A few months ago, there were reports on an unsettling consequence of running the world’s largest solar plant. The 350,000 mirrors bounce sunlight back towards the atmosphere with such intensity that it basically creates a giant death ray. The poor little birds that pass by don’t stand a chance — they get scorched in midair.
This is not a small problem. The Associated Press’ sources now say that there’s an average of one so-called “streamer” every two minutes at the $US2.2 billion Ivanpah Dry Lake facility. (They’re called streamers due to the trail of smoke the burned birds produce as their carcasses fall to the Earth.) The problem is bad enough that federal wildlife investigators want to stop the plant’s owner, BrightSource Energy, from opening an even larger solar farm directly in the flight path of over 100 species of birds, including golden eagles and peregrine falcons. That plant would be four times as dangerous to birds as Ivanpah.
But don’t worry. BrightSource Energy has a solution. One of the company’s executives told the AP that BrightSource will cough up $US1.8 million in compensation for the anticipated bird deaths at the new plant. This money, he says, could be used to spay and neuter cats — which kill billions of birds every year.
The idea creates more questions than it answers. How exactly will spaying and neutering keep the cats from killing birds — aside from the simple fact that the cats would reproduce less? Wouldn’t the right solution be to figure out a way to steer the gigantic death ray death away from the poor innocent birds? The AP reports that “opponents say that would do nothing to help the desert birds at the proposed site.” And those opponents sound right!