- The Washington Times - Friday, April 11, 2014

A new report by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finds that solar facilities in California are acting like “mega traps” that kill and injure birds. As a result, “entire food chains” are being disrupted. 

USFWS’s National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory studied three solar farms in Southern California: Desert Sunlight, Genesis Solar and Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS). Two-hundred and thirty-three different birds from 71 species were found over the course of a two-year study.

The three main causes of death were:


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1. Solar flux: Exposure to temperatures over 800 degrees F.

2. Impact (or blunt force) trauma: The birds’ wings are rendered inoperable while flying, causing them to crash into the ground. Birds that do not die are often injured badly enough to make them vulnerable to predators.

3. Predators: When a bird’s wings are singed and it can not fly, it loses its primary means of defense against animals like foxes and coyotes.

Hummingbirds, swifts, swallows, doves, hawks, finches, warblers and owls were just some dead birds found at the solar facilities’ “equal opportunity” mortality hazards.

In one instance, lab staff observed a “falcon-type bird with a plume of smoke arising from the tail as it passed through [a] flux field.”

The study found that besides the intense heat, birds may be mistaking large solar panels for bodies of water. The injured birds then attract insects and other predators to the area. They, too, are then vulnerable to injury or death.

In one instance, researchers found “hundreds upon hundreds” of butterfly carcasses (including Monarchs). The insects were attracted to the light from the solar farms, which in turn attracted birds and perpetuated a cycle of death and injury.

One of the recommendations of the study, which stated that the number of deaths was likely underrepresented, was to retrofit solar panels to discourage birds and insects from congregating in the area.

California’s KCET, a public television station, reported the findings of the USFWS’s report may affect the state’s decision to proceed with the Palen Solar Electric Generating System, “a much larger version of Ivanpah proposed for the Chuckwalla Valley in Riverside County.”