Solar Farm Reflection Impacts Pilots’ Visibility

English: Solar One power plant in Mojave Deser...

English: Solar One power plant in Mojave Desert, California (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sunny California’s Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System has caused problems for pilots traversing the region.   Two anonymous complaints were filed in August, before the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System ever came online.  A pilot complaint stated that the intense brightness from the mirrors made it impossible to look in the direction of the plant, and an air traffic controller reported that they received complaints of reduced visibility from pilots flying over the facility every day, especially during the late morning and early afternoon.

The Mojave Desert is home to the world’s largest solar plant, and using technology known as solar thermal, these computer-controlled mirrors track sunlight and reflect it onto water filled boilers on top of towers measuring 459 feet tall.  Each mirror is 70 square feet, roughly the size of a garage door, and the facility contains around 300,000 of these mirrors.  That’s a lot of reflected light.  The sunlight gathered by the heliostats heats the water in the boilers to more than 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, creating steam which drives turbines to create electricity.  By using sunlight to fuel these turbines, instead of fossil fuels, carbon emissions are estimated to be reduced by more than 400,000 tons annually.  The Mojave desert is an ideal location for this kind of facility, thanks to the dry air and elevation, the area receives sunlight 330-350 days per year.  The 392 MW facility covers 3,500 acres in San Bernadino County, California.  NRG Energy, Google, and CSP firm BrightSource Energy own the solar farm.

Unlike traditional solar power, Ivanpah combines thermal and solar energy power generation.  Data shows the power generated by the facility met 2.4 percent of electricity demand in California in 2013 and that number is rising.  January numbers showed the utility-scale solar photovoltaic production generated  enough to meet 2.9 percent of demand in January, proving California is quickly becoming a leader in CSP and utility-scale PV.  According to a November 2012 article in Smithsonian.com, this facility almost doubles the amount of solar power produced in the US.

During the environmental study for the project, the visibility risk for drivers on Interstate 15 and aircraft was evaluated.  This study found that pilots flying within 3,300 feet of the heliostats could experience temporary blindness and compromise safety.  BrightSource Energy, one of the site developers, has been required to develop a heliostat positioning plan within 90 days of beginning operation to monitor brightness and avoid potential hazards.

Flights between Las Vegas and Southern California fly over the area above or near the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System dozens of times each day.

NRG Energy Inc co-owns and operates the plant, and they are investigating the situation.  Company spokesman, Jeff Holland, said March 14 that they will respond in 10 days, so be on the lookout for an update from them this week.

‘Til next time,

Jessica

 

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A Different Kind of Crowdfunding Campaign: Bringing Solar Power to Schools

Natural Resources Defense Council

Natural Resources Defense Council (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I came across this article on PennEnergy.com and I just had to check it out to see what the deal was.  There is an Indiegogo campaign by NRDC to launch a clean energy pilot program in schools in the United States. How awesome is that? I am a big fan of crowdfunding in general, but before today, most of the campaigns I’ve been involved with have had more of an artistic bent. You know stuff like movies, albums…stuff like that, but as soon as I read the summary for this campaign, I just had to jump in.

The sun is a source of clean energy that we never have to worry about running out, and every time we power one of our schools with solar technology, we:

  • Help the school cut its energy costs
  • Give our kids healthier air to breathe
  • Make our communities more energy independent
  • Provide hands-on learning experiences with renewable energy, sparking student interest in science and math

That’s why we’re seeing more and more people raising their hands and saying, “I want solar for my school.”

-NRDC Indiegogo campaign

Here’s the challenge though.  Schools are always trying to stretch their budgets just a little bit further and administrators and teachers are always working to squeeze a little more time into their day.  Where are they going to find the time and resources to research and develop solar power for their school?

That’s where Solar Schools comes in.  This is a program that takes ideas from programs that help simplify a complicated process by walking you through this complex, multi-step process (like TurboTax) and networking sites (like LinkedIn) to build a community and connect them with experts in the field of solar power.  Solar Schools is all about empowering communities and schools.

The first phase of the pilot program is set to roll out in January of 2014.

Through pilot projects in 3-5 communities, we aim to prove that our new social organizing tool and dynamic guide will help communities:

  • Build their solar volunteer team quickly through friend-to-friend connections.
  • Organize and track project momentum by creating a “hub” and guide for activism.
  • Empower more parents, students and teachers as leaders – creating more project “ownership” opportunities and higher levels of volunteer engagement.

-NRDC Indiegogo campaign
 

The crowdfunding campaign through Indiegogo is to support the build-out of the Solar Schools platform, and help bring solar power to 3-5 schools around the United States during this first phase.

All of us know how important it is to spark an interest in the hearts of young people for math and science.  They could be the ones to to create the next big innovation in technology.  Maybe it all starts because they got to watch solar power at work at their school.