World's Largest Solar Thermal Plant Killing Thousands of Birds

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World's Largest Solar Thermal Plant Killing Thousands of Birds

BrightSource Ivanpah Solar Thermal 310x

Southwest power plant is supplying power for 140,000 homes, but singeing so much fauna in the process.

The biggest adversary renewable energy typically faces is efficiency (or blue bloods who don't want beach views ruined), but this latest clean energy snafu comes at the cost of thousands of our winged friends.

Ivanpah is the largest solar thermal power plant in the world. Located in the Mojave Desert in Southern California, the plant uses 300,000 mirrors to focus sunlight onto one of three central towers, and the heat is converted into energy via special steam turbines. The facility provides electricity to roughly 140,000 homes in California and Nevada.

The plant is relatively new, having opened earlier this year, but a previously-known issue is now attracting attention from the federal government.

Because the mirrors focus light onto a single high point, the heat within the mirror field perimeter is deadly -- up to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit -- particularly to local feathered friends. While BrightSource Energy, the operator of the plant, says roughly 1,000 birds could die every year by flying above the mirrors, the Center for Biological Diversity says that annual figure is closer to 28,000.

The estimated figure has now drawn the attention of the feds, specifically the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The FWS wants a more accurate count on wildlife deaths associated with the plant (1,000 and 28,000 are pretty far apart, right?), and hopefully a solution to help stem the singed bird tide.

Even if BrightSource gets a handle on the flaming fowl issue, the threat to airline pilots may never go away.

Source; CBC

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Isn't that the thing from New Vegas? Better be on the lookout for the BoS.

Using mirrors to focus light and heat back up into the air, that couldn't possibly go wrong......

... how weren't they required to find a solution to this before construction.

You would think at least one person somewhere along the line would have said, "Hey, with all this heat being focused in a completely open-air environment, what sort of things would be at risk of coming in contact with the deadly heat rays?"

Actually, I'm almost sure somebody brought it up, but they decided to go through with it anyway just in case it wasn't a big deal. I'm all for clean energy, but let's not toast birds in mid-air in the process.

I prefer the bit were it blinds pilots of small aircraft miles away and has caused numerous near crashes.

I don't believe the second number. That's 14 birds an hour, every hour, every day, all year. Now naturally you can't incinerate birds with the sun at night, so let's just say it's 28 birds an hour 12 hours a day. Now if it were that high a number, every two minutes (ish) a bird would die. Wouldn't that be easily observable if that were the case?

Also, I don't think many birds fly that low in that small of an area in the middle of a desert. If so, why didn't they find a location not on a bird migration path?

Now I don't believe 1,000 is accurate either. about 2.8 birds a day is that statistic. However I believe that the number would be closer to as many as 7 birds a day based on what I learned of "Power Towers" and the Mojave Desert. Seems like it would fit for the area.

(I'm bad at math. These are gross estimations. I probably screwed up somewhere.)

Wait...couldn't they put some kind of anti-bird noise making thing near it?

Like a reverse 'bird whistle'?

Lilani:
You would think at least one person somewhere along the line would have said, "Hey, with all this heat being focused in a completely open-air environment, what sort of things would be at risk of coming in contact with the deadly heat rays?"

Actually, I'm almost sure somebody brought it up, but they decided to go through with it anyway just in case it wasn't a big deal. I'm all for clean energy, but let's not toast birds in mid-air in the process.

Somebody probably said "Why would that many birds fly there?"
Guy 1 didn't have an answer at the time, now he does.

RicoADF:
Using mirrors to focus light and heat back up into the air, that couldn't possibly go wrong......

... how weren't they required to find a solution to this before construction.

EPA requires it before-hand,
Like airports it was probably considered an acceptable risk.
If it's 1000 birds a year and non of them are are endangered, no one cares.

In this case no matter the outcome of the report the outcome will be the same, a few bird cannons around the place. The number of homes powered is simply too many.

ultratog1028:
I don't believe the second number.

The article is misleading. The headline: World's Largest Solar Thermal Plant Killing Thousands of Birds

The actual point: While BrightSource Energy, the operator of the plant, says roughly 1,000 birds COULD die every year by flying above the mirrors, the Center for Biological Diversity says that annual figure is closer to 28,000.

So it's a guesstimate based on... what? The amount of dead birds they've found around the site?

direkiller:

RicoADF:
Using mirrors to focus light and heat back up into the air, that couldn't possibly go wrong......

... how weren't they required to find a solution to this before construction.

EPA requires it before-hand,
Like airports it was probably considered an acceptable risk.
If it's 1000 birds a year and non of them are are endangered, no one cares.

In this case no matter the outcome of the report the outcome will be the same, a few bird cannons around the place. The number of homes powered is simply too many.

I was more referring to the blinding pilots issue, will an accident have to occur for the obvious danger to be seen?

I have a great idea. Replace all the mirrors with that solar powered road material those other people wanted to put on highways. Presumably they're useable solar collectors that you just lay flat on the ground to soak up the rays. This is a desert. Nobody even needs to BE here and they don't reflect heat. Why not try that?

SmugFrog:

ultratog1028:
I don't believe the second number.

The article is misleading. The headline: World's Largest Solar Thermal Plant Killing Thousands of Birds

The actual point: While BrightSource Energy, the operator of the plant, says roughly 1,000 birds COULD die every year by flying above the mirrors, the Center for Biological Diversity says that annual figure is closer to 28,000.

So it's a guesstimate based on... what? The amount of dead birds they've found around the site?

more likely the number of birds found dead within a square milage around the sight in a short amount of time. "We found 4 dead birds within 10 minutes within 10 square miles! Quick crap the math guy!"

Besides, the other thing they fail to mention is how these actually work. Each mirror is programmed to reflect ligt to the top of the tower. they move as the Earth orbits the sun so they keep hitting that spot on the tower. The heat energy tends to be focused there.

I can see pilots getting blinded by this, but at further distances it shouldn't be hot enough to actually burn anything that wasn't already being burnt, since this is a desert. It might heat things up a few degrees but not become a SOLAR LASER BIRD DEATH MACHINE.

I guess it could be BLINDING the birds, but the article implies they are being burnt. Either way birds will stop flying around there.

Also, This is nothing compared to the amount of birds that die by HITTING WINDOWS every year. http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/stop-blaming-cats-as-many-as-988-million-birds-die-annually-in-window-collisions/2014/02/03/9837fe80-8866-11e3-916e-e01534b1e132_story.html

Sure you might lose a few birds, but won't the birds just make a detour around the facility?

RicoADF:

direkiller:

RicoADF:
Using mirrors to focus light and heat back up into the air, that couldn't possibly go wrong......

... how weren't they required to find a solution to this before construction.

EPA requires it before-hand,
Like airports it was probably considered an acceptable risk.
If it's 1000 birds a year and non of them are are endangered, no one cares.

In this case no matter the outcome of the report the outcome will be the same, a few bird cannons around the place. The number of homes powered is simply too many.

I was more referring to the blinding pilots issue, will an accident have to occur for the obvious danger to be seen?

From what I can tell, it only effects planes flying out of bolder city at a certain time a year at mid day.
It's a town of 15,000 with a county airport.
So it's possible to just shut down the airport for a few hours one month out of the year, it would at worst effect a few flights from Grand Canyon helcopter tour group

Anything we do to generate power is probably going to have some sort of adverse effect on the environment. I think this probably pales in comparison to how many birds die due to lung problems from coal-burning plants. The pilot problem is more pressing, but avoidable with planning.

Wouldn't this increase global warming?

ExtraDebit:
Wouldn't this increase global warming?

No the sun light is going to hit the earth regardless.

Anyways, um this is a problem. I Should hope we find a solution to this.

If my friends read this article, my new nickname will be "the solar thermal plant."

Just whack an umbrella over it. The rays are all being directed at the top of the tower right? So the only issues would be the rays that are missing the tower to some degree. They'll end up reducing the power gain somewhat, but I'm sure tehy can figure out a way to minimize it.

Also, are reflectors aimed at a tower more efficient than the same amount of solar panels?

RicoADF:
Using mirrors to focus light and heat back up into the air, that couldn't possibly go wrong......

... how weren't they required to find a solution to this before construction.

Maybe they could create a parabolic shield above the water tower, like a giant tent of reflective fabric the refocuses the missed light back onto them. Is its location ideal enough that whatever shadow it creates not be long enough to adversely affect too many mirrors, furthermore, would the recaptured and refocused light make up for it? Lastly, are these birds killed from flying in front of the tower or above it, killed by the rays that move past said tower? If it is the former then maybe sound generators to scare them off, if it is the latter, parabolic tent.

TheSYLOH:

Lilani:
You would think at least one person somewhere along the line would have said, "Hey, with all this heat being focused in a completely open-air environment, what sort of things would be at risk of coming in contact with the deadly heat rays?"

Actually, I'm almost sure somebody brought it up, but they decided to go through with it anyway just in case it wasn't a big deal. I'm all for clean energy, but let's not toast birds in mid-air in the process.

Somebody probably said "Why would that many birds fly there?"
Guy 1 didn't have an answer at the time, now he does.

Tee hee, probably.

Actually, this story reminds me of a video I saw a while back. I can't find the original anymore, but basically it was a video of this dragon from the Disneyland show Fantasmic (she shows up at around 2:13)

In the other video I saw, when the dragon breathed fire, there was a silhouette of a bird that quickly shot out of frame, and a few gasps from the audience. Apparently the bird was in the wrong place at the wrong time and got very close to the flames. Apparently it flew away just fine, if a bit warm.

synobal:

ExtraDebit:
Wouldn't this increase global warming?

No the sun light is going to hit the earth regardless.

Anyways, um this is a problem. I Should hope we find a solution to this.

The birds will eventually learn, like with many other things.

FalloutJack:
I have a great idea. Replace all the mirrors with that solar powered road material those other people wanted to put on highways. Presumably they're useable solar collectors that you just lay flat on the ground to soak up the rays. This is a desert. Nobody even needs to BE here and they don't reflect heat. Why not try that?

Those are just a hoax by a manipulative couple stealing taxpayer money. Youtuber Thunderfoot proved them wrong with the scientific method.

Considering tens of millions of birds die by collision with and electrocution by power lines, and housecats are kill upwards of A BILLION birds per year, https://www.sciencenews.org/article/cats-kill-more-one-billion-birds-each-year, i'm filing this under "who gives a crap"

I can hear in the distance a million out-of-context Fox News talking points being created.

Fun fact though, you can actually measure how many birds die per Kilowatt hour produced. Fossil fuels still win.

RicoADF:
Using mirrors to focus light and heat back up into the air, that couldn't possibly go wrong......

... how weren't they required to find a solution to this before construction.

Lilani:
You would think at least one person somewhere along the line would have said, "Hey, with all this heat being focused in a completely open-air environment, what sort of things would be at risk of coming in contact with the deadly heat rays?"

Actually, I'm almost sure somebody brought it up, but they decided to go through with it anyway just in case it wasn't a big deal. I'm all for clean energy, but let's not toast birds in mid-air in the process.

They were all too busy complaining about the Keystone Pipeline to care about the death-toll a green energy "solution" would cause. Besides, it's "green energy", therefor it's automatically good.

/sarcasm

B5Alpha:

FalloutJack:
I have a great idea. Replace all the mirrors with that solar powered road material those other people wanted to put on highways. Presumably they're useable solar collectors that you just lay flat on the ground to soak up the rays. This is a desert. Nobody even needs to BE here and they don't reflect heat. Why not try that?

Those are just a hoax by a manipulative couple stealing taxpayer money. Youtuber Thunderfoot proved them wrong with the scientific method.

Oh? Can I see that? I was kinda' hoping it worked. Pity.

FalloutJack:

B5Alpha:

FalloutJack:
I have a great idea. Replace all the mirrors with that solar powered road material those other people wanted to put on highways. Presumably they're useable solar collectors that you just lay flat on the ground to soak up the rays. This is a desert. Nobody even needs to BE here and they don't reflect heat. Why not try that?

Those are just a hoax by a manipulative couple stealing taxpayer money. Youtuber Thunderfoot proved them wrong with the scientific method.

Oh? Can I see that? I was kinda' hoping it worked. Pity.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ocV-RnVQdcs
He did a whole series a few months ago, here's one of the episodes. If you enter his profile name into Youtube's search engine, the first suggestion is actually solar roadway.

There is a free market solution to this problem. Put up a KFC next door and offer a new healthy "green" product line. "Free Range Fried"

CpT_x_Killsteal:
Also, are reflectors aimed at a tower more efficient than the same amount of solar panels?

They can be depending on the specifics of the plant, this type of facility is a solar-thermal electric plant rather than one using photovoltaic cells. They focus the sun from a large surface area onto some sort of medium, usually liquid salt which is molten by the heat (not sure on this particular plant though, not researched it) which then passes through heat exchangers to boil water which then drives turbines. Some just boil water though, there are two main designs of these. A large circular or hemispherical array of mirrors focusing towards a central tower, the other designs use parabolic mirrors to focus onto a point just in front of each panel and in both designs the mirrors follow the sun.

They can be less expensive and more efficient than photovoltaic solar panels, there are also some prototype hybrids that are photovoltaic and reflect/collect the heat and are several times more efficient than either.

faefrost:
There is a free market solution to this problem. Put up a KFC next door and offer a new healthy "green" product line. "Free Range Fried"

Damn, I came too late to make that joke. Well, proceeding regardless...

Open up a KFC nearby. Problem solved.

Okay, and housecats kill 1.3 to 4 billion birds a year and they don't power anyone's home.

Devin Connors:
up to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit

Add SI numbers please. ._.
1000F ≈ 538C

EDIT: Actually SI means absolute Kelvin degrees (derived from Celsius), and I meant more widely used relative Celsius degrees (because most of the world uses C in their day-to-day life).

I'm curious though if most of the Escapist audience is indeed American.

Poseidon Energy didn't build HELIOS One to kill birds. They had significantly larger targets in mind.

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