Solar panels placed along ‘Pacific Flyway’ major migration paths are burning wings of birds

Animal rights campaigners in the US are calling for research into how many birds die as a result of solar energy, following claims that solar panels built across major migration paths are burning birds to death. Many of California’s major solar plants are located across the four major north to south trajectories for migrant birds, known as the ‘Pacific Flyway’.

Birds are diving into the reflective surfaces of these solar panels,  believing them to be bodies of water, or are being burned by powerful rays of sunshine bouncing of the panels, according to KCET.

Thirty-four birds were found dead or injured at Bright Source Energy’s Ivanpah plant in California, which will soon go online, a report by The Desert Sun found.

“Dozens” of other birds have been discovered with singed wings near two other solar panel facilities. More recently, nineteen birds were found dead at the 550-megawatt photovoltaic plant Desert Sunlight plant. The carcass of a Yuma clapper rail, a federally endangered bird, was discovered near the project in May this year.

Some of the dead fowl are allegedly protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Environmentalists are now trying estimate the amount of bird deaths caused by major solar projects as BrightSource Energy’s proposed Palen project comes closer towards being approved.

The project, located in Riverside County, would involve inserting two 750-foot-tall solar towers along with thousands of reflecting mirrors near a pair of the region’s key refuges and stopping points for birds migrating along the Pacific Flyway.

California state officials have now asked for more information on how to reduce the number of deaths and singed bird wings.

However, estimating the number of bird deaths caused by green energy could take years, warned Eric Davis of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. “Bird migration studies have to wait for bird migrations”, he said. “This is going to be months and years of trying to better understand the problem and then make better management decisions as we gain more scientific understanding.”

The California Energy Commission will consider if bird deaths can be measured and if so, whether they are excessive enough to call for a temporary shutdown of the Desert Sunlight plant, which is currently still under construction.

Speaking to The Desert Sun, Kimball L. Garrett of the Museum of Natural History of Los Angeles County said: “A migrating bird has to be in top form, having the flight feathers in really good shape.

“If some of its flight feathers are damaged, what does that mean for the rest of the bird’s migration? It weakens feathers. These are things people don’t study because — how can you?”

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