A New Solar Farm Sets Wild Birds Ablaze – so what’s new?

A new solar-thermal plant is located near Tonopah, Nevada. The new plant is called: “The Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project.”, ref. 1. One third of the newly constructed plant was put into action on the morning of January 14, 2015. The plant is comprised, in part, of 17,500 heliostat mirrors, each the size of an average size garage door. Each mirror concentrates and reflects solar energy to a 1,200 ft. tall center tower. The tower contains molten salt that circulates, over a salt to water heat exchanger, to produce steam to drive a turbine-electric generator. Excess heat is stored in the salt and can be used to generate power for up to 10 hours.

Observers, during the initial test, noted that the redirected solar energy causes a wide sphere of superheated radiation near the top of the central tower. The sphere of radiation apparently occurs in cyclic fashion about every two minutes.

Two hours into the test on January 14, engineers and biologists at the site began to notice “streamers” of smoke and steam caused by birds flying directly into the field of intense solar radiation. What moisture was on each bird instantly vaporized and some birds instantly burst into flames. Some birds were able to frantically flap away. An estimated 130 birds were injured or killed during the test. Federal wildlife officials are calling the power tower a “mega trap” for wildlife. It is suspected that not only birds are killed but also being vaporized are an unknown number of bugs that, apparently, are being attracted by the intense light. It is possible that the birds are being attracted by the bugs.

1. Stallard, Brian, “How a Solar Farm Set Hundreds of Birds Ablaze.” Nature World News, Feb. 23, 2015.