The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) released video footage showing how the intense heat generated by the Ivanpah solar plant incinerates thousands of birds and bats.
“At Ivanpah, evidence of flying animals impacted by intense heat near the solar towers had been observed,” according to new USGS research. “The new study showed that although birds and bats were occasionally seen near the towers at Ivanpah, most observations involved insects.”
Ivanpah is a federally-backed solar power plant that uses more than 170,000 mirrored heliostats to direct sunlight at tall boilers towers to generate electricity in California. The concentrated sunlight creates an intense field of heat, called a solar flux, around the facility that’s “enough to cause injury or death” to birds or anything else that flies through it.
The USGS video shows “small smoking objects (insects) and a larger object (bird) as it begins to smoke when entering the solar flux.” Researchers said only 15 birds were affected by the flux in more than 700 hours of filming. Most of the white poofs viewers see in the footage is from bugs being burned alive.
“Our goal of this pilot study was to evaluate several surveillance methods, determine their benefits and limitations, and assess whether they would be appropriate for future use to study potential impacts of solar towers on flying animals,” Robb Diehl, a USGS research ecologist and lead researcher, said in a statement on why there’s footage of bugs and animals being incinerated.
A recent study found Ivanpah killed 6,185 birds in 2015, including about 1,145 that were burned up in the plant’s solar flux. Ivanpah has also been known to blind airline pilots flying over Southern California’s desert.
The Energy Department put up $1.6 billion in loan guarantees to fund the $2.2 billion solar project, which is co-owned by NRG Energy and Google.
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