A spring 2013 Forbes magazine piece reported that the giant wind turbines producing wind energy kill around 600,000 birds annually. But the number is likely higher. And now we learn that the solar panels soaking up solar energy may look like a lake, because birds to are trying to land on them causing them to injure themselves. The thermal panels also generate intense heat that has been found already to melt some birds’ feathers.
A BrightSource Energy project in San Bernardino County has raised the stakes for a similar projects across the country, especially those near wildlife sanctuaries, and near the migration routes of birds.
The project is roughly 50 miles from both the Salton Sea to the southwest and the Cibola National Wildlife Refuge in Arizona to the southeast.
“A migrating bird has to be in top form, having the flight feathers in really good shape,” said ornithology collections manager Kimball L. Garrett of the Museum of Natural History of Los Angeles County, who has not seen the picture from Ivanpah but has been concerned about bird deaths at large solar projects.
“If some of its flight feathers are damaged, what does that mean for the rest of the bird’s migration?” he said. “It weakens feathers. These are things people don’t study because — how can you?”
Trying to estimate how many birds could be injured or killed because of large-scale solar projects and what might be done to prevent deaths has become a pressing concern for solar developers and environmental agencies as these projects multiply.
The one project in San Bernardino killed 34 birds in the month of September, of which 15 had melted feathers.
Dozens of other bird carcasses, not singed but with critical injuries, have been found in recent months at two solar projects about to go online on public land between Joshua Tree National Park and Blythe, Calif., a town of 20,800 on Interstate 10 near the Arizona border.
Last month, 19 birds, 16 of them water fowl or marsh birds, were found dead at Desert Sunlight, a 550-megawatt photovoltaic plant about 50 miles east of Indio, Calif. The carcass of a Yuma clapper rail, a federally endangered, medium-sized marsh bird, was found at the project in May.
Environmentalists aired their concerns about potential bird deaths at Palen at a recent public hearing on the project, and days later, state officials issued a call for more information on how to minimize chances of birds being singed or burned. A key question the California Energy Commission raised in a Nov. 1 memorandum was how to measure when bird deaths might be excessive enough to consider a temporary shutdown of a plant.
Green energy projects such as windmills and now solar energy must be throwing environmentalists into some sort of cranial crack-up. On one hand they want the renewable energy, but on the other they don’t want to kill these poor and sometimes rare birds.
There is only one solution. They should accept all the scientific research demonstrating that global warming is part of the natural climate patterns of the earth, and the latest warming trend, which ended 16-years ago, had nothing to do with mankind. That way they could take down the windmills and solar panels and put them back in the lab until are economically feasible and they stop killing birds.