Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?
Power Earth

Solar Plant Sets Birds On Fire As They Fly Overhead 521

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.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Solar Plant Sets Birds On Fire As They Fly Overhead

Comments Filter:
  • by Nyder ( 754090 ) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @02:24AM (#47709989) Journal

    No seriously, I'd love to see a video of this.

    Very interesting problem, wonder how it can be solved?

  • Hydroelectric Dams (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Hadlock ( 143607 ) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @02:28AM (#47710003) Homepage Journal

    Mortality rate of fish through the turbine is close to 10%
    Except fish are slimy, scaly and make weird mouth shapes when you pull them out of the water to look at them. They look pretty awkward.
    Birds on the other hand, are beautiful creatures flying through the air, truly, beautiful, feathered friends, God's own creations.
    But if 3 birds die in a 3500 acre site per day, heaven help us all for destroying nature. I can go out in my back yard and shake the six to eight trees on my half-acre and watch at least four birds fly out.

  • LOL (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Tailhook ( 98486 ) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @02:46AM (#47710079)

    This has been going on for months and months. I wondered how long it would take Slashdot to finally surface it.

    This is Brightsource in Mohave. Feinstein et. al. held it up for years to protect turtles that were supposedly endangered.

    Now it's frying birds. Certain species could be wiped out because they happen to inhabit the area.

    This is the no. 1 best contemporary example of exactly why renewables will never displace more than a trivially small fraction of electric supply in the Western world; land use and its effects on ecology. Every form of wind or solar consume vast amounts of land, permanently altering the ecology of the region. Whether it's the "wind farm [that] imperils rare grass []" (no, really — rare grass) or desert birds igniting in mid-air, the same greens that demand renewables will insure its failure.

    Windandsolar is a pipe dream.

    Hey, mdsolar ... you there man? Why you want to kill all the birds man? Quick! Go find a scary Fukushima leak story and post it!

    Go ahead, pick "troll" or whatever. I have karma for the ages.

  • Re:Chicken (Score:1, Interesting)

    by hsthompson69 ( 1674722 ) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @02:53AM (#47710109)

    Actually, chickens can fly - just not particularly long distances: []

    I believe the technical term is "spurt flying".

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

    by captainpanic ( 1173915 ) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @03:24AM (#47710203)

    But think of the jet engines!

    Also, according to his study, windmills 'save' birds, because they replace other, more harmful ways to generate electricity. []

  • by jklovanc ( 1603149 ) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @04:12AM (#47710385)

    Most glazed windows are in areas of high bird populations. Birds and people like similar environments. Deserts where these plants are located have much lower bird populations and much rarer birds. Raw numbers are meaningless. It is proportion of population that matters.

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

    by Mr D from 63 ( 3395377 ) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @08:11AM (#47711151)
    A bit more info.......Bird kills from conventional power plants, be they fossil or nuclear, are primarily due to cooling towers & water intakes, and for fossil, smokestacks and emissions. No bird kills from operating nuclear plants are related to radiological sources.
  • by raymorris ( 2726007 ) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @08:53AM (#47711399) Journal

    I don't have figures for birds specifically handy, but I can tell you the best and worst for wildlife generally. Ignoring minor things like tidal power, the two best are geothermal and nuclear. It's too bad that geothermal is limited to certain geological areas, because it's pretty good on all measures. It releases some greenhouse gases and often requires fracking, but it's pretty safe for wildlife and generally a good idea. Nuclear is quite clean, except of course on the two instances of a major accident.

    The worst for wildlife are coal and hydroelectric dams. Hydro surprises some people, but in the best case a dam starts outby destroying a large swath of habitat, then permanently disrupts fish migration and the ecosystems dependant on the waterway. In the worst case, Banqiao. The Banqiao hydroelectric dam disaster was far, far worse than any nuclear accident ever has been.

  • by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @10:52AM (#47712315) Journal

    I suspect oil/coal shills here.

    I thought the same thing but a brief skim of their donor list indicates otherwise, an easy to find annual report is also not something commonly available for the myriad of FF front groups.

    Having said that, the last line of the summary is oddly misleading, the phrase "but an environmental group claims" should read "but federal wildlife officers claim". It was the Feds who observed "a streamer every 2min", which by simple linear extrapolation is ~25k/yr, they became alarmed and requested the construction halt. Notice they have not called for a halt to operations. I think a closer look is certainly warranted and Federal Wildlife people would appear to be the appropriate group to be doing the looking. Where the environmental group actually fit into the story I'm not sure, if they were the ones who called in the feds, then good on 'em for not turning a blind eye to a politically inconvenient truth.

    Disclaimer: Self confessed "greenie" long before greenpeace and science parted ways in the 80's.

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

    by gymell ( 668626 ) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @12:35PM (#47713025)
    I agree with your sentiment, but as someone who volunteers with raptor rehabilitation, I can speak from some experience. Actually more raptors than you might think are killed by cats. There are many raptor species which are quite small and easily taken by a cat. And of course all are vulnerable when in the nest or just after fledging, unable to fly or defend themselves. People always ask me if a raptor would take their pet cat, and I always tell them that the raptor is much more in danger from the cat than the other way around. Also there are many endangered songbirds (grassland species, neotropical migrants, etc), and many cats in both low and high population areas.

    That all being said, the environmental impact of these supposed "green" energy sources is significant. The production of biofuels like ethanol has decimated habitat, the dangers of wind power to raptors are well known, and now this. There needs to be more study beforehand rather than after the fact. And green energy apologists need to concede that their industry is just as hypocritical about the environment as any other energy producer.

"The one charm of marriage is that it makes a life of deception a neccessity." - Oscar Wilde