Energy Law

Solar power towers are igniting birds in midair; wildlife protection groups are concerned


In the quest for clean energy, some birds are feeling the heat.

Because of the concentration of sunlight by garage-door-size mirrors that reflect solar rays onto boiler towers as high as 40 feet, birds are igniting in midair at a $2.2 billion plant on the California-Nevada border. Observations suggest birds are dying there at a rate of one every couple of minutes, the Associated Press reports.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife has expressed concern and wants to get a death toll figure for a year. Meanwhile, Garry George, who serves as renewable-energy director for the California chapter of the Audubon Society, wants permits for new construction put on hold during that data-collection period, the news agency reports.

BrightSource Energy, which operates the plant, is trying to figure out if there is any technology, such as lights or sounds, that could scare birds away from the site before they are burned, said senior vice president Joseph Desmond.

To mitigate the damage, BrightSource also is offering to donate $1.8 million to programs that spay and neuter domestic cats, which a government study estimates are responsible for well over a billion bird deaths annually. However, critics point out this wouldn’t help the desert birds at the company’s remote power tower site.

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