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Category — Solar Power Issues

Bird Vaporization at Ivanpah: Solar Enters Wind Territory

“After several studies, the conclusion for why birds are drawn to the searing beams of the solar field goes like this: Insects are attracted to the bright light of the reflecting mirrors, much as moths are lured to a porch light. Small birds — insect eaters such as finches, swallows and warblers — go after the bugs. In turn, predators such as hawks and falcons pursue the smaller birds.

But once the birds enter the focal field of the mirrors, called the “solar flux,” injury or death can occur in a few seconds. The reflected light from the mirrors is 800 to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Either the birds are incinerated in flight; their feathers are singed, causing them to fall to their deaths; or they are too injured to fly and are killed on the ground by predators, according to a report by the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory.”

- David Danelski, Solar: Ivanpah Solar Described as Deadly Trap for Wildlife,” Riverside-Press Enterprise, April 8, 2014.

The slaughter of birds caught in the revolving blades of wind energy turbines has grabbed national attention lately. But even more pernicious is the nearly invisible vaporizing of birds that fly into the new Ivanpah solar mirror project in California’s Mojave Desert seeking to feed on the insects that are drawn to the light of the reflecting mirrors.

Ivanpah is the largest solar thermal mirror project in the world encompassing 4,000 acres of land and 347,000 heliostat mirrors focused on three 450-foot high towers.  377 megawatts of electricity is generated by a conventional steam turbine from concentrated heat from the mirrors.  Solar thermal mirror energy plants are actually hybrid solar-natural gas power plants.

Counting bird deaths may be accurate for wind farms. But counting dead birds on the ground from solar mirror projects may be a highly inaccurate way to measure the impacts on the entire ecological food chain. That is because many birds are vaporized in mid air and often there is no trace left of them. Investigators call these “streamers,” referring to the momentary puffs of smoke as birds are vaporized. Here is how it is described: [Read more →]

May 7, 2014   2 Comments

Solar Land Blues: The Eco Reality of Dilute Energy

“As citizens, we need to call on our leaders to make thoughtful choices about where to site industrial-scale development and renewable energy projects, and to create a legacy for our national parks and to public lands everywhere.” - Mark Butler, “Saving the Mojave from the Solar Threat,” Los Angeles Times , March 25, 2014. “‘Soft’ energy sources are horribly land intensive…. The greenest possible strategy is to mine and to bury, to fly and to tunnel, to search high and low, where the life mostly isn’t, and to leave the edge, the space in the middle, living and green.” - Peter Huber, Hard Green; Saving the Environment from the Environmentalists (New York: Basic Books, 1999), pp. 107–108.

Hard-green energies (fossil fuels, uranium) have a major ecological advantage over politically-correct soft energy (wind, solar): less infrastructure requirement, including land. This was recognized by the father of energy economics, William Stanley Jevons, in his 1865 tome, The Coal Question. Mainstream environmentalists are waking up to the problems of central-station solar now that they can physically see it and have operational results. California’s Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS) is “the world’s largest gas-fired power plant (largest in physical size, not gas consumption),” said one eco-critic. And now Mark Butler in the Los Angeles Times has blown the whistle on the national showcase of Big Solar (full op-ed below). [Read more →]

April 7, 2014   No Comments

Micro Solar: Eyesore NIMBYism and the Curse of Dilute Energy

Many years ago at at a DOE/NARUC conference, I took note when Christopher Flavin of the environmental Left (EL) Worldwatch Institute commented that he didn’t support solar farms (macro solar) because of their large resource and land requirement. 1

‘Wow!’ I thought. That depletes the EL supply-side strategy, leaving just industrial wind and distributed (micro-solar)–and maybe a little biomass.

I was reminded of this when I read a recent article in ClimateWire (sub. req.), by Lacey Johnson, “Boom in Solar Panels injects NIMBY Battles into Neighborhoods.”

The story begins with Barbara Katz, whose hilltop home in historic north Baltimore, amid roaming wildlife, was threatened by her neighbor’s plan to install a 600-panel solar array. Johnson reports:

“My initial reaction was, ‘Oh my gosh, this is going to be an eyesore,’” remembers Katz, who was confronted by a plan for more than 600 ground-based solar panels on her neighbors’ lawn. “No one would want this in their backyard. It looks like it’s an industrial park.”

Johnson continues:

It takes a good deal of work — and regulations — to keep suburban communities looking picture perfect, and arrays of shiny solar panels don’t always fit the vision homeowners have for their neighborhoods. All over the country, citizens like Katz have begun organizing to block renewable energy projects, throwing a wrench into some peoples’ plans to “go green.” [Read more →]

January 27, 2012   5 Comments