Solar-energy solutions have become one of the most important modern components in making sustainable energy a reality, but an unforeseen issue at one massive solar thermal plant in California could put a damper on progress.
Based on reports from pilots flying over the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, glare from the plant’s massive heliostat mirror array has obstructed the vision of some pilots, presenting a potential hazard for aircrafts flying overhead.
Although one prominent air-traffic-controller complaint was filed last year, according to Quartz, the Aviation Safety Reporting System didn’t officially register the complaint until this month. In it, the official said:
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. They usually ask us what it is because they don’t know.
On this particular morning, an air carrier complained about the brightness and reiterated that it was “nearly blinding.” I reported this to Management and was told that they were going to do nothing about it.
But if local officials think the plant’s owners –- a group that includes NRG, Google and BrightSource — are thinking of ditching the mirrors to enhance air-traffic safety, they’re likely in for a disappointment. The system’s mirror-based dynamic is central to its operation.
The heliostat mirror array focuses light from the sun back onto 459-foot towers, equivalent in height to a 33-story building. The reflections heat the tower up enough to produce steam, which powers its turbines, and in turn, generates energy.
Built by BrightSource Energy, the solar-energy plant — reportedly the largest such plant in the world — houses 347,000 mirrors on a landmass of 3,500 acres, or roughly four times the size of New York City’s Central Park. Combined, the facility is capable of producing 392 gross megawatts, and delivering power to 140,000 homes in California.
“[W]e take these concerns seriously,” NRG spokesperson Jeff Holland told Mashable. “Solar plants like Ivanpah help address the long-term impact of climate change that will affect the environment on a global scale. That positive impact must be considered in the overall equation.
“As to the recent report, which dates back to August when testing and calibration was still underway at Ivanpah, we will respond to it as requested and in accordance with the conditions of our permit.”
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Article source: http://mashable.com/2014/03/19/social-energy-plant/