There seems to be some hysteria online about bird deaths associated with the Ivanpah solar project in California. For example, this news article calls the solar power plant a “death ray“ as if it is a weapon. The same article says that hundreds of thousands of birds might be dying, or 28,000 or 1,000. That is a very wide range, and at least suggests that no one may have precise numbers. So is the total 100,000 or 1,000? Brightsource says the number is much lower than 1,000.
What do these numbers mean compared to other sources of bird deaths? Power lines alone might kill up to 175 million birds a year, according to a US Fish and Wildlife Service document. Up to 3.7 billion are killed by cats.
Also, the authors of the sensational articles don’t provide information on the hazards of fossil fuels to wildlife to balance their content. More than one million birds died due to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, according to the Audubon Society. The oil industry contributes far more to bird deaths each year than this one solar power plant, so why did the authors not mention this fact? “Every year an estimated 500,000 to 1 million birds are killed in oilfield production skim pits, reserve pits, and in oilfield wastewater disposal facilities,” explained a document from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Up to 402,000 birds have died due to oil development in Canada’s tar sands.
The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority has said that coal and other fossil fuels are a greater risk to wildlife:
Based on the comparative amounts of SO2, NOx, CO2, and mercury emissions generated from coal, oil, natural gas, and hydro and the associated effects of acidic deposition, climate change, and mercury bioaccumulation, coal as an electricity generation source is by far the largest contributor to risks to wildlife found in the NY/NE region.
14,000 chickens are slaughtered each minute in the US, according to the Organic Consumers Association. Are we supposed to be believe that the authors of the articles about ‘incinerated’ birds from the solar plant are animal rights activists and perhaps vegans that care about all birds, including chickens and turkey?
In the article first mentioned above, somehow, the so called ‘death ray’ then morphs into many CSP towers that could cause catastrophes, “With enough towers, a ‘mega-trap’ that decimates ecosystems might be created.” What exactly is a “mega-trap?” How many CSP towers would have to be built for such a thing to ever happen? Is it even possible? It sounds more like science fiction than fact.
Also, just how many CSP towers are there in the US? It sounds as if there may only be about several, and other forms of CSP are hardly booming. In fact, Greentechmedia reported in 2012, that no CSP projects were completed in the US. So, no mass CSP power towers getting out of control, and no ecosystem decimation seems likely.
Also, are the Ivanpah birds rare or endangered, or are they more common and in great supply?
No one wants any birds at Ivanpah to die, but at this point, it does seem to be a fairly minor issue. Are we supposed to believe that some of the authors of these articles are great bird lovers defending wildlife based on sound evidence and effective reasoning? Or is their motive simply creating clickbait articles to get pageviews or bashing solar power?
First it was criticizing wind power for bird deaths, which was and is a legitimate concern. However, some critics were clearly exaggerating the impact to smear that form of clean energy. Seems like its happening again, but with solar this time.