This Solar Plant Has Been Burning Some Birds To Death

02/19/2014 03:14 pm ET | Updated Feb 19, 2014
ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Mojave Desert’s new solar plant has been causing a bit of a problem for birds, some of which have been insta-cooked by the system's intense heat rays.

The gigantic Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, which officially opened in California last week, harnesses the sun’s rays to produce clean energy. More than 300,000 mirrors on the 3,500-acre property converge onto three towers that have boilers. The heat turns water into steam that powers moving turbines, which can then power about 140,000 homes with emission-free electricity.

But it appears birds are quite literally getting burned by the system.

A November article from The Desert Sun notes that more than 30 birds were found dead or injured at the solar plant site in September. Fifteen of those had singed wings from the heat. In addition, a monthly compliance report issued by BrightSource Energy Inc., the company behind the plant, reveals that several birds flying through the heat beams were severely burned by the 1,000 degree temperatures. (It should be noted the compliance report, submitted Dec. 13, includes information from the several months the facility was in testing phases.)

As a result, a follow-up to this venture might be difficult. According to Reuters, BrightSource hasn’t been able to secure a permit for another solar thermal project in California due in large part to environmental concerns, including harm to birds.

The Wall Street Journal reports the plant will be cooperating with federal and state regulators for a two-year study to investigate the impact on birds flying through the area. A BrightSource representative told the publication it is still far too soon to tell if there will be a noticeable impact on the avian population.

Still, many are shying away from giving BrightSource the power to build another solar power plant, the Wall Street Journal notes. Instead, some suggest the company follow more conventional, smaller-scale solar methods for energy production.

The Huffington Post reached out to BrightSource for additional comment but did not receive an immediate response.

Correction: A previous version of the article misidentified the nature of the technology used at the Ivanpah plant.

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