Solar Panel Arrays Setting Birds On Fire While In Flight

Who said solar energy wasn’t going to cause casualties? AP’s The Big Story reports on burning birds flying over solar panel arrays with flames and smoke trailing behind them:

Workers at a state-of-the-art solar plant in the Mojave Desert have a name for birds that fly through the plant’s concentrated sun rays — “streamers,” for the smoke plume that comes from birds that ignite in midair.

Federal wildlife investigators who visited the BrightSource Energy plant last year and watched as birds burned and fell, reporting an average of one “streamer” every two minutes, are urging California officials to halt the operator’s application to build a still-bigger version.

The investigators want the halt until the full extent of the deaths can be assessed. Estimates per year now range from a low of about a thousand by BrightSource to 28,000 by an expert for the Center for Biological Diversity environmental group.

The deaths are “alarming. It’s hard to say whether that’s the location or the technology,” said Garry George, renewable-energy director for the California chapter of the Audubon Society. “There needs to be some caution.”

The bird kills mark the latest instance in which the quest for clean energy sometimes has inadvertent environmental harm. Solar farms have been criticized for their impacts on desert tortoises, and wind farms have killed birds, including numerous raptors…

[continues at AP’s The Big Story]


Majestic is gadfly emeritus.

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6 Comments on "Solar Panel Arrays Setting Birds On Fire While In Flight"

  1. Anarchy Pony | Aug 19, 2014 at 1:42 pm |

    It sounds like the concentration mirrors of a solar/thermal plant are setting birds on fire, not regular solar panels.

    • emperorreagan | Aug 19, 2014 at 2:07 pm |

      But everything must be centralized!!!!

      • Anarchy Pony | Aug 19, 2014 at 2:20 pm |

        Not to knock solar thermal entirely, they have small units that aren’t much larger than a car that are pretty effective.

  2. BuzzCoastin | Aug 19, 2014 at 3:13 pm |

    every upside has down side
    no birds have died in my solor array
    but the sun has tendency to fry me between 11 & 4
    @ 19.5 latitude

  3. Opposite Day | Aug 19, 2014 at 6:28 pm |

    That’s got to be hilarious to see in person. But I think they should try and find a solution to prevent it.

  4. Sarah Davis | Aug 20, 2014 at 5:31 am |

    this sounds made up, like the story that flocks of birds were flying into wind turbines.
    The heat from the sun is not amplified by any single panel, rather, all the single panels are focused to the same point on the ‘collector’ so it would only be in a very small and specific area that this would be feasible.

    Exactly the same as if you hold a magnifying glass in the sun, an object has to be within a very short space along an axis directly inline with the sun and the magnifying glass for it to ignite. Outside of that tiny area it won’t ignite and may not even get warm.

    these solar panels are not magnifiers, they are reflectors, so a bird would have to fly very close to the focal point of all the panels – if they flew a couple of meters in any direction they would be out of the focal point area. Akin to you putting your hand in hot water, observing that it was scalding, but keeping your hand in the hot water and complaining that it’s getting worse – d’uh

    If on the other hand, these are not solar panels, but instead mirrored reflectors (which would magnify a little if they’re slightly concaved – but most solar reflectors are flat), then the same applies. There would be a relatively small area, close to the collector where the air would be heated, but again, it’s a small area – a few extra wing beats would take them clear

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