Call it Kentucky fried irony.
An Oakland-based “green energy” company has abandoned plans to complete a 75-story solar energy tower in California’s Joshua Tree National Park because rays emanating from a nearly identical facility have been exploding the local wildlife.
Birds that fly into the path of concentrated solar beams can be instantly fried alive.
A similar facility already built by BrightSource Energy near the Nevada border has been fast-cooking passing birds, including endangered species, according to a report earlier this year by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
According to the report, the BrightSource facility and two other solar plants studied have disrupted “entire food chains” as they lie along major migratory paths.
BrightSource’s Ivanpah project — co-owned by NRG Energy and Google — cost $2.2 billion to build, with the help of $1.6 billion in federal money. It takes up five square miles of land but can only deliver power to 140,000 homes, at a cost that is about twice that of regular power sources.
The Ivanpah project uses a tower design that concentrates reflected solar energy, creating beams of light that can reach 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. According to the government study, there were three causes of death found among hundreds of birds found: singed wings that prevented the birds from flying, making them vulnerable to predators; blunt impact trauma as birds were blinded or confused by reflections from solar panels; and midair ignition.
The feathered fireballs have been nicknamed “streamers” by workers.
Another problem with solar plant facilities is that the way panels reflect light looks a lot like water. So when some unsuspecting duck is flying by and looking for a nice pond or lake to have a lunch break at, Daffy instead plows head first into a red hot piece of paneling.
The solar farms are proving to be expensive, inefficient, land-intensive and devastating to local ecosystems. Naturally, government wants to build more of them.
There is a hefty tax break that expires in 2016, and California law requires that utilities get one-third of their power from renewable sources by 2020.
The withdrawal of the BrightSource application for Joshua Tree puts a dent in ongoing green schemes, but the company says it remains committed to “sound and responsible environmental measures.”
In the meantime, at least Californians can rest easy knowing the Nevada border is protected by a green-energy death ray.
Maybe they could put all those fried birds to good use and open a Chick-fil-A or something.