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Is a solar plant near the Nevada border killing thousands of birds?

By Austin Tannenbaum on 03/10/2023


Estimates vary, but the number of bird deaths at the Ivanpah solar plant five miles south of the Nevada border is agreed to be in the thousands.

Ivanpah uses mirrors to concentrate beams of sunlight that reach temperatures of nearly 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. This heat is used to boil water, which generates steam that turns electricity-generating turbines.

Birds flying through the plant’s “flux field” are sometimes incinerated, while others fatally collide with structures. A site consultant estimated that from October 2013 to October 2014, 690 birds died from incineration, 756 from collisions and an additional 2,012 from other causes such as natural desert mortality. An estimate the following year by a different consultant placed the number at 2,500 deaths from known causes and 3,685 from unknown causes.

A 2016 study found that U.S. solar plants have a lower avian mortality rate than U.S. fossil fuel plants: 9.3-10.7 bird mortalities per megawatt-year for the former compared to 74.2 mortalities per megawatt-year for the latter.

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