25 August 2014

Birds catching fire in mid-air

IVANPAH DRY LAKE, Calif. — 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...
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
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...

BrightSource also is offering $1.8 million in compensation for anticipated bird deaths at Palen, Desmond said.
It's not clear to whom the company would pay the compensation.  Presumably to the families of the dead birds.

Further details at the Calgary Herald, via the QI elves.

Addendum:  A hat tip to reader Wales Larrison for providing a link to a detailed study of avian mortality at the facility.  I'm dismayed to note that the researchers also noted significant insect mortality, including many Monarch butterflies.


  1. "Solar-thermal power plants in the U.S. are less likely to kill birds than automobiles, cats or communication towers, despite reports that say the facilities pose a significant threat to avian life.

    There were 321 “avian fatalities” in the first half of this year at the 392-megawatt Ivanpah solar project in Southern California, according to a statement Aug. 19 from NRG Energy Inc. (NRG), which co-owns and operates it. Of those, 133 were scorched by heat produced by the plant.

    That’s far fewer than reported in an Associated Press article on Aug. 18."

    1. I wish more people understood this. The choice is not, "solar generating plants, or not?" but "solar generating plants, or some other kind bearing risks of its own?"

  2. Here's the report

    And there's a difference between the number of birds injured or killed by one of a handful of solar power plants, versus 250+ Million automobiles in the US.


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