My article as originally published in American Thinker:
Last weekend, my father-in-law took my son and me to Arizona to watch a couple of Giants games during Spring Training – an early birthday gift for my son, and a truly fabulous experience that I’m sure my soon to be ten-year-old will never forget. But before we even made it to Arizona, I witnessed something else pretty unforgettable during the flight. About an hour or so into our journey from Sacramento to Phoenix, I noticed three extremely bright lights off in the distance while looking through a window on the right side of the aircraft. The lights were so intense that I thought I was looking at three miniature suns. In all my years of flying (that route included), I had never seen anything like this before.
I had my suspicions that the lights had something to do with some sort of solar farm, and after reading an article in The Daily Caller and doing a little research using Google Maps, I realized that I was in fact a victim of the world’s largest solar thermal plant – and that I wasn’t alone:
Airplane pilots cruising over southern California have been complaining about a “nearly blinding” glare emanating from a massive government-funded solar thermal facility.
The Ivanpah solar energy plant in San Bernardino County is the world’s largest solar thermal plant and has 173,500 large mirrors that reflect sunlight onto boilers in three 459-foot towers. A feat of modern engineering — to green energy advocates, but a flying hazard to pilots.
The Federal Aviation Administration’s Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) got two anonymous complaints in August that mentioned a “blinding glare” coming from the Ivanpah solar facility. One complaint came from a Los Angeles air traffic controller and the other from a small transport plane pilot that took off from an airport in Boulder City, Nevada.
“The FAA is aware of potential glare from solar plants and is exploring how to best alert pilots to the issue,” an FAA spokesman told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
Why didn’t someone think of this before breaking ground on such an enormous project? Well, according to the DC article, they did:
BrightSource’s environmental impact study for Ivanpah included mitigation measures for glare issues related to the site’s reflective mirrors. The aviation community actually raised such worries during the environmental review process.
Ivanpah’s environmental impact study found that the solar thermal plant could cause temporary blindness to pilots flying within 3,300 feet of the heliostats, which compromises safety. BrightSource had to develop a heliosat position plan to mitigate the potential harm from Ivanpah’s glare.
I think the study may have been off by more than a few decimal points with its estimate of pilots having to be within only 3,300 feet of the heliostats to experience temporary blindness. When I snapped the below photo (the only one that wasn’t totally overexposed) with my phone, the aircraft was at about 35,000 feet and dozens of miles to the East of Ivanpah’s 459-foot green-’n'-clean towers.
Many who are blinded by green energy don’t know about or simply ignore the heavy reliance on taxpayer subsidies and massive cronyism surrounding it. But now, in addition to the fiscal impracticality of green energy, we have Bald Eagles being killed by ugly wind turbines and pilots being dangerously disorientated by giant solar plants – and as if the Ivanpah solar plant wasn’t causing enough trouble, it’s the very same plant that has been conveniently cooking birds before they fall to the ground.
Isn’t it interesting how green energy (and those who amass their wealth from it) gets a free pass from any of its negative impacts, unlike the economy-growing affordable energy options? I guess those privileged to make these green omelets are permitted to break a few eggs – even if some of those eggs happen to be a protected species or are otherwise diligently protected by the TSA.
The next time I fly this route, I’ll be sure to bring along a few marshmallows to roast along the way.