Print 60 comment(s) - last by overlandpark4m.. on Mar 25 at 2:51 AM

It's unclear what, if anything can be done

The largest thermal solar electricity plant in the world went live this year in the U.S. The $2.2 billion Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System is located on the California Nevada Border and has already come under fire for killing birds. The intense heat from the solar plant has literally scorched birds in mid-flight.

Airline pilots are now complaining that they are being blinded by the intense sunlight that reflects off the 340,000 mirrors used at the plant. While the aircraft are flying far enough above the towers and mirrors that heat isn't an issue, the glare is a problem.

One pilot of a small aircraft filed a report with the Aviation Safety Reporting System, complaining:
From the pilot’s seat of my aircraft the brightness was like looking into the sun. 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.
One FAA air traffic controller working in southern California added, "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."

Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System 
Perhaps the most unsettling part of these reports is that it took months for them to reach the California Energy Commission that oversees Ivanpah. The reports were filed in August 2013 and didn’t reach the CEC until March 10, 2014.
“What I can tell you right now is that we take these concerns seriously,” Jeff Holland, a spokesman for NRG Energy, which is operating Ivanpah said. He noted, "We will respond to—and address—these reports in the coming days in accordance with conditions of our permits."

Source: QZ

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No fly zone?
By otherwise on 3/19/2014 10:45:15 AM , Rating: 5
We have no fly zones around nuclear power plants. Couldn't you just do the same for solar?

RE: No fly zone?
By venym76 on 3/19/14, Rating: -1
RE: No fly zone?
By FITCamaro on 3/19/2014 12:20:43 PM , Rating: 5
Actually it isn't since nuclear reactors are built to withstand a 747 slamming into them. And even if the tower failed to completely stand up to the impact, it would be enough for safeguards to kick in and stop the reaction. Stop believing environmentalist fear mongering garbage.

It's more of a security measure because you don't want to test that sort of thing.

RE: No fly zone?
By Jeffk464 on 3/19/2014 2:00:01 PM , Rating: 1
Pretty sure a lot of US nuclear plants were built before the 747 was manufactured, maybe 707.

RE: No fly zone?
By FITCamaro on 3/19/2014 3:05:03 PM , Rating: 1
The 747 has been around since 1970. The first US nuclear plants were built in 1974.

RE: No fly zone?
By DT_Reader on 3/19/2014 3:14:18 PM , Rating: 2
1974? Really? Care to cite a reference for that? Per WikiPedia: The first commercial nuclear generator to become operational in the United States was the Shippingport Reactor (Pennsylvania, December 1957).

RE: No fly zone?
By typicalGeek on 3/19/14, Rating: 0
RE: No fly zone?
By futrtrubl on 3/19/2014 4:54:35 PM , Rating: 4
Except that all the plants built before 1970 in the US on that list are no longer in operation.

RE: No fly zone?
By Samus on 3/20/2014 12:09:50 AM , Rating: 1
Doesn't matter, they're practically the same gross weight and speed of a modern airliner. Since the 60's there isn't much you can do to improve service ceilings and top speed of commuter aircraft. They're basically limited to ~40,000 feet and ~700mph due to haul pressurization issues and sound barrier limitations.

In fact, most modern aircraft are lighter than their predecessors to increase fuel economy. Carbon fiber wasn't around in the 50's and 60's, and although it often weighs more than 7000 aluminum, its stronger, so less material is required for the same strength.

Fit's point is valid. Modern nuclear plants will withstand direct hits from large aircraft with minimal risk of meltdown. We're talking 3 feet thick concrete barriers with multi-layered rebar. The twin towers were 90% glass exterior (the windows were load baring) with the majority of the structure support in the center, which eventually fatigued from heat.

I don't remember who said it, but I remember reading a famous quote from the DoE once:

It takes nuclear power to take out nuclear power.

The obvious recent exception is Fukushima, which should have never happened. It was 100% preventable and caused entirely by human error and penny pinching, not a tsunami or earthquake. Nuclear power plants have never been disrupted in history by either because there are numerous systems to protect them from those exact events.

RE: No fly zone?
By FaaR on 3/19/14, Rating: 0
RE: No fly zone?
By Dorkyman on 3/19/2014 3:29:53 PM , Rating: 3
Let's all settle down here. Don't assume that the "environment" is so darn fragile. A 747, heck, an A380 hitting a nuke plant will certainly trash the plane and the plant, but the gigantic concrete containment vessel will suffer modest damage. And, if breached, any radiation leakage will not spell doom for civilization. Some people freaked out with Fukushima but the actual radiation death toll per Wikipedia: zero. Even if there were hundreds of deaths from Fukushima that would pale in comparison to deaths in other energy-related fields. And a plane-crash incident would be a far smaller event than Fukushima. So try to keep things in perspective and not just knee-jerk "Nuke=Evil."

RE: No fly zone?
By StevoLincolnite on 3/19/2014 7:06:09 PM , Rating: 2
You need to be realistic here.
Even though I am Pro-Nuclear, it's not a viable power source *everywhere*. (I.E. In the middle of a desert with no water source.)
I live in the driest state on the driest inhabited continent in the world, it's simply not viable when water at times is more valuable than oil.
We have a singular river feeding a few million people, farms etc' with water, throwing a Nuclear plant into that mix is asking for trouble, you don't put the only single reliable water source for an entire state at risk, regardless of what it is.

I don't doubt the track record of Nuclear, but it's something that can effect the environment, people, food for well over a century, especially if it gets into the food chain like fish.
There may not have been any sudden casualties, but radiation poising/cancer can take years and it's not a pleasant way to go.

Fukishima failed the Japanese for two reasons, greed and incompetence, it should have been shut down a long time ago and they paid the price, thankfully allot of other countries around the world don't have such a track record.

RE: No fly zone?
By Reclaimer77 on 3/19/14, Rating: 0
RE: No fly zone?
By FITCamaro on 3/19/2014 9:57:12 PM , Rating: 2
Even though I am Pro-Nuclear, it's not a viable power source *everywhere*. (I.E. In the middle of a desert with no water source.)

Except the US's largest nuclear power plant is in the middle of the desert.

RE: No fly zone?
By StevoLincolnite on 3/21/2014 5:00:47 AM , Rating: 3
I don't live in the United States.
I live in the driest state on the driest continent in the world.
There is ONE river supplying millions of people, farms etc'.

Water scarcity was so severe we had to "ration" water for domestic uses.

But sure, put the most valuable resource at risk and see what happens. :P

There are water-free alternatives to electricity generation, which is far more viable for my locale.

RE: No fly zone?
By Strunf on 3/20/2014 9:02:58 AM , Rating: 2
Nuclear power plants do not need to waste water, they could run on closed cooling systems with a very small need for water and it doesn't even need to be drinkable water, plus if the terrain is hostile enough then chances are no one is living there anyways.
Today just like in the past they install them near a river or the sea cause it's the cheapest way and there's always a power-grids anyways so it's not like they have to install a nuclear power plant near the city or something.

RE: No fly zone?
By chrnochime on 3/19/14, Rating: -1
RE: No fly zone?
By SPOOFE on 3/20/2014 12:07:04 AM , Rating: 2
Why don't you go move to the desert to be near the Ivanpah plant? Why don't you drink the water in the desert, if you get such a raging boner from deserts?


RE: No fly zone?
By Jeffk464 on 3/20/2014 12:24:23 PM , Rating: 2
Primm Nevada, no thanks.

RE: No fly zone?
By Spuke on 3/20/2014 12:43:18 PM , Rating: 2
Primm Nevada, no thanks.
Someone actually lives there?

RE: No fly zone?
By KOOLTIME on 3/20/2014 1:41:46 PM , Rating: 2
Shave an hour drive to vegas and state line gamble at whisky Pete's go on the roller coaster - its PRIMM lol

RE: No fly zone?
By Jeffk464 on 3/20/2014 12:23:19 PM , Rating: 2
Some people freaked out with Fukushima but the actual radiation death toll per Wikipedia: zero.

That's hard to say, you can have immediate deaths from radiation but you can also have deaths 5 to 10 years later from cancer. If the radiation has been absorbed into the fisheries you could probably have cancer deaths decades from the incident.

RE: No fly zone?
By Jeffk464 on 3/20/2014 12:26:53 PM , Rating: 2
Oops somebody already made this point.

RE: No fly zone?
By FITCamaro on 3/19/2014 9:57:49 PM , Rating: 1
What do you have against brain cells that made you kill all of yours except those that form stupid statements.

RE: No fly zone?
By DT_Reader on 3/19/2014 12:00:31 PM , Rating: 2
Perhaps; they could at least warn pilots in advance. But what I don't understand is why there's any glare at all. Isn't the reflected sunlight directed at the towers, not the sky?

If it's a case where the plant doesn't run in the early morning/late afternoon because of the sun's angle, could they turn the mirrors in random directions so that they're not all reflecting toward the same patch of sky? That way it wouldn't look like one giant mirror from overhead, more like a mirror ball where you only get a direct reflection from a few panels at a time as you fly over.

And haven't these pilots ever dealt with glare off a lake?

RE: No fly zone?
By Jaguar36 on 3/19/2014 12:50:52 PM , Rating: 2
There shouldn't be any glare at all. I bet this was occurring before the plant was operational and the mirrors were not focused yet.

RE: No fly zone?
By Jeffk464 on 3/19/2014 12:55:29 PM , Rating: 2
yup, the mirrors should be focused on the towers not the sky.

RE: No fly zone?
By Bad-Karma on 3/19/2014 1:30:21 PM , Rating: 3
Actually it's the towers themselves in addition to some leakage from the mirrors that are blinding the pilots. There are some good photos of it that the pilots have turned in:

RE: No fly zone?
By Jeffk464 on 3/19/2014 1:58:46 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, I've driven past this plant when it was operational and saw how bright the towers are. I guess I'm not as namby pamby as the pilots though, I thought it looked pretty cool.

RE: No fly zone?
By Dorkyman on 3/19/2014 3:42:03 PM , Rating: 2
It's not the tower that's so bright, but the mirrors immediately behind the tower when viewed from the air. I've seen this for myself when I flew by a much-smaller version near Tonopah Nevada several decades ago. It's very much like looking at the sun. So don't look at it, but also realize that you can't see anything coming at you from that general direction, either.

RE: No fly zone?
By Jeffk464 on 3/19/2014 12:53:37 PM , Rating: 1
Or how about sunglasses.

RE: No fly zone?
By Bad-Karma on 3/19/2014 1:34:27 PM , Rating: 2
There are NOTAMS out there about the plant. problem is that it really can not be avoided. due to air traffic control and approach lanes in the area.

Glare from a lake is nothing like the focused energy the plant is putting off.

RE: No fly zone?
By mars2k on 3/20/2014 8:40:20 AM , Rating: 2
Jee whiz you guys get distracted easily. It’s about the glare and planes NOW not who built what over which nuclear free zone. Stay on topic.
Meanwhile back at the ranch……if it hurts when you do that…. don’t do that. Fly elsewhere please.

RE: No fly zone?
By overlandpark4me on 3/25/2014 2:51:03 AM , Rating: 2
Next story will be about "global warming", but won't tie in this huge heat source. It's interesting how the tree huggers manage to ignore the dead animals this place is contributing to, or the Toyota battery plants that have created dead zones around it that NASA uses to replicate dead environments. What's even funnier is that coal power generates the electricity those tards think is helping the environment.

Sci-fi thoughts
By NellyFromMA on 3/19/2014 11:20:17 AM , Rating: 2
What if in an effort to become green, save the planet and develop power plants such as this, we actually end up exacerbating "man-made climate change".

Just imagine, in this case, we are essentially diverting so much heat from its normal area of dissipation into a substantially concentrated area. Then as these plants become more and more common, they consume what was considered an 'infinite resource' and figure out not only is it finite in a given period of time, but actually induces climate change in an accelerated form from today's energy sources. What if winter's become harsher because we are leaching from the environment in a different way but we as a society become too afraid to challenge it for lack of alternatives in an economy that has completely shifted gears out of coal and into a green grid.

Haha, I've always kind of imagined that type of scenario with green energy (although, not the actually death of animal life as a result like in this case) so don't take it too seriously. However, I do think its not outside the realm of possibility.

RE: Sci-fi thoughts
By M'n'M on 3/19/2014 12:19:36 PM , Rating: 2
Not read Fallen Angels by Niven and Pournelle ?

RE: Sci-fi thoughts
By NellyFromMA on 3/19/2014 12:55:45 PM , Rating: 2
Haven't, but I'll have to look it up.

RE: Sci-fi thoughts
By tng on 3/19/2014 2:53:06 PM , Rating: 2
Not read Fallen Angels by Niven and Pournelle ?
Yes, good read and somewhat of a cautionary tale about the hubris of mankind, IMO.

RE: Sci-fi thoughts
By Jeffk464 on 3/19/2014 1:01:24 PM , Rating: 2
Shouldn't matter its the same amount of heat is being absorbed.

RE: Sci-fi thoughts
By JediJeb on 3/19/2014 1:48:33 PM , Rating: 2
Better yet, let's just build a bunch of these and direct the sunlight back out into space. That should keep the planet from absorbing the heat and counteract warming.

RE: Sci-fi thoughts
By Jeffk464 on 3/19/2014 1:57:12 PM , Rating: 2
There is talk about using white roofs in cities to help with the urban island heat effect. As far as manufacturing mirrors for this use, I'm sure the negatives would outweigh the positives.

RE: Sci-fi thoughts
By tng on 3/19/2014 2:57:42 PM , Rating: 2
I'm sure the negatives would outweigh the positives.
I am thinking it would be a great idea that deals with GW directly... However lets list the negatives involved in putting mirrors on every roof.

1. The glare to pilots
2. Who pays for the material and install costs?
3. The UN/Al Gore can't make money from it.

RE: Sci-fi thoughts
By Dorkyman on 3/19/2014 3:44:07 PM , Rating: 2
This is an experiment that probably won't be replicated. Too little gain, too many drawbacks.

RE: Sci-fi thoughts
By Solandri on 3/19/2014 9:47:39 PM , Rating: 2
Mirrors are kinda overkill when white paint would be nearly as effective and much cheaper. Black actually doesn't absorb heat like conventional wisdom says. It acts more like a heat conductor - it both absorbs and radiates heat more rapidly. So during the day (when the outside his hotter), a black roof helps transfer heat from outside to inside. But during the night (when the outside is cooler), a black roof just hastens the heat loss into the night sky.

White acts like a heat insulator. So for the same reason an insulated house uses less energy than an uninsulated house, in most cases white is a better color choice than black/slate/grey. The only better choice would be a roof which changes color from black to white depending on the inside vs outside temperature.

The story is when Obama asked Steven Chu (Secretary of Energy until 2013) what's the best way for the country to save energy, Chu replied we should paint our roofs white. Chu is a Nobel Prize-winning physicist. He knows what he's talking about. I'm almost certain that Obama's reserved reaction to the Fukushima disaster was because Chu convinced him that nuclear energy would be crucial to help wean us off of fossil fuels.

RE: Sci-fi thoughts
By FaaR on 3/19/2014 3:17:17 PM , Rating: 3
What if in an effort to become green, save the planet and develop power plants such as this, we actually end up exacerbating "man-made climate change".

How on earth do you figure? This facility simply re-focuses sunlight which has already struck our planet. There's no net gain whatsoever.

shut it down?
By AntiM on 3/19/2014 10:47:13 AM , Rating: 2
What does the FAA expect the California Energy Commission to do about it? Shut down a 2 billion dollar project? Shouldn't the pilots be wearing anti-glare sunglasses? Maybe they could fly a different route during the hours when the glare is the worse?

RE: shut it down?
By amanojaku on 3/19/2014 11:44:26 AM , Rating: 2
Because the needs of the country (transcontinental travel) outweigh the wants of the state ("green" power).

I'm sure pilots have already tried sun shields and anti-glare glasses. Pilots of small planes and commercial flights have complained about this for eight months, after all. Even a passenger (an air traffic controller for the Aviation Safety Reporting System) said it was a distraction. The glare must be pretty bad since passengers don't have to look out the windows. And don't even think about rerouting planes. That's complicated, and it would add to fuel costs (and higher ticket prices for commercial flights).

RE: shut it down?
By DT_Reader on 3/19/2014 12:06:01 PM , Rating: 1
I think we need clean power far more than we "need" fast transcontinental travel. Note that we have lots of ways to travel transcontinental, from automobiles to Amtrak to airlines. Automobiles and Amtrak have to route around lakes and mountains; airlines can route around solar plants. Flying a bit out of the way of this plant won't delay your transcontinental flight very much at all.

RE: shut it down?
By Jeffk464 on 3/19/2014 2:01:43 PM , Rating: 2
Oh come on the FAA is going to tell the pilots to put their big boy pants on and quit whining.

RE: shut it down?
By SPOOFE on 3/19/2014 5:14:19 PM , Rating: 2
I think we need clean power far more than we "need" fast transcontinental travel.

We HAVE clean power, that is proven and can supply far more power, mire reliably, than solar. It's called "nuclear power" and for some reason the Greenies don't want to use it.

RE: shut it down?
By Strunf on 3/20/2014 9:36:15 AM , Rating: 2
I don't see why the small commercial planes should get the priority over this power plant and I doubt when you travel at the high altitude the normal commercial planes travel it would be a problem for them.

RE: shut it down?
By FITCamaro on 3/19/2014 12:21:36 PM , Rating: 2
Why not? They've shut down plenty of other industries in this country for environmental reasons.

RE: shut it down?
By Bad-Karma on 3/19/2014 1:37:27 PM , Rating: 2
It isn't just there eyes. When that much light comes into the cockpit it bounces around and literally lights up the entire cockpit. At that point you can no longer make out your instruments, sun glasses or not.

RE: shut it down?
By tng on 3/19/2014 3:03:15 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe they could fly a different route during the hours when the glare is the worse?
Not easy to do really. Most approach and exit routes to large metro areas and the airports that serve them are laid out so that there is no interference with each other. Shifting them permanently would be an issue and shifting them a couple times a day would be a nightmare.

RE: shut it down?
By HomerTNachoCheese on 3/19/2014 4:33:12 PM , Rating: 2
Do they not have polarized sunglasses? Those should greatly reduce the glare.

RE: shut it down?
By geekman1024 on 3/19/2014 9:37:55 PM , Rating: 2
Nooooooo! They can't shut it down, else my Courier won't be able to finish the Helios quest!!

By Dr K on 3/19/2014 12:17:21 PM , Rating: 2
So, couldn't they just not look down? And maybe wear some polarized sunglasses? If it's on autopilot, they could just look away for a few seconds, right? Doesn't sound like an insurmountable problem to me.

RE: really?
By guacamojo on 3/19/2014 1:39:14 PM , Rating: 3
Wouldn't pilots have a similar problem in the early morning and late afternoon with the, um, sun? Or at certain times of day with large reflective surfaces, like, perhaps, bodies of water?

"There's something wrong! I can't look in that direction because I get blinded!"

But if it's something man-made, it must be a problem with the design.

By titanmiller on 3/19/2014 12:31:05 PM , Rating: 2
This tells me that the mirrors are inefficient and not aimed at the focal point properly. If everything was aligned correctly there shouldn't be much glare.

Reminded me of this
By StinkyWhizzleTeeth on 3/22/2014 9:40:41 AM , Rating: 2
I think this article should use this picture from a Futurama episode.

"Now, to your right, you'll see 30th Century Fox Studios. Fox uses those searchlights to blind pilots, then film the resulting plane crashes."

"If you mod me down, I will become more insightful than you can possibly imagine." -- Slashdot
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