Sunday, November 24, 2013

Waking up to the Solar Power Tower Threat

As BrightSource Energy began to bulldoze approximately 5.6 square miles of pristine desert to build its Ivanpah Solar power project, we quickly learned the impact on terrestrial species - rare wildflowers, long-lived yucca plants, and desert tortoises were displaced or killed.   Now that the Ivanpah Solar project is powering on, thousands of mirrors focusing the sun's rays at three towers have burned or battered dozens of birds in the first couple of months of becoming operational.  Chris Clarke with KCET's ReWire has been reporting on the troubling new trend - dead birds being found after colliding with mirrors or burning to death in super-heated air over the project.  We need to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy, but we need to do so in a way that minimizes (not expands) the human threat to ecosystems and wildlife.  The vast majority of BrightSource Energy's negative impacts on wildlife could have been avoided if we invested more in solar panels on rooftops, or properly sited photovoltaic projects on already-disturbed lands.

This photo of BrightSource Energy's Ivanpah Solar project was taken from miles away in the Mojave National Preserve.  The bright glow on the ground is from thousands of mirrors aimed at the three towers - the mirrors may appear as a lake or other body of water to birds from far away, attracting them to their deaths.
You can read about the analysis at ReWire.  I am copying below the avian mortality lists from the California Energy Commission monthly compliance reports from October and September.  I am also embedding recordings of the songs and calls of some of the species affected by BrightSource Energy's Ivanpah Solar project.   The birds burned or battered by the project range from MacGillivray's Warbler to a Peregrine Falcon.  The vast majority of these losses could have been avoided if we invested more in solar panels on rooftops, or properly sited photovoltaic projects on already-disturbed lands.



Songs and calls from some of the birds killed at BrightSource Energy's Ivanpah Solar project:

MacGillivray's Warbler, found dead with melted/scorched feathers:


Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, found dead with melted/scorched feathers:

Peregrine Falcon, found injured with scorched feathers:


Wilson's Warbler, found dead with melted/scorched feathers:


Mourning dove, found dead after collision with large solar mirror:


Yellow-rumped Warbler, found dead with melted/scorched feathers:


Verdin, found dead with melted/scorched feathers:


House finch, found dead with melted/scorched feathers:

1 comment:

  1. Complete travesty.
    I am constantly amazed that these projects are approved.
    Seems we won't be happy until we pave over the entire country in the name of progress.

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