A burned Yellow-rumped Warbler was found at the Ivanpah solar plant in the California Mojave Desert. Workers at a state-of-the-art new solar plant. Birds that fly over the plant's five-mile field of mirrors are called 'streamers', for the puff of smoke as the birds ignite in mid-air and fall to the ground. Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service / AP Photo

By Ellen Knickmeyer and John Locher
18 August 2014

Ivanpah Dry Lake, California (Associated Press) – Workers at a state-of-the-art solar plant in the Mojave Desert have a name for birds that fly through the plant's concentrated sun rays — "streamers," for the smoke plume that comes from birds that ignite in midair.

Federal wildlife investigators who visited the BrightSource Energy plant last year and watched as birds burned and fell, reporting an average of one "streamer" every two minutes, are urging California officials to halt the operator's application to build a still-bigger version.

The investigators want the halt until the full extent of the deaths can be assessed. Estimates per year now range from a low of about a thousand by BrightSource to 28,000 by an expert for the Center for Biological Diversity environmental group.

The deaths are "alarming. It's hard to say whether that's the location or the technology," said Garry George, renewable-energy director for the California chapter of the Audubon Society. "There needs to be some caution."

The bird kills mark the latest instance in which the quest for clean energy sometimes has inadvertent environmental harm. Solar farms have been criticized for their impacts on desert tortoises, and wind farms have killed birds, including numerous raptors.

"We take this issue very seriously," said Jeff Holland, a spokesman for NRG Solar of Carlsbad, California, the second of the three companies behind the plant. The third, Google, deferred comment to its partners.

The $2.2 billion plant, which launched in February, is at Ivanpah Dry Lake near the California-Nevada border. The operator says it is the world's biggest plant to employ so-called power towers.

More than 300,000 mirrors, each the size of a garage door, reflect solar rays onto three boiler towers each looming up to 40 stories high. The water inside is heated to produce steam, which turns turbines that generate enough electricity for 140,000 homes.

Sun rays sent up by the field of mirrors are bright enough to dazzle pilots flying in and out of Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

Federal wildlife officials said Ivanpah might act as a "mega-trap" for wildlife, with the bright light of the plant attracting insects, which in turn attract insect-eating birds that fly to their death in the intensely focused light rays.

Federal and state biologists call the number of deaths significant, based on sightings of birds getting singed and falling, and on retrieval of carcasses with feathers charred too severely for flight. [more]

Birds igniting: California solar power plant scorches birds in mid-air (+video)


  1. Anonymous said...

    Civilization will never be compatible with wildlife.

    Energy extraction or creation will never be compatible with wildlife.

    Humans are now occupying many of the same places once occupied by wildlife.

    Our refusal to dismantle civilization will lead to the total destruction of all things living, it's just a matter of time and a measurement of how resiliant Nature truly is. But resiliancy is not a license to abuse.

    Abuse is what we do, what we are and a demonstration of how little we care. Modern humans are 100% incompatible with Nature.

    So the choice is the same as always - us or them. Habitable planet filled with life, or just humans fighting over what remains.

    It's obvious what has been chosen. ~Survival Acres~  

  2. Dano said...

    This was shown to be an exaggeration. There are birds cooking, but not at this rate.




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