A few other things I wonder about solar and wind farms – solar #14

Here’s a few more ideas on the downsides of solar and wind farms that I’d like to pursue when I can. In the meantime, I’ll throw out a few more concerns for my future research.

How many birds get missed in the official counts?

In addition to birds found at solar sites, how many are mortally wounded by the solar flux but have enough energy to fly another one or 20 miles before giving in to their injuries?

In addition to birds found at the sites, how many get eaten in between the surveys of the site?

According to the December compliance report from the Ivanpah solar facility (link courtesy of Chris Clarke at KCET’s ReWire), surveys for dead birds and bats were conducted:

  • Unit 1 – 12/20 thru 12/22
  • Unit 2 – 12/17 and 12/31
  • Unit 3 – 12/5 and 12/9 to 12/11

That’s one survey of Unit 1 in December, two for Unit 2, and two surveys only a week apart in Unit 3.

I don’t know how fast dead birds decompose in the desert heat.

Also don’t know how fast those kit foxes, any coyotes in the area, or any of those raptors can scour the area, so I wonder how quickly a carcass would disappear.  Bats and smaller birds could get carried away quickly by four-legged or two-winged scavengers.

I would imagine that bigger birds could get eaten up in a few days. On the other hand, being eaten on site would leave visible remains. On yet the other hand,  I’m thinking coyotes usually take dinner home to the babies.

I wonder how many birds get killed between surveys but didn’t have any remains to be found during the next survey.

Anyone who understands the desert ecosystem care to enlighten me? How many birds are missed in the counts?  Any visible articles that would help us understand?

Useful life

I wonder, how long will a turbine will last? That can radically affect the return on the investment and cost per KWH.

I wonder that every time I drive out to the Palm Springs area and see hundreds upon hundreds of turbines standing idle. In fact, the last half-dozen times I’ve driven past them, there were very few turning. The other hundreds are doing nothing.  By the way, that is known as the San Gorgonio wind farm.

I wonder that again when reading Ringing in 2014 over at the Why not wind power blog. That post points out that turbines are starting to show a useful life of 10 or 15 years instead of 20. If that turns out to be the case, the per-hour cost will go up by something in the range of 30% or 50%.

Disposal costs, slice-and-dice version

I wonder, who is going to pay to disassemble and dispose of thousands of those towers that are a hundred feet tall?

There are reportedly 14,000 wind turbines that have been abandoned. Natural News reported on 11/24/11 there are 14,000 abandoned turbines:  ‘Green’ debacle: Tens of thousands of abandoned wind turbines now litter American landscape. The largest collections of 100 foot tall litter are in Altamont Pass, Tehachapi, and San Gorgonio (the sea of non-moving turbines stretching across the horizon in the pass on the drive to Palm Springs mentioned above).

One article I read said the 14,000 number is false. Maybe it’s not 14K. Maybe it’s 8k. Or 2k. More likely, nobody knows for sure. I’m noticing “I don’t know” as a common response to questions on environmental risks when solar and wind power is discussed.

Regardless of the number, who will pick up the tab to disassemble those monster towers and humongous blades at the end of whatever their useful life may be?

Disposal costs, wing-toaster version

I wonder, much will it cost to dispose of several hundred thousand heliostat mirrors that make up a large solar plant? Who will pay for that? Has the money been set aside, in case, you know, a solar or wind farm goes bankrupt? (For those without deep inside baseball awareness of current events: there has been a long string of green energy companies head off to bankruptcy court.)

Environmental danger from disposal

I wonder, what is in those heliostat mirrors? Any rare earth metals? Any heavy metals?  Any toxic components?

I wonder, how will those be safely disposed?

I wonder, what is in the generators and gear boxes and blades of those thousands of now-abandoned turbines? At least they are not slicing-and-dicing anymore, so that environmental risk is mitigated.


I’ve barely started reading up on the damage turbines do to the bat population. A few things I have seen make me wonder what damage is being done to the bat populations at the same time as birds are getting chopped.

I don’t particularly care for bats, but I really don’t like mosquitoes. Since that is one of the favorite foods of bats (so I understand) I’m curious about the damage to bats.

Maintenance costs

After browsing a couple of articles, I wonder if the operation and maintenance costs are going to continue to be higher than forecast? If so, I wonder if that will dramatically increase the cost per KWH?

When I have the time, I’ll start looking at those issues as well.

Update – The cadmium in a certain type of solar panel is a big deal –What’s the disposal plan for the cadmium in solar panels? Solar #16 .

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