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Save the Planet. Kill the Birds.

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The law of unintended consequences strikes again. Can't help but wonder about the s**storm caused by skydiver or ejected pilot getting blown into one of these things as they proliferate.

http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2014-04-30/save-the-planet-kill-the-birds

Save the Planet. Kill the Birds.

Workers at the power plant call them "streamers," like something you might toss during a parade or a New Year's Eve celebration.

But it's not about fun and games at a huge new solar-energy facility in California's Mojave Desert. When observers see something falling from the sky trailing smoke and flames, it isn't a fragment of space debris burning up in the atmosphere; it's probably a bird. 

The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, which opened in February, seems like the ideal green project. An array of 300,000 mirrors covering 3,500 acres focus the sun's rays on three 460-foot towers. The towers contain a liquid that, when heated, powers steam turbines. Those turbines in turn produce enough electricity for about 140,000 homes, without greenhouse gases or other emissions.

What no one seems to have counted on was how the facility, developed byBrightSource Energy Inc., would affect the environment. We now know the answer: It attracts birds and kills them.

After several studies, the conclusion for why birds are drawn to the searing beams of the solar field goes like this: Insects are attracted to the bright light of the reflecting mirrors, much as moths are lured to a porch light. Small birds -- insect eaters such as finches, swallows and warblers -- go after the bugs. In turn, predators such as hawks and falcons pursue the smaller birds.

But once the birds enter the focal field of the mirrors, called the "solar flux," injury or death can occur in a few seconds. The reflected light from the mirrors is 800 to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Either the birds are incinerated in flight; their feathers are singed, causing them to fall to their deaths; or they are too injured to fly and are killed on the ground by predators, according to a report by the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory. (Hats off to the Press-Enterprise in Riverside, California, which got the report through a Freedom of Information Act request.)

Parts of the report make for grisly reading. Here's an example:

Ivanpah employees and OLE (Office of Law Enforcement) staff noticed that close to the periphery of the tower and within the reflected solar field, streams of smoke rise when an object crosses the solar flux fields aimed at the tower. Ivanpah employees used the term "streamers" to characterize this occurrence.

When OLE staff visited the Ivanpah Solar plant, we observed many streamer events. It is claimed these events represent the combustion of loose debris, or insects. Although some of the events are likely that, there were instances in which the amount of smoke produced by the ignition could only be explained by a larger flammable biomass such as a bird. Indeed OLE staff observed birds entering the solar flux and igniting, consequently becoming a streamer.

The observers said they saw one streamer every two minutes.

The report goes on to document the carnage at other California power stations that rely on solar panels, rather than mirrors and heating towers, to collect energy from the sun. Birds at these facilities tended to fly into the panels, much as millions of birds do every year, whether into glass skyscrapers in cities or picture windows in suburban houses. But only at Ivanpah do birds ignite in flight.

Representatives of NRG Energy Inc., which operates Ivanpah, have challenged the report with an array of answers that seem like they come from a collection of greatest hits for corporate defenses: The plant is new; let's see what happens over time; the conclusions are premature.

What isn't in dispute is that other green-energy facilities have proven lethal for birds, too. Last year the U.S. Justice Department ordered Duke Energy Corp. to pay $1 million in fines and restitution for killing untold numbers of birds at wind-generation farms. Wind farms may seem innocuous, but they work more or less like giant blenders for birds, as well as bats. Among the most vulnerable are eagles and other raptors, which tend to fly head down scouring the ground for prey.

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The law of unintended consequences strikes again. Can't help but wonder about the s**storm caused by skydiver or ejected pilot getting blown into one of these things as they proliferate.

http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2014-04-30/save-the-planet-kill-the-birds

 

 

I can see the lawsuits now...

 

What's the energy gain from these things compared to solar panel farms, and do they reflect as badly?

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This entire thing sounds like an over-complicated contraption made a mad scientist. A nice attempt at green energy, but it's obviously to destructive to the environment to continue to use. Hopefully it's discontinued soon.

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The administration seems intent on expanding them, not only at the cost of birds but covering over southwestern US desert habitats which evolved because they were not shaded. Duh.

Also, it cost roughly $16,000/home served just to build the damned thing, forget about operations and maintenance costs.

Another issue: have they computed the vaporizing biomass into their "carbon footprint" numbers? Clearly they haven't given their statement that it's "without greenhouse gases or other emissions."

Sorry, but ISTM incinerating biomass emits greenhouse gases and other emissions.

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The birds will be killed by methane fumes produced by fracking, pollutions linked to fossil fuels burning or by oil spills, Do I need to post a picture of the Gulf coast birds after the Deepwater explosion?

 

There have been millions of acres of forest destroyed by human activities in Asia or South America, Rivers flows have been modified by dams or by dumps of mines exploitation. Strip mining or mountain top blasting have completely modified geography.

 

All these activities have destroyed countless of animals, sometimes even entire species and modified the climate.

 

And somehow, the 'think about the children birds card' is pulled because some birds are cooked by a solar power plant. Are you ######ing kidding me?

 

Selective outrage at its best.

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OTOH, use modern nuclear designs which solves both problems. Unlike the current failed plants they cannot melt down, they can use fuel cycles which.produce short-lived wastes (which can be re-used in other reactor types) and can actually benefit some habitats.

How?

In these very cold parts the warm water discharged by our regional reactors keeps some Great Lakes coastal waters thawed, which increases fish survival over the cold winter, and they feed over-wintering birds of prey (eagles, opsprey) and sea birds. Just in one area thousands of eagles and other water raptors have set up shop where before few existed.

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The birds will be killed by methane fumes produced by fracking, pollutions linked to fossil fuels burning or by the oil spill, Do I need to post a picture of the Gulf coast birds after the Deepwater explosion?

 

Selective outrage at its best.

I'm fully aware our current means of energy production has huge impacts on the environment. My point is, why bother changing from one bad idea to another?

 

In order to supply any significant population with enough energy, there would probably need to be hundreds or thousands of these things. Take ONLY California for instance. 38,000,000 / 140,000 = 272. there would need to 272 of these tower things JUST for California residences. That's not including businesses, town buildings, street lights, trains, cars, and whatever else is on the grid now.

 

Given how much area one of these things takes up and how much damage it's can cause, do you really think building thousands more won't be hugely detrimental to the environment?

 

It's 6 of one, half dozen of the other. We trade one problem for another. What does that buy us in the end?

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definitely not as destructive to the environment as fossil fuels 

 

birds fly into glass towers all the time but we need office buildings, eventually we will have solar perfected and/or bird species will evolve to not fly into extreme heat

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The administration seems intent on expanding them, not only at the cost of birds but covering over southwestern US desert habitats which evolved because they were not shaded. Duh.

Also, it cost roughly $16,000/home served just to build the damned thing, forget about operations and maintenance costs.

Another issue: have they computed the vaporizing biomass into their "carbon footprint" numbers? Clearly they haven't given their statement that it's "without greenhouse gases or other emissions."

Sorry, but ISTM incinerating biomass emits greenhouse gases and other emissions.

 

 

that would be a zero impact emission anyway, much like cow farts and stuff like that. It's greenhouse gases that the bird/cow has absorbed from plants or other animals and would release anyway. it's basically part of the natural self balancing cycle. 

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I can see the lawsuits now...

 

What's the energy gain from these things compared to solar panel farms, and do they reflect as badly?

 

using heat from the sun rays is a lot more effective in areas that has enough sun for it. panels are horribly ineffective.  there are farms that use smaller flat dishes with a higher curvature and black tubes going through them to heat up the liquid though. these aren't as efficient though and work somewhat differently. I Also don't think these can track the sun. 

 

regular solar panels also are ridiculously expensive to make, and makes a lot of pollution to make. 

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Birds have been flying into buildings since there have been buildings, 8,000 years?, and they haven't evolved out of it yet so I don't share your optimism.

Solar (PV this time) has other problems, as in heavy metal pollution both during production and disposal.

Again, modern nuclear designs are our cleanest source.

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I'm fully aware our current means of energy production has huge impacts on the environment. My point is, why bother changing from one bad idea to another?

 

In order to supply any significant population with enough energy, there would probably need to be hundreds or thousands of these things. Take ONLY California for instance. 38,000,000 / 140,000 = 272. there would need to 272 of these tower things JUST for California residences. That's not including businesses, town buildings, street lights, trains, cars, and whatever else is on the grid now.

 

Given how much area one of these things takes up and how much damage it's can cause, do you really think building thousands more won't be hugely detrimental to the environment?

 

It's 6 of one, half dozen of the other. We trade one problem for another. What does that buy us in the end?

 

It buys us time.

We are not going to have a choice: fossil energy fuels are not renewable. Even if the extraction technics are improved and more, it is still going to be depleted at some point or too expensive to produce.

Fracking is a alcohol-addiction problem: it is the story of someone who says: I used to be drunk all day on vodka, but now I am good, I drink only whisky.

So, it may move slightly the peak oil point but this is going to happen anyway.

 

Energy consumption problem must be attacked on two fronts: produce electricity differently: solar for example, and spend less: use energy saving light bulbs.

 

Same thing with water or any other resources

 

272 power plants would be needed for California? And that is a problem? I do not see one: plenty of space available

 

And, as Co_Co said, that solar plant is not as destructive as the other production methods and not as big as fishing or animal farming

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Birds have been flying into buildings since there have been buildings, 8,000 years?, and they haven't evolved out of it yet so I don't share your optimism.

Solar (PV this time) has other problems, as in heavy metal pollution both during production and disposal.

Again, modern nuclear designs are our cleanest source.

 

provided you don't live in Norway with excessive hydro resources or on Iceland ;)

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If you really want to save the planet kill the humans.

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If you really want to save the planet kill the humans.

 

unfortunately, at this point we need humans to save it. if we left it now, it would be dead within decades, 

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If you really want to save the planet kill the humans.

 

Don't fall for this fallacy.  Since it was formed billions of years ago, "the planet" has survived much worse extinction-level cataclysms--numerous times--than what we puny humans could wish to throw at it even if we tried our best.

 

Every time you hear someone say "save the planet", they really mean "save the humans".

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The environmental damage caused by fossil fuels far exceeds the small amount of wildlife affected by solar power generation. Certainly we need to be aware of the environmental consequences of solar energy?if anything can be done to minimise it then we should pursue that?but the faux outrage by ultra-capitalists who deny climate change and advocate the use of fossil fuels isn't fooling anyone. Air pollution kills over 2 million people a year (28,000 in the UK alone) - this isn't a problem for the future, it's something that is having a dramatic impact today.

 

Renewable energies like solar power have a much lower impact upon the environment than traditional energy sources (even factoring in the heavy metals). It is completely reasonable to support them until we have a better alternative.

 

Again, modern nuclear designs are our cleanest source.

Absolutely not. We have no way to process the nuclear waste produced from current processes, not to mention the environmental risk posed by any breach (though that's far less likely with modern designs). Nuclear power has the potential to be a bridging technology but it is not in any way a valid alternative to renewable energy. Nuclear fusion is a different matter but we're decades away from a commercial solution.

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OTOH, use modern nuclear designs which solves both problems. Unlike the current failed plants they cannot melt down, they can use fuel cycles which.produce short-lived wastes (which can be re-used in other reactor types) and can actually benefit some habitats.

How?

In these very cold parts the warm water discharged by our regional reactors keeps some Great Lakes coastal waters thawed, which increases fish survival over the cold winter, and they feed over-wintering birds of prey (eagles, opsprey) and sea birds. Just in one area thousands of eagles and other water raptors have set up shop where before few existed.

 

the manatee's love the warm water put out by the reactors here in FL...

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I wondered why in the world they didn't just build a solar panel field, since they're taking up just as much space with the mirrors.

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The environmental damage caused by fossil fuels far exceeds the small amount of wildlife affected by solar power generation. Certainly we need to be aware of the environmental consequences of solar energy?if anything can be done to minimise it then we should pursue that?but the faux outrage by ultra-capitalists who deny climate change and advocate the use of fossil fuels isn't fooling anyone. Air pollution kills over 2 million people a year (28,000 in the UK alone) - this isn't a problem for the future, it's something that is having a dramatic impact today.

 

Renewable energies like solar power have a much lower impact upon the environment than traditional energy sources (even factoring in the heavy metals). It is completely reasonable to support them until we have a better alternative.

 

Absolutely not. We have no way to process the nuclear waste produced from current processes, not to mention the environmental risk posed by any breach (though that's far less likely with modern designs). Nuclear power has the potential to be a bridging technology but it is not in any way a valid alternative to renewable energy. Nuclear fusion is a different matter but we're decades away from a commercial solution.

 

 

No, as of today and available technologies, Nuclear Fusion is the cleanest we have. Yes there's waste. but modern new reactors have very little waste, and we have places to put it away safely. remember a lot of the waste getting dumped in those vaults aren't from reactors but from other things that use radioactive materials, like mostly medicine(Remember the mexico case from a few months back).

 

Nuclear is the only vible source today to replace and prevent building of more brown coal plants, oil and gas plants. 

 

and when we put it away in the ground, it's safe, and the ground already has radiation, sometimes a lot worse. 

I wondered why in the world they didn't just build a solar panel field, since they're taking up just as much space with the mirrors.

 

because solar panels are expensive, inefficient and pollutes as much as a power plant to make. 

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>

Absolutely not. We have no way to process the nuclear waste produced from current processes, not to mention the environmental risk posed by any breach (though that's far less likely with modern designs). Nuclear power has the potential to be a bridging technology but it is not in any way a valid alternative to renewable energy. Nuclear fusion is a different matter but we're decades away from a commercial solution.

You just proved how little you know about modern nuclear reactor design and fuel cycles. Thanks for the clarification.

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Absolutely not. We have no way to process the nuclear waste produced from current processes, not to mention the environmental risk posed by any breach (though that's far less likely with modern designs). Nuclear power has the potential to be a bridging technology but it is not in any way a valid alternative to renewable energy. Nuclear fusion is a different matter but we're decades away from a commercial solution.

 

 

Incorrect. Completely and utterly incorrect.

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OTOH, use modern nuclear designs which solves both problems. Unlike the current failed plants they cannot melt down, they can use fuel cycles which.produce short-lived wastes (which can be re-used in other reactor types) and can actually benefit some habitats.

I wholeheartedly agree with this, however I do believe renewables have a role to play as well. Even if some solar plants represents a local danger for birds, it is still a highly localized and minimal impact compared to what a single coal plant does all over the globe. No energy source is without risk, but some are clearly much better than others. We shouldn't discount a massive improvement because it's not perfect.

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I have no problem with renewables, so long as producing/using them doesn't turn out to be more polluting like E85, and I think natural gas/methane is the best bridge fuel we have given the transport & storage troubles with hydrogen.

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I have no problem with renewables, so long as producing/using them doesn't turn out to be more polluting like E85, and I think natural gas/methane is the best bridge fuel we have given the transport & storage troubles with hydrogen.

Ethanol is a disaster  :pinch:

 

Regarding transportation, I think electricity (when produced cleanly) could advantageously replace petrol for at least 75% of domestic transportation. Plug-in hybrids resolve the temporary range issues that pure EVs have while providing clean energy for the vast majority of trips for your typical commuter. And at the rate at which battery technology is evolving, it's a matter of only several years before pure EVs outrange all other vehicles.

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