Can we please see your Avian and Bat Monitoring Plan?
Aug. 22, 2014 6:42 p.m. ET THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
The sprawling Ivanpah solar power station in the Mojave Desert probably never would have been built without environmental activists and the subsidies and mandates they created, so there's more than a little irony that BrightSource Energy, Google and another clean-tech utility are now getting an education in the green opposition that bedevils other American businesses. Lobbies like the Sierra Club and Audubon Society are turning on solar farms for avian mass murder.
Ivahpah's solar thermal technology uses 300,000 giant computer-controlled mirrors spread over 3,500 acres to follow the sun and concentrate energy on water towers, where boiler turbines generate electricity. The problem with this $2.2 billion feat of engineering is that birds that fly into the 800 degrees Fahrenheit rays sometimes singe or catch fire in midair. Plant workers call them "streamers" after the trail of smoke that follows the carcasses to the ground after they ignite, according to a recent Associated Press investigation.
The Ivanpah Solar ElectirIc Generating System in Primm, Nev.
The Center for Biological Diversity speculates that Ivanpah will kill 28,000 birds a year. In a study earlier this year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's forensics laboratory calls the apparatus a "mega-trap" for insects, swallows, road runners, hawks and even monarch butterflies, "creating an entire food chain vulnerable to injury and death."
The Biological Diversity folks are suing to force solar farms to install lights or noise alert warnings to encourage wildlife to adopt a different flight path. Some California legislators are accidentally sensible and want to ban plants like Ivanpah, which sounds like a deal for birds and taxpayers.
We got a no-irony-intended email from a lobbyist friend working for BrightSource on Thursday explaining "avian fatalities"—the plant's actual year-to-date body count is all of 321 in total, and only 133 of them related to so-called "solar flux"—and Ivanpah's Avian and Bat Monitoring and Management Plan. The company notes that as many as 3.7 billion birds each year are killed by cats and 980 million by crashing into walls.
This green-on-green showdown exquisitely captures the reason that the America that built the Hoover Dam in five years now has so much trouble building those "infrastructure" projects everybody in Washington and Sacramento claim to favor. Environmental review and permitting are often dragged out a decade or longer across a slew of lawsuits and federal and state agencies. Ivanpah was required to spend $34 million on a "Head Start" nursery for desert tortoises. Really.
So it is that the same beau monde activists who think the Keystone XL pipeline is a threat to civilization are now turning on non-fossil fuel power too. Maybe this time they'll feel cognitive dissonance, but then they never do.