Mojave Update: Stu Witt Declares War on…

The wind turbines outside of Mojave appear vaguely menacing in a Transformers sort of way at dusk. Within a few minutes, their blinding Cylon Centaurian-style red warning beacons will be turned on, annoying pilots and residents alike for the rest of the evening. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

…light pollution caused by wind turbines!

You didn’t see that one coming, did ya?

Well, nobody ever expects light pollution. Or the Spanish Inquisition! (Da da dum!)

But, I digress.

Witt, who is the Mojave Air and Space Port general manager, is trying to do something about the thousands of red blinking lights that are installed atop wind turbines that cover the mountains between Mojave and Tehachapi.  The safety beacons, designed to warn pilots about the location of the massive power generators, can be seen from dozens of miles away. Witt says they are too bright and bother both pilots who use the airport and nearby residents who have to deal with the blinking red lights shining into their homes all night.

Witt brought one of the lights into this week’s meeting of the East Kern Airport District Board of Directors, which oversees the airport. He turned the device on, causing red spots in the eyes of attendees who failed to heed his repeated warnings not to look directly at the light.

The Federal Aviation Administration, which mandates the lights, is doing a study to determine whether the lights could be replaced with other devices that would safely warn pilots without causing the light pollution that bothers everyone. However, he believes that effort could take three years, and he’s not willing to wait.

Instead, Witt plans to do his own operational evaluation using a light installed on a tower. The plan is to find a way of altering the existing lights so that they warn pilots but are no longer an annoyance to residents.

Witt will share the results with Kern County officials, who will then make a recommendation to the FAA. Because Mojave is an unincorporated town without a mayor or town council, it relies on Kern County for services and political representation. The turbines are also located on land covered by the county.

It’s a tricky matter for Witt, whose airport has benefited financially from the wind industry. The facility serves as a temporary storage area for wind turbines being installed in the mountains. Witt says that wind companies are looking for a better solution to the current warning system.