Is that a legendary Phoenix taking flight? Nope, it’s just another bird being fried by a solar tower.
The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating Plant is one of the cutting edge solar energy plants currently operating in the United States. With the ability to generate 377 megawatts of energy, the plant is able to power roughly 144,000 Californian homes without harming the environment. Well, if you ignore the birds of course.
Using a number of mirrors to reflect sunlight onto a central tower, the plant generates its electricity through the boiling of the water. As we’ve written before, as the water in the tower boils, the steam that is produced moves a number of generators, thus creating electricity. The problem is that the sunlight being reflected from these mirrors is so hot and concentrated that any birds flying in its path are instantly incinerated. The workers have even taken to calling the birds “streamers” based on the trail of smoke that comes off the birds as they ignite mid-air.
This is of course a cause for concern, as federal wildlife investigators observed, on average, a bird being killed every two minutes. They have since urged California to halt the companies plans to build an additional, bigger version of the plant. This is of course not in the company’s best interest, so they are currently trying to figure out exactly how to keep the birds from turning themselves into fireballs. Ivanpah has committed $25 Million to figuring out the issue, and have deployed sonic deterrents in the hopes of keeping the unsuspecting birds away. They’re also inquiring about anti-bird systems currently used at airports.
While solar energy definitely is better than burning fossil fuels to run our power-hungry society, nothing can be without its own issues. This one just happens to create fire birds.
Images: Brightsource Energy