Uh oh: California solar plant fries thousands of birds in mid-flight
posted at 10:01 pm on August 18, 2014 by Mary Katharine Ham
Oh, dear. They even have a name for them:
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.
Trade-offs, people. Always trade-offs.
Jon Gabriel on the history of this plant with environmentalists and regulators:
The facility has concerned environmentalists in the past, as its construction bladed over 3,500 acres of virgin desert. Being California, the state government required BrightSource to relocate a bunch of desert gopher tortoises to the tune of $22 million. The installation also endangers pilots flying the busy Los Angeles–Las Vegas corridor; they can be dazzled by the intense light.
It remains to be seen if regulators will stop the plant’s operation, but at least the world’s largest bug zapper should educate environmentalists and green energy boosters.
For too long, the public has been told that energy production is less a matter of physics than one of morality. Renewable energy like solar and wind are sold as “good” while reliable energy sources like oil and coal are “evil.” Methods like hydroelectric, nuclear and natural gas all were initially sold as clean and green, but became demonized the instant they turned a profit or revealed unintended consequences.
Between this and slaying bald eagles with impunity, green energy is literally killin’ it lately.