How To Stop Solar-Power Plants From Incinerating Birds

Todd Woody | The Atlantic | April 28, 2014

A federal report calls California's Ivanpah solar power plant a "mega-trap" for wildlife. Even solar panels can prove a fatal avian attraction.

The Ivanpah solar thermal power plant in the Southern California desert supplies enough carbon-free electricity to power 140,000 homes. For birds, bats and butterflies, though, the futuristic project is the Death Star, incinerating anything that flies through a “solar flux” field that generates temperatures of 800 degree Fahrenheit when 300,000 mirrors focus the sun on a water-filled boilers that sit on top three 459-foot towers.

“It appears Ivanpah may act as a ‘mega-trap,’ attracting insects which in turn attract insect-eating birds, which are incapacitated by solar-flux injury, thus attracting predators and creating an entire food chain vulnerable to injury and death,” concluded scientists with the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory in a report that investigated 233 bird deaths representing 71 species at three Southern California solar power plants.

It’s important to put that death toll in context. Every year as many as 988 million birds—that’s not a typo—or nearly 10 percent of the United States’s avian population, die from colliding with windows, according to a study published in March. In other words, you and I have bird blood on our hands just from sitting inside our offices and homes...