Federal biologists say about 6,000 birds die from collisions or immolation annually while chasing flying insects around the facility’s three 40-story towers.
A macabre fireworks show unfolds each day along I-15 west of Las Vegas, as birds fly into concentrated beams of sunlight and are instantly incinerated, leaving wisps of white smoke against the blue desert sky.
Workers at the Ivanpah Solar Plant have a name for the spectacle: “Streamers.”
And the image-conscious owners of the 390-megawatt plant say they are trying everything they can think of to stop the slaughter.
Federal biologists say about 6,000 birds die from collisions or immolation annually while chasing flying insects around the facility’s three 40-story towers, which catch sunlight from five square miles of garage-door-size mirrors to drive the plant’s power-producing turbines.
We’re doing everything we can to reduce the number of birds killed out here— David Knox, spokesman for NRG Energy Inc., owner of Ivanpah solar plant
In addition, coyotes eat dozens of road runners trapped along the outside of a perimeter fence that was designed to prevent federally threatened desert tortoises from wandering onto the property.
In an interview this week, David Knox, a spokesman for NRG Energy Inc., said the Ivanpah team has been testing an ever-changing combination of tactics to minimize bird deaths and injuries since it began sending power to the grid in 2014. He acknowledged, however, that the results have been “modest.”
“We’re doing everything we can to reduce the number of birds killed out here,” Knox said. “If there’s a silver bullet out there, maybe we’ll find it.”
So far, plant workers have replaced flood lights with LED bulbs, which attract fewer insects and birds that eat them.
They have rearranged the mirrors to reduce birds’ window of exposure.