Increased number of toasted wings found at wing-toasting facility in the California desert (solar #20)

The count of toasted birds at the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System doubled in April. Two possibilities for the accelerating death count.

First, the wing-toasting solar tower was in operation a higher number of hours in the month. Second, staff from the U.S. Geological Survey were on site a lot during the month giving a more accurate count.

Check out April Was Bad Month for Birds at Ivanpah Solar, by Chris Clarke at ReWire.

Mr. Clarke says the Ivanpah monthly compliance report lists 100 birds as either killed, mortally wounded, or injured during April. That consists of 40 that were scorched, singed, or had melted feathers and 12 showing signs of collision with heliostats. That is 52, so that leaves 48 decomposed enough that the cause of death couldn’t be determined. By biologists. Who know what they are looking for.

Actual deaths are a large multiple of the reported number

Continue reading “Increased number of toasted wings found at wing-toasting facility in the California desert (solar #20)”

Bird tally at Ivanpah in March ‘13

ReWire discusses the March 2013 compliance report from Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System: Bird Deaths Continue at Ivanpah Solar.

Mr. Clarke summarizes the report by explaining that in March, 22 of 55 dead or injured birds were clearly injured by the solar flux. Most of the rest were sufficiently decomposed that the cause of death couldn’t be determined.

Mr. Clarke is concerned the heat may be so high that there isn’t enough left of smaller birds to identify them at all. Any such birds in that category wouldn’t be included in the official count.

The March casualties took place while the facility was operating at 55% of capacity, according to Mr. Clarke’s research. The mortality will likely be higher when the plant sustains maximum output.

The compliance report for March can be found here. I browsed through it, although at 967 pages, there is a bit too much for me to absorb. A lot of it is way over my head.

I looked at table 9 of exhibit 9 on page 890. That lists the avian mortality and injury for March. I noticed a few things of interest to me.

Continue reading “Bird tally at Ivanpah in March ‘13”

Question: What are “streamers” at a wing-toasting solar facility? (solar #19)


(photo by James Ulvog)

Answer: Birds that fly into the solar flux at the top of the solar collector and ignite, producing a trail of smoke as they fall to the ground. Thus, a streamer.

That is the word used by the people who work at the Ivanpah solar facility, according to an article at ReWire by Chris Clarke: Federal Lab Offers Grim Look at Solar Harm to Wildlife. The article summarizes a few pieces of information from a report from a lab of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. You can read the report for yourself here.

Do you suppose it is a bad sign that people working at a solar farm have a special word to casually describe birds that fall out of the sky after being toasted?

I picture movies about World War II in the air over Europe.  Remember those views of an armada of bombers?  One of the lumbering B-17s takes a flak burst, starts streaming smoke from an engine on fire, and slowly spirals into the ground. A streamer.

While staff from the FWS Office of Law Enforcement department were on site they saw a “streamer event” every 2 minutes. That could be dust particles or it could be a cloud of insects, as claimed by the staff who work at the facility. OLE did observe birds (plural) fly into the solar flux and incinerate.

Perhaps the California regulators ought to know how many of those thirty incidents per hour are birds and how many are humongous clouds of concentrated dust drifting hundreds of feet in the air before they issue any more wing-toaster permits.

Undercounts of birds and no counts of butterflies

Continue reading “Question: What are “streamers” at a wing-toasting solar facility? (solar #19)”

35,000 tons of CO2 annually equals insignificant environmental impact (solar #18)


The Ivanpah solar facility will need to increase the amount of natural gas burned in order to keep the facility running efficiently. Using an extra 601 million cubic feet of gas each year will not have any significant environmental impact.

Chris Clarke reports on the plant owner’s request on 3/27: Ivanpah Solar Plant Owners Want To Burn a Lot More Natural Gas. The application is found here. Most of the application is over my head, but I was able understand much of it.

To keep each of the three powerplants running requires having a gas-powered turbine running 4.5 hours a day. This is to help warm up the water and maintain production as the sun goes down.

Continue reading “35,000 tons of CO2 annually equals insignificant environmental impact (solar #18)”

Unintended consequences of solar power keep coming into view – Next, reflection off panels as a threat to airplanes – solar #15

I am particularly intrigued by the concept of unintended consequences. You try to do something to fix one problem and wind up causing another problem.

Here’s another unintended consequence for those massive solar farms out in the desert – blinding pilots who are flying over the highly reflective panels.

Chris Clarke at ReWire on 3/12 reports Desert Solar Power Plant a Risk to Air Safety, Say Pilots. (How does he crank out all those articles?)

Continue reading “Unintended consequences of solar power keep coming into view – Next, reflection off panels as a threat to airplanes – solar #15”

Largest solar plant comes on line, sort of – solar #10

The Ivanpah thermal solar plant has been operating all three towers in the facility since the first of the year. That according to the San Bernardino Sun on 2/3/14World’s largest solar thermal plant comes on line near state line. They hosted a grand opening on 2/13/14, as mentioned here.

All three towers are in operation. At peak point of output, while the sun is up, when there aren’t any clouds in the sky, and when the towers are actually working (see comment later in this post), the three towers will be able to produce a maximum of 392MW. Of this, 259 MW will go to Pacific Gas and Electric in the bay area and 133 MW (from unit 3) will go to SCE here in Southern California, according to the article.

On the other hand, Chris Clarke reports on 1/30 that Ivanpah Solar Project Quietly Goes Online — Or Does It? 

Continue reading “Largest solar plant comes on line, sort of – solar #10”

Wall Street Journal article about “Bird-Scorching” – solar #9


(photo by James Ulvog)

As The $2.2 Billion Bird-Scorching Solar Project hosted an open house yesterday, the Wall Street Journal ran an article with that title.  The article is summarized in the article’s subtitle, At California’s Ivanpah Plant, Mirrors Produce Heat and Electricity—And Kill Wildlife.

The article is above the fold on the front page of the second section.  There are two great photos of the facility. My photo of the plant is above.

Good introduction

If you are just tuning in to the environmental damage caused by solar farms, the above article would be a great place to start. 

Continue reading “Wall Street Journal article about “Bird-Scorching” – solar #9”

Environmental harm along with not-so-good financial results for thermal solar farms, part 2 – solar #8


(Photo by James Ulvog)

Previous post highlighted financial info about solar farms I learned from an article in the Canada Free Press dated 1-18-14:  Hard Times Hit Large Scale Solar Energy.

This post describes new info I learned about the environmental damage from the Ivanpah solar farm.

Next post will paint a picture of how I’m guessing one solar farm was financed and discuss the prospects for future thermal farms.

Environmental harm

The article linked above goes into detail on the environmental damage from the Ivanpah project I’ve discussed before.

Melted wings

Continue reading “Environmental harm along with not-so-good financial results for thermal solar farms, part 2 – solar #8”

Some updates on bird fatalities at solar farms (solar #6)

K Kaufmann from The Desert Sun has a followup report to the article I discussed here and here.  Newer report, which I just read recently, is from 11/22/13:  What to do about bird deaths at solar and wind farms.

Regulatory compliance reports are summarized for the Ivanpah solar farm. Here’s the data:

  • September – 34 dead birds – 15 with melted wings
  • October – 53 dead birds – 22 with melted wings

The wing-toasting facility’s mortality count went up in October. Not quite the trend needed to argue solar farms aren’t hurting birds.

Continue reading “Some updates on bird fatalities at solar farms (solar #6)”

Background of Ivanpah solar farm – solar #3

The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System is a huge solar farm in California near the Nevada border. It is quite visible just north of I-15 a few miles south of the border. An article at the Washington Post by Lenny Bernstein provides a lot of background on the solar farm:  Solar on a grand scale: Big power plants coming online in the West.


All photos in this post are of the Ivanpah solar farm and were taken by me in October 2013. Photo above shows one tower in operation and the lake-like mirrors around it.

Since I expect to be writing about Ivanpah and other thermal solar facilities in the future, here’s some of the general background from the 1,500 word article.

Operational description

Mirrors reflect sunlight to one of three towers, which heats the tower to 1,000 degrees. The tower glows white-hot when in operation. Continue reading “Background of Ivanpah solar farm – solar #3”

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…

Continue reading “Solar farms = wing-toasters (part 2, solar #2)”

Solar farms = wing-toasters (part 1, solar #1)

The photo is of a dead northern rough-winged swallow.

Gloved hands extend the wings. There’s something odd.

Many of the feathers are gone. With the wings spread out, all that’s visible is the torso and charred spines where the wings should be. Looks like they were cut off.

Or burned off.

What could toast the wings off a swallow?

Continue reading “Solar farms = wing-toasters (part 1, solar #1)”