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Power Earth

Solar Plant Sets Birds On Fire As They Fly Overhead 521

Posted by Soulskill
from the free-hot-wings dept.
Elledan writes: Federal investigators in California have requested that BrightSource — owner of thermal solar plants — halt the construction of more (and bigger) plants until their impact on wildlife has been further investigated. "Unlike many other solar plants, the Ivanpah plant does not generate energy using photovoltaic solar panels. Instead, it has more than 300,000 mirrors, each the size of a garage door. Together, they cover 1,416 hectares. Each mirror collects and reflects solar rays, focusing and concentrating solar energy from their entire surfaces upward onto three boiler towers, each looming up to 40 stories high. The solar energy heats the water inside the towers to produce steam, which turns turbines that generate enough electricity for 140,000 homes." The concentrated solar energy chars and incinerates the feathers of passing birds. BrightSource estimates about a thousand bird die this way every year, but an environmental group claims the real number is much higher.
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Solar Plant Sets Birds On Fire As They Fly Overhead

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  • god dammit. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rogoshen1 (2922505) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @02:15AM (#47709951)

    Number of birds killed by oil spills?
    Number of birds killed by air pollution?

    Thanks California. Human impact of using coal fired plants? Nope, think of the children has been replaced by "think of the birds".

  • Re:god dammit. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @02:27AM (#47709997)

    It's always something with environmentalists.

    Though I suspect oil/coal shills here.

  • Re:god dammit. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @02:28AM (#47710001)
    Or even: "BrightSource also is offering $1.8 million in compensation for anticipated bird deaths at Palen, Desmond said. The company is proposing the money for programs such as those to spay and neuter domestic cats, which a government study found kill over 1.4 billion birds a year."
  • Re:god dammit. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @02:40AM (#47710049)

    Yes, but those eco-nazis are all cat ladies, they don't care that cats kill billions of birds

  • by saskboy (600063) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @02:41AM (#47710057) Homepage Journal

    Crunching the numbers, it's foolish to delay solar power adoption for even 28K birds a year.

    Climate change is expected to soon kill off 1/8th of all bird species.
    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/... [www.cbc.ca]

    200M birds die from cats each year in Canada ( which has the human population of California).
    http://www.cbc.ca/news/politic... [www.cbc.ca]

    Either stop climate change pollution, or kiss some birds goodbye (peck on the cheek).

  • TANSTAAFL (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bradley13 (1118935) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @02:47AM (#47710083) Homepage

    Every kind of energy generation has a price. It's the price of civilization. Only in California could this come as a surprise...

  • by bradley13 (1118935) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @02:59AM (#47710127) Homepage

    I'll buy your number for cats - there are hundreds of millions of them, and they love to hunt birds. A power plant that kills a few thousand is completely irrelevant in comparison, but these are clueless "progressive" types, they aren't expected to understand basic math.

    I'll pass on the latest climate change panic...

  • Re:god dammit. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jklovanc (1603149) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @03:40AM (#47710281)

    Decreasing the number of birds killed in high population areas does not compensate for killing birds in a low population desert area. For example, raptors are attracted and killed because prey birds are attracted to the bugs which are attracted to the light. Very few raptors are killed by cats. Raptors are much more endangered than the song birds generally killed by cats. All birds are not equal.

  • by Dorianny (1847922) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @04:48AM (#47710473) Journal

    Solar to heat to mechanical to electricity as already reached its maximum efficiency.

    Photovoltaic has still many recent discoveries for great efficiency improvements, and more are likely to come.

    Using heat for conversion is degrading the energy to its worst and less usable form, direct conversion is the way to go. Halting those heat projects is good news.

    The big advantage heat-conversion plants have is that you can heat slow cooling material such as salt which can continue production electricity long after the sun has set, effectively turning it into a electricity storage medium. The big problem large scale use of Photovoltaic has, is that we do not have a cheap and scalable way to store generated electricity for use when needed, not just when the sun is shining.

  • Re:god dammit. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mpe (36238) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @06:30AM (#47710793)
    The Exxon Valdez spill killed (from my quick search) an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 birds, about what this would kill in 10 years or so at mid-20k birds killed per year. So, build 10 of these plants (or larger with even more roasting capacity) and you have the equivalent (in bird deaths) of an Exxon Valdez oil spill each year. A wise sage once said "It's not easy being green."

    The Exxon Valdez is something which should not have happened at all. Whereas this is a consequence of "normal operation".
  • Re:god dammit. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mr D from 63 (3395377) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @07:58AM (#47711103)
    Considering the number of birds killed every day from common human activity such as driving cars, flying planes, discarding certain trash, its hard to think a few birds killed by windmills or a concentrated solar power (CSP) should be a concern. Not that they shouldn't take practical steps to minimize it.

    CSP is a neat technology, but far behind Solar PV and wind in being ready for practical applications, so it will likely remain a quite small part of the energy mix if/when it gets out of the pilot phase.

    CSP development is however, a really interesting to follow. It involves a range of challenges that cross engineering and material science disciplines that aren't obvious when you think "its just generating steam with mirrors". But, in reality, it is really hard to obtain the steady heat input and control needed to obtain steady, quality steam. There are numerous trade-offs between heat absorbing coatings, their adhesive techniques and their ability to expand and contract frequently. There is a challenge in designing the right turbine which operates efficiently as possible over a wide operating curve. Central "boiler" tank type designs have very slow heating / cooling times, which helps dampen solar variances, but make it difficult to place turbine cycle equipment nearby in a way that doesn't impact the heating approach. The linear Fresnel mirror/tube type CSP plants on the other hand have big problems in maintaining even heating throughout the long tubes which leads to hammer and damage, and a lot of expansion/contraction related issues. I'd love to work on one of these projects, its worth reading about if that kind of thing gives you a rise.
  • Re:god dammit. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Noughmad (1044096) <miha.cancula@gmail.com> on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @08:21AM (#47711189) Homepage

    The Exxon Valdez spill killed (from my quick search) an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 birds, about what this would kill in 10 years or so at mid-20k birds killed per year. So, build 10 of these plants (or larger with even more roasting capacity) and you have the equivalent (in bird deaths) of an Exxon Valdez oil spill each year. A wise sage once said "It's not easy being green."

    The Exxon Valdez is something which should not have happened at all. Whereas this is a consequence of "normal operation".

    This kind of thinking works out so well with nuclear.

  • by Chas (5144) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @08:26AM (#47711219) Homepage Journal

    Seriously. People need to stop thinking of renewable energy sources as completely clean and utterly harmless.
    They aren't. And never have been.

    Once the lies and misconceptions are cleared away, THEN people can start making intelligent choices about the risks they want to take building out their power systems.

  • Re:god dammit. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by NotDrWho (3543773) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @08:50AM (#47711375)

    It's always something with environmentalists.

    The central, but unspoken, premise of the modern environmental movement is that mankind is a blight on the earth and everything mankind does is bad for the planet. Our very existence is a problem. We are a cancer on Mother Gaia (one that presumably must be eliminated).

    Yet, oddly enough, I see very few environmentalists stepping forward to volunteer to commit suicide first. I guess they think THE REST OF US need to go; but somehow they're too goddamned important. Must be the fragrant smell of their own farts that makes them so special.

  • Re:god dammit. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NotDrWho (3543773) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @09:03AM (#47711479)

    Note to self: Birds are fucking stupid.

  • Re:god dammit. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @10:06AM (#47711945)

    Actually, he is Spot On.

    One thing all Environmentalists have in common is the loathing of humans and their "impact" on the environment. A close second is Self Loathing, but not no much that they will volunteer to go first in an effort to reduce the human impact on the environment.

  • Re:god dammit. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by StikyPad (445176) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @10:11AM (#47711979) Homepage

    If we estimate only perfect performance, then we fail to acknowledge that we live in an imperfect world. Spills are normal consequences of oil operations. It's not whether or not they *should* happen, but rather how often they *do* happen that matters.

  • by cbeaudry (706335) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @10:13AM (#47712007)

    Chernobyl IS an operating plant. But the "operating" part is not what affected local animal life.
    But what mdsolar and his type forget is, Chernobyle is 1 incident. Fukushima 2. Over the life of all the nuclear plants, even taking those 2 horrible accidents (preventable they may have been) the track record world wide for Nuclear energy is better than most other types of energy.

  • Re:god dammit. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Megol (3135005) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @10:53AM (#47712325)

    Just because you think something it doesn't become true. There are fanatics that think like that, sure. But one doesn't select an extremist group and try to paint them as the average - that is the way of shills and retards.

    Most environmentalists are those that realize we live in a world with finite resources and that our children will indeed inherit the earth as we leave it.

  • by Rhacman (1528815) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @11:37AM (#47712629)
    Just brush 'em with barbecue sauce and slap 'em on a bun!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]
  • Re:god dammit. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Applehu Akbar (2968043) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @01:09PM (#47713379)

    That 1416 ha. is the total size of the mirror fields, not the small focus area that kills birds. These top ten airports by area:
    http://www.toptenstip.com/top-... [toptenstip.com]
    are not only all much larger than the kill area at Ivanpah, but are located in heavily populated areas where there is a lot of water and birds. Ivanpah is located in the most featureless, unpopulated, wildlife-free area in the US.

  • Re:god dammit. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by riverat1 (1048260) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @02:51PM (#47714293)

    Actually, he is Spot On.

    One thing all Environmentalists have in common is the loathing of humans and their "impact" on the environment. A close second is Self Loathing, but not no much that they will volunteer to go first in an effort to reduce the human impact on the environment.

    What a steaming pile of shit. There may be a few extremists who tend to get headlines that feel that way but most environmentalists like me just recognize how utterly dependent our human civilization is on the natural systems that sustain us and feel that we should take steps to help keep those systems going.

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