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Birds too close to solar power plant burst into flames

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We’ve seen the dangers of wind turbines for golden eagles and humans, but now it turns out even solar power can pose hazards for birds.

A huge new solar power plant in the Mojave Desert is attracting birds to their doom, reports the Riverside, Calif., Press Enterprise, which obtained a confidential federal report on the problem through the Freedom of Information Act.

The power plant has created “an entire food chain vulnerable to injury and death,” according to the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory report.

It works like this: Insects are beguiled by the glow of the vast array of mirrored panels at the solar-energy plant and by nearby ponds. Birds such as swallows follow to feast on the bugs, and carnivorous hawks are then drawn by the smaller prey.

Thousands of mirrors reflect the sun’s rays at three power towers, producing temperatures that can reach 800F and turning the birds into unwilling Kamikazes.

“There were hundreds upon hundreds of butterflies (including monarchs, Danaus plexippus) and dragonfly carcasses,” the investigators said. “Some showed singeing, and many appeared to have just fallen from the sky. … Birds were also observed feeding on the insects. At times birds flew into the solar flux and ignited.”

The solar plant operator has objected to the report’s findings: “Given that Ivanpah has only been operational for a short period of time, it is premature to determine the significance and extent of impacts to insects, birds, or bats,” a spokesman told the Press-Enterprise.

You can read the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory report here.

Read the Press Enterprise report here.

h/t National Journal

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