Giant Solar Plant in Mojave Could Flip Airplanes

Mammoth Ivanpah plant gives rise to many safety concerns

By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff

Posted Jun 24, 2012 4:36 PM CDT

(Newser) – The largest solar energy plant in the world could bring a surprising array of dangers to the Mojave Desert when constructed is completed, reports the LA Times. First off, it's huge: 170,000 large mirrors will be installed at the Ivanpah plant, heating water in three 45-story towers to 1,000 degrees. Critics say no one can specify the dangers because no solar plant has been bulit on this scale—but it might vaporize birds, blind drivers miles away, flip small airplanes, or even attract Air Force heat-seeking missiles.

With a new airport for Las Vegas proposed just six miles away, heat plume interference from the solar plant could be a deadly threat. "If you hit a plume dead center, you have one wing in and one wing out of it. It would flip an airplane in a heartbeat," says the operator of the nearby Blythe airport, who adds that his complaints have been ignored. "It was a joke." Even if Ivanpah is safe, there are applications pending for 100 other solar plants in the Mojave. "It's an experiment on a grand scale," says one scientist.

A photo of BrightSource Energy’s Luz Power Tower in Israel's Negev Desert.
A photo of BrightSource Energy’s Luz Power Tower in Israel's Negev Desert.   (AP Photo/BrightSource, Eilon Paz)
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