By Miriam Raftery
June 27, 2012 (San Diego’s East County) – With over 100 large-scale solar applications pending in the Mojave Desert and more planned in San Diego and Imperial counties, an article published in the Los Angeles Times raises some disturbing questions.
“At what temperature might a songbird vaporize?” the article asks. “What happens if one of the Air Force’s heat-seeking missiles confuses a solar power plant with a military training target?”
It then provides credible evidence that bird kills are likely and that a Pentagon official fears the missile scenario is a frightening possibility.
The story also raises concerns that plumes of superheated air from solar tower projects could generate turbulence sufficient to flip a small plane and that glare from miles of solar mirrors could blind drivers.
Ivanpah, the world’s largest solar plant, is under construction near the California-Nevada border. Over 170,000 mirrors will track the sun and bounce solar radiation to the tops of a trio of skyscraper-height towers that in turn will heat up to 1,000 degrees and produce steam.
BrightSource Energy, owner of Ivanpah, insists that the first-of-its-kind facility will be safe. But others voice concerns.
A far smaller solar power tower has already been linked to bird deaths, studies led by ornithologists at the Solar One facility near Barstow have found. That study documented 70 birds deaths, including 13 that “burned to death” as well as birds that collided with towers. Read the study at http://www.scribd.com/doc/36138667/Solar-One-Avian-Mortality-Study
Test pilots at Edwards Air Force Base have reported hazards ranging from infrared issues to glare. The solar towers create additional issues, including plumes of superheated air that can be dangerous for small planes.
Most ominously, Major John G. Garza warns, “A heat-seeking missile could confuse the source and instead of going to a target on the range, it would go to the tower.”
For additional information, read the Los Angeles Times story at http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-solar-heat-plume-20120621,0,917543.story
For more on Ivanpah, see: http://www.energy.ca.gov/sitingcases/ivanpah/index.html