The Lethal Solar Energy Plant

 Tower Blazing Away

Tower Blazing Away

Images via – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ivanpah_Solar_Power_Facility

Recently, the USA became host nation – in the Californian Mojave desert – to the largest solar power plant on earth, but this place is developing a gruesome reputation for being lethal to local bird-life. This very recently opened, highly futuristic plant is having the unfortunate side-effect of beaming lethal heat rays from the parabolic mirror collectors to the collecting towers which they surround.

We are talking here about the collection, of those lethal bursts of red-hot radiation, on a truly industrial scale, as 350,000 mirrors – each as big as an garage door at 7ft tall by 10ft wide – reflect the high-intensity sunlight back to the collecting towers. This so-called Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System is in fact now fully operational. This means that 140,000 California homes are being delivered of solar electricity, which reduces annual CO2 release into the atmosphere of 400,000 metric tons, as though over 70,000 vehicles had vanished overnight.

The Three Towers

The Three Towers

When working at full throttle, the plant, with that distinctive trio of 450-foot high towers produces 392 megawatts (MW) of the clean energy that solar power represents. This was, in fact, a huge investment, in excess of $2 billion, and all those movable mirrors are computer controlled, so that they are kept focused on the tops of  those massive towers, which employ the captured sunlight, and ferocious heat, to boil water within those towers, in turn generating steam to drive the special turbinesb with which the power is produced.

From the beginning, there was concern among conservationists that a project on this scale, in a desert location considered important for the threatened desert tortoise, could potentially prove hazardous to local wildlife, but The California Energy Commission issued a statement which made it clear that a small percentage loss of wildlife was a price worth paying for such a boundless energy source. The trouble, according to biologists, is that in this arid landscape, so many mirrors reflecting sunlight could, to birds flying high above, act as a mirage, and appear to a body of water.

This would, of necessity, attracting them to swoop down into the deadly mirage, where they get caught within those reflected beams of high density sunlight that are basically acting as heat-rays, in which the temperatures are believed to reach as much as one thousand degrees Fahrenheit, something no living creature, including humans, could survive. That is why, it is now believed, the period when the plant was being tested saw workers discovering dead birds by the dozen.

These unfortunate victims of the unintended death-rays counted among their number four nighthawks, one grebe, one peregrine falcon, two hawks, and various small birds, all of which looked to have ben burnt almost to a crisp.  As yet there seems no obvious solution to the problem of these birds being fooled and thus becoming so-called collateral damage, but biologists are warning that, with golden eagles and other protected birds potentially under threat, something urgently needs to be done about this gruesome problem.

all three towers Running

all three towers Running


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2 Comments

  1. Tony H Leather

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