Solar energy—so clean and aesthetic, compared to those ugly, nasty old fossil fuels!
Um, maybe not. According to Nature World News, a recent test of just one-third of what’s supposed to be the world’s largest solar-generated power plant, near Tonopah, Nevada, set fire to nearly 130 birds in midflight in just two hours. The incinerated birds had made the mistake of flying directly into the energy farm’s field of radiation, perhaps in pursuit of insects attracted by the light.
Here’s how Nature World News describes the Jan. 14 bird barbecue about 1,200 feet off the ground at the 110-megawatt Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project:
Unfortunately, about two hours into the test, engineers and biologists on site started noticing "streamers" – trails of smoke and steam caused by birds flying directly into the field of solar radiation. What moisture was on them instantly vaporized, and some instantly burst into flames – at least, until they began to frantically flap away. An estimated 130 birds were injured or killed during the test.
The plant in question, which was expected to come at least partially online [in February], runs on 17,500 heliostat mirrors – each the size of your average garage door – that concentrate and reflect thermal solar energy at a tall center tower. This tower uniquely contains molten salt, of all things, which is circulated to produce steam and generate electricity. Excess heat is stored in the salt and can be used to generate power for up to 10 hours, including during the evening hours and when direct sunlight is not available.
Unfortunately, the redirected sunlight causes such a wide sphere of superheated radiation that the plant sees one streamer every two minutes, according to investigator estimates.
Officials behind the project have refuted that claim, saying that most of the streamers are floating trash or wayward insects, but federal wildlife officials have begun calling these 'eco-friendly' power towers "mega traps" for wildlife.
Interestingly, the developer of the project, SolarReserve, is one of nine corporations that, according to the Washington Free Beacon have donated to a green nonprofit called the Clean Energy Project, set up in 2008 and run by former staffers of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.
The Nevada Democrat persuaded the Department of Energy to expedite permit approval for several of the donors, including SolarReserve, for projects in his home state, according to the Beacon. Reid “pushed DOE in 2010 to speed approval of a $737 million loan guarantee for the company’s Nevada manufacturing facility,” Beacon reporter Lachlan Markey writes. SolarReserve started construction on the Crescent Dunes project in 2011.
The Crescent Dunes project is one of several solar farms that are currently generating (so to speak) negative publicity in environmental circles for their bird-scorching track records. This has set clean-energy buffs scrambling to argue that fossil fuels actually kill more birds than solar in the long run, because global warming or something.