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Birds igniting California: Plumes of smoke over solar plant are birds on fire

Birds catching fire in mid-flight and falling dead out of the sky is a sad side effect of the state-of-the-art solar plant in the Mojave Desert. The workers dubbed the birds that ignite in flames, “streamers,” because they leave a very visible smoke plume as they fall, according to CTV News on Aug. 18.

Birds catch on fire flying over the mirrored panels at the power plant in mojave desert.
Wikimedia Commons

What the Federal Wildlife investigators witnessed when they were at the Bright Source Energy plant was appalling. The puffs of smoke that turned into small clouds were evidence of another bird igniting and falling to its death. The investigators saw one bird every two minutes end up frying in mid-air.

Fox News live has been reporting on the ill-fated birds during their news casts all day on Monday, Aug. 18. It is enough to leave you mortified that these birds are catching fire and dropping to their deaths. These birds igniting sound as if the birds go through some torture before their death, as described by TPM News today.

This is considered "green energy" but it comes with such a horrendous price, is this really green when you consider what it takes to make it work? Thousands of birds not only die, but their life ends in a horrible way.

The "streamers" as the plant workers dubbed them, emit very visible plumes of smoke as they burn in the air, then the plumes turn downward as the bird dies and falls to the ground, or as the bird can't fly anymore and dies once it hits the ground. Either way the birds are dying an agonizing death.

Because of the alarming number of bird deaths witnessed by the investigators they are urging California officials to put a temporary halt on the company’s application to build a “still-bigger version” of this plant. They want to assess the numbers of these bird deaths and they want at least a temporary halt to the building of the new solar towers until the full extent of the bird deaths from this plant is realized.

It is the huge mirrors that are the culprits, they are frying the birds. More than 300,000 mirrors, each the size of a garage door, are used to reflect the solar rays to the boiler towers. Each of the boiler towers reach 40 stories high and heat the water inside to produce steam. The steam then turns the turbines and electricity is generated that could sustain 140 homes.

The mirrors have “dazzled” the pilots coming in and out of Las Vegas flying to Los Angeles that is how bright they are. The plant was launched in February at Ivanpah Dry Lake near the California-Nevada border. It is the “world’s biggest plant to employ so-called power towers,” reports the operator, at a cost of $2.2 billion.

Renewable –Energy director for the California chapter of the Audubon Society said; “The deaths are alarming.” He also said it is hard to tell the exact cause of the bird kills, the location or technology.

It could be both, as wildlife experts’ report this solar plant in Ivanpah might act as a “mega-trap” for wildlife. The bright sunlight on the mirror panels attract bugs, which in turn attract the birds, coming to feed on the insects, reports the Christian Science Monitor today.

The jaw dropping sight of birds igniting on fire in mid-air was a shocking sight to see and brings up major concerns for the wildlife experts around another proposed plant. Bright Source, who is part owner of the Ivanpah plant, plans to build a mirror field and a 75-story tower between Joshua Tree National Park and the California-Arizona border. This site is directly in the flight path of the birds that travel between the Colorado River and the Salton Sea.

This proposed area is rich with birds, more so than the Ivanpah plant, and the bird population includes the golden eagles, which are protected. There are also peregrine falcons included within the 100-plus species of birds that fly through that area. The wildlife agency reports the proposed tower will be almost four times as lethal to birds as the plant in Ivanpah.

Biologists are hoping to find a feasible way to keep the birds from dying this fate. There is nothing that is known of today, so scientist will be busy inventing one. As of now, the only thing the company Bright Source can do is offer up money as compensation for the loss of birds. $1.8 million to be exact which can go to programs that spade and neuter domestic cats.

This is a trade-off of sorts as a study reporting that cats kill over 1.4 billion birds a year is cited. Apparently the goal of this neutering and spaying of cats is to make them more domestic and they won't kill birds. In theory, those birds saved are a trade-off for the ones killed by fire over the solar plant.

Until a scientific study is done that gives a very close estimate on the amount of birds killed over a year's time can be put in place, the wild life experts are asking for a halt on any new solar power plants being built. Right now the estimates on the numbers of birds killed a year at the Ivanpah Power Plant range from 1,000 in a report by Bright Source to 28,000 in a study done by an expert who is with the Center for Biology Diversity Environmental group.

The puffs of smoke seen inside the area where the mirrors are located aren’t all birds, claim the people working at the plant. The mirrors ignite airborne litter and insects. The investigators said that while they were there, the clouds of smoke were way too big for litter or insects catching on fire, they were birds.

Carcasses of charred birds are found all along the ground below the mirrored towers. Their feathers are burned and the birds are dead from either the fire igniting them into a fireball or the fall once their wings are too fried to fly. This is really a horrific way to die. Where is PETA?

Wildlife experts are calling for a year-long study to get a really good handle on the numbers. Until that study is up and running and the numbers are tallied, they are urging that all proposed solar mirror tower building come to a halt.

'Maybe now that this horrific event has come to the public's knowledge, people will back the wildlife experts in their quest to halt any future plants until a study is done. Some type of safeguard also needs to be invented and put in place as birds are dying by the thousands in what appears to be a very agonizing death..

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