

Image credit: Brightsource

— By on March 19, 2014, 3:20 AM PST

Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure