The Ivanpah solar power plant in California is having some unforseen consequences. Birds traveling near the plant are coming into contact with the super-heated light being reflected by thousands of mirrors and are instantly incinerating.
"We’re doing everything we can to reduce the number of birds killed out here," the plant’s spokesman, David Knox, told Louis Sahagun at the LA Times.
The problem has persisted since the plant opened in 2014. Ivanpah uses 5 square miles of mirrors that reflect intense heat to a central tower where it is used to boil water and produce steam for electricity. Any bird crossing into this mirrored light meets a firey fate in a matter of seconds. Though engineers have been searching for a way to protect any would-be casualties from entering the light, they have yet to find a solution.
"If there’s a silver bullet out there, maybe we’ll find it," says Knox.
The biggest problem is that the light attracts insects, which is food for the birds. Additionally, the plant lies along the Pacific Flyway, a common zone that birds travel.
"Ivanpah is a bird sink - and [a] cautionary tale unfolding on public lands," Garry George from Audubon California - a conservation group that focuses on the Pacific Flyway - told the LA Times. "It continues to operate as though there’s an endless supply of birds to burn."
This is proof that even solar, which is thought as one of the cleanest and safest forms of energy production, can be exceedingly dangerous. Scientists are fevershly looking for a solution.
"It may take another nine months of data to determine what is actually going on at Ivanpah in terms of bird mortalities and the effectiveness of various deterrents," deputy chief of the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s migratory bird program, Amedee Bricky, said. "Eventually, we hope to transport what we learn to nations around the world developing their own solar energy programs."