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Tue, Jun 26, 2012

Massive Solar Plant Could Pose Danger To Aviation

Plant Could Generate Thermals Strong Enough To Flip Aircraft

No one questions the need for the United States to seek out and develop alternate sources of energy, but at what price to safety? Critics of the Ivanpah solar energy plant, now under construction in the Mojave Desert, say it could pose a myriad of unknown dangers, including a threat to aviation, reports the LA Times. Once completed the plant will be the largest in the world with 170,000 mirrors to collect the sun's energy and heat water three 45-story towers to 1,000 degrees.

No one knows for certain just what the dangers could be because no solar plant has ever been constructed on such a grand scale. Among the feared possibilities - the heat reflected from the mirrors might vaporize birds in flight, blind drivers miles away, create thermals strong enough to flip small aircraft or even attract heat seeking missiles.

There is real concern for the effect of thermals on aircraft with a new airport to serve Las Vegas being proposed for a site a mere 6 miles away. The website, Newser, reports that the operator of the nearby Blythe airport says he has warned officials of the danger of thermals. "If you hit a heat plume (thermal) dead center, you have one wing in and one wing out of it. It would flip an airplane in a heartbeat." So far his warnings have gone unheeded.

Even if the Ivanpah plant should eventually prove safe there are 100 applications pending for more solar plants to be built in the Mojave turning it into one massive solar collecting station with unknown effects.

(Image of similar solar plant near Denver, CO.)

FMI: www.DOE.gov

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