When Education Becomes "Misuse"

BrightSource Energy does not want you to see photographs of birds burned by its solar power tower technology, according to an excellent article in the Press-Enterprise.  The company's archaic solar design involves thousands of giant mirrors heating up a cauldron at the top of a tower (taller than the Statue of Liberty) to generate steam.  The company also uses natural gas to keep the boilers warm, so it is not entirely "clean" energy, unless you think fracking is clean.  The air above the field of mirrors can become super-heated, and burn birds' feathers and damage their eyes, according to wildlife experts and a study at a similar facility in the 1980s.

The photos were presented in a special closed door session of the California Energy Commission (CEC) proceeding for BrightSource's proposed Hidden Hills Solar project, only after the CEC issued a subpoena to get them.  According to a BrightSource statement to the Press-Enterprise, the company is afraid of that the photographs would be "misused" if entered into the public domain.  In other words, people might actually know more about BrightSource Energy's impacts on wildlife.  Check out the article.

The threat of burned feathers and eye damage is only one aspect of the project's impacts on birds, since collision with the "heliostat" mirrors may turn out to be the highest cause of mortality.

No, these are not BrightSource's "secret" photos.  This is an excerpt from Avian Mortality at a Solar Energy Power Plant, a study by Michael McCrary and others at a solar power tower plant in California that found these birds burned by the super-heated air generated by the mirrors focusing the suns rays at central points above ground. The study looked at a 10 megawatt solar power tower plant in the 1980s.  BrightSource Energy's Hidden Hills project would generate 500 megawatts and cover nearly 5 square miles with mirrors.


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