For many environmentalists, harnessing the power behind solar, wind, and aquatic energy is a more viable option at powering out future than coals and oils. However, California's new BrightSource Solar Power Plant may not be as environmentally safe as some would expect. Although the energy that is created from the solar power is clean, in comparison to fossil fuels, the placement of the mirrors that direct the solar energy onto the three boiler towers could become death rays.
The entire site spans 1,600 hectares and is comprised of over 350,000 garage door sized mirrors. Each set of mirrors is formed in a circular pattern to focus the sun's light and energy upon the three boiler towers. As a result, the light attracts hordes of nearby insects, which in turn attracts hungry birds. Unfortunately, the birds become incinerated upon entering the focused heat of the mirrors. It is estimated that nearly 28,000 birds are killed each year by the solar power plant.
BrightSource is currently planning on expanding the solar power plant to capture more of the sun's energy. It is estimated that the expansion could result in up to four times more bird death's each year.
The workers at the Ivanpah Solar Power Plant call the incinerated birds Streamers. This is because the birds ignite mid flight and fall to the ground like a meteor shower. Although BrightSource estimates the number of birds incinerated by the death ray at only about 1,000 per year, experts are sticking tot eh 28,000 number.
A spokesman for NRG Solar of Carlsbad California, Jeff Holland, responded to the dead birds.
"We take this issue very seriously,"Thomas Conroy, a renewable energy expert, sidesteps the death ray capabilities of the solar power plant and focuses his attention on diversifying our energy means and moving away from fossil fuels.
"diversity of technology... is critical. Nobody should be arguing let's be all coal, all solar," all wind, or all nuclear. "And every one of those technologies has a long list of pros and cons."Although he may be correct, especially as the cost of alternate and renewable energy sources is falling, the unintentional fatalities from the death ray/solar power plant could have dire consequences on the local ecology. BrightSource is looking at ways to lessen the number of birds incinerated by the solar power plant, or compensate for the dead birds. One way is to donate money to spay and neuter domestic cats, which are estimated to 1.4 billion birds per year. Essentially, their plan would result in less bird deaths each year due to the lesser number of felines roaming the earth, taking the focus off of the number of birds the solar death ray kills each year.
[Photo Courtesy: Extreme Tech]