Aspen solar project has glaring problems |

Aspen solar project has glaring problems

Dear Chairman (Joe) Krabacher and members of the Planning & Zoning Commission,

The presentations concerning the proposed Aspen solar project before the Planning & Zoning Commission on July 16 raised a number of issues about the completeness and accuracy of some of the studies. One issue, location of the site and daily movement of the arrays, relates to critical safety concerns that we believe require further investigation.

First and most important, the commissioners should consider the added potential danger to planes flying into the Aspen airport. The possibility of distracting glare from 18,000 glass-covered panels was not adequately examined. Input from pilots and the FAA regarding the danger of unexpected blinding glare from the site, which is directly to the left of the landing corridor — with a mountain peak off the right wing — was plainly inadequate.

The brief comparisons that were made to solar sites near the Manchester, New Hampshire, and Albuquerque, New Mexico, airports were misleading and largely irrelevant. Neither of those airports have anything like the challenging narrow landing corridor that pilots flying into Aspen contend with. The Aspen approach is “like shooting through a mine shaft with little margin for error,” a pilot told the LA Times in 2001. Glare — inevitable as the panels move and follow the sun — was minimized and dismissed with flimsy substantiation. We were not informed, for example, that the size of the Manchester airport solar project consists of only 2,210 solar panels and the Albuquerque airport solar site has only 1,750 panels. The Aspen project under consideration will cover 33 acres (the size of downtown Aspen) and will use 18,000 panels. Was other relevant information not divulged? Recall that it is illegal to point a single laser beam toward an airplane. Using that same reasoning we believe that the reflection of light from these arrays could cause a problem of significantly greater magnitude.

We favor solar, but not at the expense of safety. Are the county commissioners willing to take the chance, however slight, without a complete impartial study?

Susan and Martin Sherwin