Politics & Policy

Dead-Bird ‘Steamers’ at a California Solar Plant

Reaching temps of 1,000ºF, this Obama-favored plant incinerates up to 28,000 birds annually.

California’s massive Ivanpah solar power plant can produce enough electricity for 140,000 households — but the environmental cost is nothing less than an avian slaughter.

The plant’s 350,000 mirrors bounce sizzling sunlight to the tops of three 40-story boiler towers, heating steam for turbine electricity generators. Temperatures near the towers can reach up to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, heat certainly sufficient to fry a fowl.

“Workers at the state-of-the-art solar plant in the Mojave Desert have a name for birds that fly through the plant’s concentrated sun rays — ‘streamers,’ for the smoke plume that comes from birds that ignite in midair,” the Associated Press reports this week.

That’s a common occurrence, the AP continues; federal investigators saw a bird burn roughly every two minutes. Ivanpah owner BrightSource estimates that “about a thousand” die each year, and one environmental group says the plant kills up to 28,000 birds each year.

As the plant prepared to begin operations, workers found the winged corpses of “a peregrine falcon, a grebe, two hawks, four nighthawks, and a variety of warblers and sparrows,” the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year.

Those statistics haven’t curbed the enthusiasm of the Obama administration for the solar-power plant, which granted Ivanpah a $1.6 billion federal loan guarantee. And when the solar farm hosted its grand opening earlier this year, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz called Ivanpah “a shining example of how America is becoming a world leader in solar energy,” adding that “this project shows that building a clean-energy economy creates jobs, curbs greenhouse gas emissions, and fosters American innovation.”

Ivanpah isn’t the only green darling with a lot of bird blood on its hands, either. The American Bird Conservancy estimates wind turbines slay 440,000 birds each year, and the an analyst writing in the Wildlife Society Bulletin says it’s closer to 573,000 — in addition to 888,000 bats.

Biologists for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have already expressed concerns about these mounting bird deaths. And in a hilariously illustrated report on migratory bird mortality, the agency reported that “the greatest threat to birds, and all wildlife, continues to be loss and/or degradation of habitat due to human development and disturbance.”

The report does not specify whether high-speed turbine blades and 1,000-degree solar heat patches qualify as a “disturbance.”

— Jillian Kay Melchior writes for National Review as a Thomas L. Rhodes Fellow for the Franklin Center. She is also a Senior Fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum.

Most Popular

Elections

Good Riddance to Kamala Harris

Per Edward-Isaac Dovere, Kamala Harris is no longer running for president. This is excellent, welcome news -- the cause for celebration. Good riddance! May Harris's failed attempt to find higher office destroy her career and sully her reputation for all time. I'm told that I'm not supposed to feel like this -- ... Read More
Elections

Good Riddance to Kamala Harris

Per Edward-Isaac Dovere, Kamala Harris is no longer running for president. This is excellent, welcome news -- the cause for celebration. Good riddance! May Harris's failed attempt to find higher office destroy her career and sully her reputation for all time. I'm told that I'm not supposed to feel like this -- ... Read More
Elections

Kamala Harris, the Juggernaut Who Flopped

Before reports emerged that Kamala Harris is dropping out of the presidential race, she was trailing Mike Bloomberg in her bid to be the Democratic nominee for the president, and stood at 2 percent in the latest national Harris–The Hill poll released Monday. On paper, Kamala Harris was a strong candidate for ... Read More
Elections

Kamala Harris, the Juggernaut Who Flopped

Before reports emerged that Kamala Harris is dropping out of the presidential race, she was trailing Mike Bloomberg in her bid to be the Democratic nominee for the president, and stood at 2 percent in the latest national Harris–The Hill poll released Monday. On paper, Kamala Harris was a strong candidate for ... Read More
Culture

A Tyrannical Minority and Silent Majority

As I noted Monday on the Corner, British journalist James Kirkup has done a great public service in sharing a document that helps explain how the transgender movement, which many privately admit has overreached and is unconvincing, has been so successful so quickly. The document was produced by a major ... Read More
Culture

A Tyrannical Minority and Silent Majority

As I noted Monday on the Corner, British journalist James Kirkup has done a great public service in sharing a document that helps explain how the transgender movement, which many privately admit has overreached and is unconvincing, has been so successful so quickly. The document was produced by a major ... Read More