Glare From Airport Solar Panels Interfering With Air Traffic Controllers

By Susan Jones | August 8, 2013 | 9:53am EDT

Glare viewed from the air traffic control tower at Manchester/Boston Regional Airport on April 27, 2012, at 8:15 a.m. (Photo from Sandia National Laboratories website)

( - A $3.5-million solar panel installation at the airport in Manchester, New Hampshire -- paid for with a federal grant -- is under wraps as engineers debate how to deal with the glare that has bothered air traffic controllers, the New Hampshire Union Leader reported on Thursday.

According to the newspaper, engineers have suggested that the south-facing panels on top of the airport parking garage be turned to the east, even though that would reduce their energy output.

The 2,200 solar panels -- said to be New Hampshire's largest installation -- are now covered with tarps, as airport officials, the Federal Aviation Administration, and others seek a solution.

The consultant hired by the airport to apply for the FAA grant and study the glare issues reportedly earned $41,570 and the company is now said to be working with the airport to solve the problem. (Read the full story from the New Hampshire Union Leader here.)

In November 2010, the FAA issued a 169-page Technical Guidance for Evaluating Selected Solar Technologies on Airports.

As of June 26, 2012, the FAA said it is reviewing the "Reflectivity" section of that publication -- "based on new information and field experience."

"[S]ignificant content in this section may be subject to change," the notice says, "and the FAA cautions users against relying solely on this section at this time."

The U.S. Energy Department notes that the amount of glare from solar panels depends not only on the angle of installation but also on the type of product installed. It says newer panels may include at least one anti-reflective layer to minimize glare.

Some communities have issued zoning rules to address glare from solar panels on adjacent properties and roads.

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