California’s Secret Oil Islands

Not too far off the coast of Long Beach, California, are a set of four artificial islands containing towering white buildings set amidst palm trees and shrubs and waterfalls, all dramatically lit by colorful lights at night. From the nearby shore, the man-made islands appear to be occupied by some sort of high priced condos or resorts. But truth is—they are just a façade camouflaging huge oil-drilling operations in the bay.

Disguising industrial infrastructures so that they blend with the environment is nothing new. The city of Toronto has been dressing up electric substations into quiet little houses for more than a century. Similarly, cities such as New York, Paris and London hide ventilation shafts and railway tracks behind phony walls and faux buildings. These fakeries are rarely advertised, instead left to be discovered by curious citizens.


The building of Long Beach’s THUMS Islands, however, was a much publicized project.

THUMS stands for Texaco, Humble (now Exxon), Union Oil, Mobil, and Shell—the five companies that formed a consortium to oversee drilling operations in the San Pedro Bay. The islands were built in 1965 at an estimated cost of $22 million. More than 640,000 tons of boulders, some as large as five tons each, were brought from Catalina Island and used to build the perimeters of the islands, starting from the floor of the harbor, some 30-40 meters deep. The islands were then filled with sand dredged from the bottom of the harbor floor. The next step was landscaping and equipment installation.

When Long Beach voters gave the go-ahead to the ambitious plan of tapping into the oil resources located offshore, part of the arrangement was that the islands should be designed to appear as tropical settings and that they should hide the actual drilling operations.

“The islands were required to blend in with the local landscape and scenery. The guiding principle was that the islands were to enhance, rather than detract from, the harbor’s natural beauty,” said Frank Komin, executive vice president of southern operations for California Resources Corporation, the company that currently owns the islands.

The islands were designed by Joseph Linesch, who also helped design landscaping at Disneyland. Palm trees were planted on the exterior. Concrete facades that hide the derricks also served the purpose of bouncing industrial noise away from the residents living nearby.

The THUMS Islands are also known as the Astronaut Islands, having been renamed in honor of four American astronauts who lost their lives in the service of NASA—Theodore C. Freeman, Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger B. Chaffee. The latter three were Apollo 1 astronauts who had perished in a fire accident at the launch pad.





The island on the right is  Island Grissom, one of the THUMS offshore oil platforms.


The Reflecting Rays of Solar Power Towers

In a patchwork of agricultural fields outside Seville, Spain, two giant 40-storey-high concrete towers rise. The obelisk-like structures are surrounded by an immense array of mirrors that reflect sunlight, bathing the top of the towers with a blinding white light. The rays of sunlight reflected by hundreds of huge mirrors are so intense that they illuminate the water vapor and dust hanging in the air creating visible beams. The otherworldly spectacle is the world’s first commercially operating power station using the Sun’s thermal energy to produce steam, which is used to power turbines to generate electricity.

The plant’s operator, Abengoa Solar, claims that it generates 11 Megawatts (MW) of electricity without emitting a single puff of greenhouse gas. The solar power plant, currently powers 60,000 homes, but when the project is completed sometime around this year, the plant should generate enough power to service 180,000 homes. The final project, which will be able to produce over 300MW, will include a series of towers, two more of which are being built, and standard photovoltaic power plants, as well as a mixture of newer parabolic solar collectors which will be installed at a later stage.



The power plant consist of two towers – PS10 and PS20. PS10 is surrounded by 624 heliostats – huge mirrors that track the sun throughout the year, reflecting the sun’s rays to the top of the tower where a solar receiver and a steam turbine are located. The PS20 plant is even larger with 1,255 heliostats and will produce up to 20 megawatts when fully operational in 2013. The towers together will prevent emissions of more than 600,000 tones of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere per year over its 25-year life.

The solar plant is supported by a 1.2 MW Sevilla PV plant composed of 154 silicon plate heliostats that produce electricity from solar radiation. The plant can generate 2.1GWh of clean energy annually. The remaining power plants, which will be built over the next few years, will include low- and high-concentration photovoltaic, tower thermoelectric, parabolic-trough collector and Stirling dish plants.

Although power from the plant will initially be more expensive than from conventional sources, prices will fall as the technologies develop.

Solar power plant producing electricity this way are being constructed elsewhere around the world. An even larger plant, Gemasolar Thermosolar Plant, also is Seville Spain operates with 2650 heliostats and produces 19.9 MW of electricity. Gemasolar is the worlds’ first solar power plant capable of delivering power round the clock.





The towers are 571 feet tall (174 m)















Two newer solar power tower facilities have come online in the United States that make the Seville power facility look small.

Power plants Installed capacity (MW) Yearly production (GWh) Country Developer/Owner Completed
Ivanpah Solar Power Facility 392 (U/C) 420 United States BrightSource Energy 2013
Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project 110 (U/C) 500 United States SolarReserve 2013
PS20 solar power tower 20 44 Spain Abengoa 2009
Gemasolar 17 100 Spain Sener 2011
PS10 solar power tower 11 24 Spain Abengoa 2006
Sierra SunTower 5 United States eSolar 2009
Jülich Solar Tower 1.5 Germany 2008

GWh Gigi Watt hours

The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, is a solar thermal power project currently under construction in the California Mojave Desert, 40 miles (64 km) southwest of Las Vegas, with a planned capacity of 392 megawatts (MW). It will deploy 170,000 heliostat mirrors focusing solar energy on boilers located on centralized solar power towers.





Ivanpah Solar Power Facility Online

According to the State of California Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission Opening Briefs regarding this project, “The project itself is visually imposing. It would cover roughly 4,000 acres (1,600 ha), most of which would be covered with mirror fields. The panoramic expanse of mirror arrays would present strong textural contrast with the intact, natural character of the desert floor [and] would rise to a height of roughly 459 feet [140 m]; an additional 10 to 15 feet [3–5 m] above that height would consist of lighting to meet Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requirements.”

Each heliostat is roughly 1-2 square metres.

They want to believe. Man thinks he saw Giant UFO while in airliner over Nevada desert.


Some imaginative fellow was on an airplane flying over Nevada when he was sure he saw a giant UFO below the airplane.  It was massive and giving off extremely bright lights. The guy must have thought Earth was under alien attack.

He took some photos below:




The “I want to believe” UFO community was abuzz when they saw the photos.  Maybe some real evidence that the little green bastards do exist!  But then a skeptic pointed out that the sighting was almost 99.999 percent a solar energy facility in the desert.

The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System is a concentrated solar thermal plant in the California Mojave Desert, 64 km (40 miles) southwest of Las Vegas, with a gross capacity of 392 megawatts (MW). It deploys 173,500 heliostats, each with two mirrors, focusing solar energy on boilers located on three centralized solar power towers. Unit 1 of the project was connected to the grid in September 2013 in an initial sync testing. The facility formally opened on February 13, 2014, and it is currently the world’s largest solar thermal power station.

There are ten huge Solar Generating facilities in the Mojave Desert.  The airplane passenger should have done some research before he came to a UFO conclusion.







173,500 of these heliostats (mirror reflectors).









A Totally Dangerous and Bizarre Line of Work

In electrical engineering, live-line working is the maintenance of electrical equipment, often operating at high voltage, while the equipment is energized. In the 1960s, methods were developed in the laboratory to enable field workers to come into direct contact with high voltage lines. Such methods can be applied to enable safe work at the highest transmission voltages.


A lineman wearing a Faraday suit can work on live, high-power lines by being transported to the lines in a helicopter. Wearing the suit, they can crawl down the wires. The strong electric field surrounding charged equipment is enough to drive a current of approximately 15 μA for each kV·m−1 through a human body. To prevent this, hot-hand workers are usually required to wear a Faraday suit. This is a set of overalls made from or woven throughout with conducting fibers. The suit is in effect a wearable Faraday cage, which equalizes the potential over the body, and ensures there is no through-tissue current. Conducting gloves, even conducting socks, are also necessary, leaving only the face uncovered.