Unintended consequences of solar power keep coming into view – Next, reflection off panels as a threat to airplanes – solar #15

I am particularly intrigued by the concept of unintended consequences. You try to do something to fix one problem and wind up causing another problem.

Here’s another unintended consequence for those massive solar farms out in the desert – blinding pilots who are flying over the highly reflective panels.

Chris Clarke at ReWire on 3/12 reports Desert Solar Power Plant a Risk to Air Safety, Say Pilots. (How does he crank out all those articles?)

Turns out that a few hundred thousand panels each the size of a billboard will cumulatively reflect a lot of light. Not all of it is collected in the tower. Much of it is reflected into the air where it can blind pilots. On-the-record complaints have been flowing into the Aviation Safety Reporting System since the summer of 2013, according to the article.

One air traffic controller filed a report that there are daily complaints from pilots flying through the area around Ivanpah near the California Nevada border.

One pilot who filed a safety report described it as looking at the sun. The glare filled one-third of the co-pilot’s window. The glare was so bad the pilots could not search the sky for other planes while looking in that direction. My wild guess is it might take a minute or four to fly through the area where glare is hitting the plane.

The article says there are 120 scheduled commercial flights a day that are within the viewshed of Ivanpah.

Word of the day from Wikipedia

A viewshed is an area of land, water, or other environmental element that is visible to the human eye from a fixed vantage point

The article says the county regulator that supervises the Los Vegas airport asked the project’s owners to start measuring the glare and including that information in the monthly compliance reports.

Risk for aircraft from glare: a whole new category of harm caused by solar farms.

Maybe we should get a clue about the consequences of solar energy

Perhaps we as a society should figure out the full range of different types of damage caused by solar farms (new types keep appearing).

Perhaps we should then get a handle on the extent of harm from each type of damage (nobody knows is a frequent answer to questions asked).

Perhaps we should get a clue before we build another 20 or 50 square miles of solar farms that will be around for a quarter century.  

Update (3-18)Quartz covered the issue on 3/18, six days after Mr. Clarke’s article: Pilots complain that glare from the world’s biggest solar power plant is blinding them 

Update 2 (3-18): Daily Caller picks up the story on 3/18: Airplane pilots hit by ‘nearly blinding’ glare from massive Calif. solar facility. Tidbits include the glare will create a retained image in your vision after you look away. Also the initial EIS said the glare could cause temporary blindness for a pilot flying with 3,300 feet of the facility.

Update 3 (3-21): Daily Mail also covered the story on 3/18. Apparently the story went viral and everybody pumped out comparable stories on 3/18.   Their article, Pilots complain of being blinded by glare as they fly over giant mirrors powering world’s largest solar plant., covers the same info as the other things mentioned above. New part of their story is including three great photos that provide a visual demonstration of the glare issue – check out the pix.


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