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Massive Mojave Desert solar plant poses threat to birds, military and aviation

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World’s largest solar power plant in Mojave Desert, California, which is in the construction phase, is expected to produce a huge amount of energy. It’s a great news for people familiar with future energy crisis. However, there are some serious issues, which might create a great problem for people residing in the valley, birds, and animals.

If that doesn’t sound serious then what about this five square mile field covered with reflective mirrors blinding the aircraft pilot or the superheated air creates powerful swirls, which can create turbulence for small airplane and even flip it. What about the highway drivers, who might get distracted due to mirrors? The military officials, aviation officials and many more such officials have raised the issues regarding particular consequences the operation of plant could result in. There are almost 100 such pending issues, which haven’t received any answer yet. The state federal government is trying to boost the construction instead. Scientists even raising doubt about the possibility of heat-seeking missiles getting misguided by confusing a solar power plant with a military training target. Most common problems are claimed to be occurring due to electromagnetic intrusion/reflection, vertical obstruction, frequency spectrum overlap, infrared footprint and glint/glare, according to the test pilot school at Edwards Air Force.

Mojave Desert plant, largest solar power plant, is something, which never existed before and it’s the first time that 5 square miles of area will be covered with 170,000 garage door sized mirrors. The mirrors will reflect the rays to three 45- story towers filled with water to boil it at 1,000 degrees to produce steam. The whole project is computerized and even the alignment of mirrors changes after every 10 seconds and each mirror has its own GPS device to track the sun.

Even if we consider that it won’t flip an small airplane or blind the drivers and pilots, still the bird life is certain to suffer and die at Ivanpah. This is not just an assumption, but there are documented studies regarding the effect of solar plants on bird life. Ornithologist Robert McKernan along with his colleagues conducted studies at the Solar One plant near Barstow. They found dead birds, which either collided with the mirrors or were burnt off. Surprisingly, the study was conducted 30 years ago on a very smaller solar plant as compared to the Mojave Desert plant. The number of mirrors in Mojave solar plant is 100 times more than that in the plant on which the study was conducted and even areas wise, a larger portion critical to migrating birds is under effect.

However, it’s not easy for the officials and scientists to assume the actual results as never before such a huge solar plant existed and therefore, it’s not easy to understand the situation until, the project starts working.

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  • Skypilot66

    It sounds like you are looking for excuses to be against solar power.  So maybe they should build a giant coal plant instead?  Or we should stop using electricity and return to the “dark ages?” 

    And where, in the middle of the desert, might these drivers be blinded by light reflected up to a tower?

    Rising thermals are nothing new to pilots, and sailplanes might find the thermals over this plant very attractive.  Heat seeking missiles going off course, really?  Let’s be serious.  Before we worry about what this plant might do to some birds, let’s kill all the pet cats in this country who kill so many songbirds, that’s if you’re interested in truly meaningful numbers.   I like birds and cats, but electricity has become a necessity of modern life and these solar plants are the best way to generate it.

  • Hoh

    Exactly my thoughts. Some people will stop at nothing to reassure their fear of change.