Over a dozen birds that normally live by the water have been found dead at the construction site of a major solar power plant in the Mojave Desert, The Desert Sun reports.
But how these birds and many others died at the plant is something of a mystery, since they were not killed by simply flying into the solar panels.
One possible explanation: Sea birds and water fowl are mistaking the dazzling array of solar panels for bodies of water, unwittingly flying down to their deaths in the scorching Mojave sun.
For now, however, the body of water theory is just that: a theory.
“Absent scientific knowledge, it’s very hard to say this is what needs to be done to try to alleviate these problems,” said Hendron.
Still, Illeene Anderson of the Center for Biological Diversity said solar panels and evaporation ponds could be a magnet for birds migrating on the Pacific Flyway, one of the US’ four largest bird migration routes.
“They get confused by what they see down there and think it’s a refuge for them,” she said. “It’s got to be hard — big birds flying across the desert — if you see something that’s attractive, you probably try to take advantage of that.”
Fish and Wildlife experts are working with Desert Sunlight’s company, First Solar, to find out why birds are attracted to the sites. First Solar has been the recipient of billions of dollars in loans as part of the Obama administration’s push for green energy.
Concerns have been raised about the environmental impact of large solar plants in deserts before, as they often displace threatened species such as desert tortoises.
“Across the country, environmentalists are finding themselves in the awkward position of having to choose between clean energy and wildlife,” Mother Jones reported in 2011.