Solar farms = wing-toasters (part 2, solar #2)

Previous post started a discussion of the danger solar farms pose to migratory and other birds.

This pair of posts is based on an article in My Desert on 11/9/13 by K Kaufmann of The Desert SunPalen project raises concerns across Coachella Valley.

A few of the known fatalities

Some comments from the article referenced above –

Thermal farm damage:

Of the 34 birds reported dead or injured at Ivanpah in September, 15 had melted feathers.

Dozens of other bird carcasses, not singed but with critical injuries, have been found in recent months at two solar projects about to go online…

34 offed in a month. 15 from melted feathers.

Melted feathers. Seared off in a brief moment. Any seconds to my motion of “wing-toasters” as the casual name for thermal solar farms?

Photovoltaic farm damage:

Last month, 19 birds, 16 of them water fowl or marsh birds, were found dead at Desert Sunlight

The carcass of a Yuma clapper rail, a federally endangered, medium-sized marsh bird, was found at the project in May.

(Umm. Guys, that’s prima fascia evidence of a federal crime under multiple statutes. Your attorney might want you to reconsider volunteering that sort of info to reporters.)

“Takings” of migratory birds

The article says the state regulators wondered out loud if the projects need federal permits for incidental deaths of bids.

I know enough of the law to give them a very unaccountant-like answer:


Here’s what I know as an accountant:  It is a federal crime to “take” any of some 1,000-odd species of migratory birds without a permit. Every one of those migratory bird deaths at the solar farms requires a permit. Without a permit, the company committed a federal crime. For each protected bird killed. For each one injured.

A permit is also needed for birds that were injured in the solar flux but were well enough at the time so they were able to fly away. Without a permit, every migratory bird injured is another federal crime.

The owner of the solar farms has lots of ideas on how to mitigate bird deaths, according to the article. Only problem is nobody has studied the effectiveness of any idea opened for discussion. Thus any suggestions are nothing more than a wild guess. Grasping at straws.

Projects in development

There are a lot of projects in development across the Riverside East solar zone according to the article.  Here are the ones mentioned:

  • Genesis – 250 MW thermal
  • Desert Sunlight – photovoltaic
  • McCoy – 750 MW
  • Palen – 500MW thermal
  • Rice project – 150MW,
  • Desert Harvest – 150 MW
  • Blythe – 485MW

More research might be needed

A Fish and Wildlife official is cited as saying it isn’t possible to estimate how many birds might be in danger if all those projects are built.

Let me rephrase the obvious: neither industry nor state regulators nor federal regulators know what damage might be cause by well over 2,000 MW of solar farms in development.

His quoted comment:

“Bird migration studies have to wait for bird migrations,” he said. “It’s not like we’re going to have the answers in two weeks. This is going to be months and years of trying to better understand the problem and then make better management decisions as we gain more scientific understanding.”

It will take years to understand the risk to migratory and other birds. I wonder if that will delay construction of 2,000 MW of wing-toaster projects.

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