Green Energy Double Standards

RachaelBunzeyRachael Bunzey
Natural Gas NOW

The recent word of birds being fried in mid-air by solar energy facilities illustrates the troubling nature of green energy double standards.

Reading a recent news online an article entitled “Emerging Solar Plants Scorch Birds in Mid-air” that caught my eye reminded me, yet again, of the green energy double standards that seem to apply with so many renewables projects. I am fully in support of both renewables and natural gas development but have always argued that so called “green energy” has unintended consequences that are very commonly overlooked, while any theoretical impact from natural gas development is treated like word of a Martian invasion in War of the Worlds with nothing less than mass hysteria in some instances.  The article demonstrates there are environmental risks to solar power I bet you haven’t even thought about; risks that wouldn’t be tolerated but for green energy double standards.

Bryant La Tourette wrote about this recently here, but I’d like to expand on the subject a bit. According to the article, workers associated with BrightSource Energy located in California (Mojave Desert) call birds flying over the plant, “streamers” because, while in flight, they are actually igniting and falling from the air.  These birds are igniting because they are flying through the concentrated sun rays.

Green Energy Double Standards

“The dorsal aspect of the wing from a Peregrine Falcon (the same bird as shown in Figure 4) with Grade 2 lesions. Note extensive curling of feathers without visible charring. This bird was found alive, unable to fly, emaciated and died shortly thereafter. These findings demonstrate fatal loss of function due to solar flux exposure in the absence of skin or other soft tissue burns.”

Based on the study conducted last year, an estimated one out of every two birds to fly through the area as they are migrating are killed due to these concentrated rays.  The totals add up quickly, according to the Center for Biological Diversity (see report photo along with explanation above). The Center, which is no friend of natural gas either, estimates a loss of 28,000 birds this year alone because of this avian death trap.

The numbers don’t discriminate based on the species of birds so everything from regular bird populations to our raptors.  Yes, eagles, hawks, and falcons alike.  How about the California condor, which was on the verge of extinction in 1987 and has now been brought back due to reintroduction?  How many species are we willing to eliminate to have energy which isn’t even economically efficient?

I don’t casually refer to it as a death trap.  The article goes on to say:

“Federal wildlife officials said Ivanpah might act as a ‘mega-trap’ for wildlife, with the bright light of the plant attracting insects, which in turn attract insect-eating birds that fly to their death in the intensely focused light rays.”

Green Energy Double Standards

Charred Feathers of House Finch

People against natural gas development argue natural gas companies don’t take responsibility for their actions and note gas drilling can also impact wildlife, but that’s only half the story. Natural gas projects, particularly pipelines, also have beneficial impacts on wildlife that offset those impacts.  Does this solar plant offer any similar benefits?  Absolutely not.  Here’s more from the article, illustrating exactly how green energy double standards work:

“Ivanpah officials dispute the source of the so-called streamers, saying at least some of the puffs of smoke mark insects and bits of airborne trash being ignited by the solar rays.

Wildlife officials who witnessed the phenomena say many of the clouds of smoke were too big to come from anything but a bird, and they add that they saw “birds entering the solar flux and igniting, consequently become a streamer.” …While biologists say there is no known feasible way to curb the number of birds killed, the companies behind the projects say they are hoping to find one — studying whether lights, sounds or some other technology would scare them away, said Joseph Desmond, senior vice president at BrightSource Energy.

BrightSource also is offering $1.8 million in compensation for anticipated bird deaths at Palen, Desmond said.”

And, they want to expand to boot!  If this is that dangerous to birds, shouldn’t there be a health impact study on all the dangers from all that irradiation or something? Why so little concern for wildlife in one instance and mass fractivist hysteria in the other? Everything proceeds as if none of this matters if the cause is renewables. Why all these green energy double standards?

“The commission’s staff estimates the proposed new tower would be almost four times as dangerous to birds as the Ivanpah plant. The agency is expected to decide this autumn on the proposal.”

Natural gas is an energy source that involves minimal land disturbance and actually supports wildlife propagation.  To sum it all up the article states:

“The bird kills mark the latest instance in which the quest for clean energy sometimes has inadvertent environmental harm. Solar farms have been criticized for their impacts on desert tortoises, and wind farms have killed birds, including numerous raptors.”

I’ve got to be honest and say I’m find it frustrating the natural gas industry is held to such a higher standard than any other industry.  Any remotely possible negative impact from natural gas development is treated like a Code Red security threat while the documented impacts of solar energy are given a shrug of the shoulders and an “..ehh.” That’s how green energy double standards work, I suppose, but it’s no way to do energy policy. I’m all for solar energy, but is it too much to ask we acknowledge the wildlife tradeoffs while we’re also subsidizing the heck out of it? I don’t think so.

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12 thoughts on “Green Energy Double Standards

  1. Aren’t you having fun with this. It’s a pity there isn’t the same level of scrutiny around a fracking site. How many birds get toasted in a natural gas flare? How many get wasted in an open discharge pond? How many fly into drill rigs and support wires at night? How much bird habitat is leveled due to drilling sites and pipeline right of ways? Please look in the mirror before criticizing others.

    Here is an article that begins to put the Ivanpah bird issue in perspective: http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2014/09/for-the-birds-how-speculation-trumped-fact-at-ivanpah?cmpid=WNL-Friday-September5-2014

    • Cliff, to answer your questions. 1) A NG Flare is a visible obstacle birds can easily fly around. Ever seen a bird fly into a fire? Not like reflective heat from Solar.
      2) My guess would be none is a “open discharge pit” or waste water impoundment. With the activity at the site ducks and geese will surely stay away. And also i don’t think any fish or insects are there to eat, so they have no reason to be there.
      3) Drill rigs are lit at night, (makes it easier to work) so again the answer is none.
      4) drilling sites and pipe line right of ways are reclaimed. Pipe lines are a few 100 yards wide at most, and drill pads are a few acres tops. Mean while apple is taking up 100’s of acres with solar panels to power on cloud center.

      I do find it funny how you will just spew any nonsense in hopes that someone will believe you. But anyone with any common sense knows your claims are just a desperate attempt to either boost your ego or you are a paid NY-PIRG blogger.

      As far as you link, just another group funded by enviro’s, that is willing to print anything for a Buck. Do your research and you will see this site is funded by none other that the Park Foundation.

      • Spewing nonsense? Really?

        Try: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2011/10/24/oil-firm-agrees-to-plead-guilty-in-nd-bird-deaths/

        “One of seven oil companies charged with killing migratory birds during drilling operations in North Dakota has agreed to plead guilty and pay $12,000.” …

        … “Six other oil companies have pleaded not guilty to charges that their oil waste pits killed birds. They were arraigned last month in U.S. District Court in Bismarck and have until Tuesday to file pretrial arguments.”

        Or: http://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/montana/energy-company-admits-misdemeanors-in-bird-deaths/article_22c5176f-371d-56ba-bce1-b83f04ed5045.html

        “A Denver-based energy company admitted to federal misdemeanor charges and was sentenced Wednesday after migratory birds died in oil field ponds operated by one of its subsidiaries, Nance Petroleum Inc. of Billings.” …

        … “The problem was that migratory birds, which are protected species, were dying at temporary ponds operated by Nance Petroleum at its oil and gas sites.”

        “The ponds are near wells and hold water produced from drilling operations. The water usually contains a toxic mix of petroleum and chemicals harmful to birds, which are attracted to the water. The ponds can be made bird-safe by covering them with nets.”

        Or: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/7-500-songbirds-killed-at-canaport-gas-plant-in-saint-john-1.1857615

        “About 7,500 songbirds, possibly including some endangered species, were killed while flying over a gas plant in Saint John late last week, officials have confirmed.”

        “It appears the migrating birds flew into the gas flare at Canaport LNG “

        • You’re proving the point; oil and gas industry killing birds is cause for major hysteria, but solar energy killing birds gets a shrug of the shoulders. That’s what the article is about – the green energy double standards. As usual, fractivists are superb at giving it but can’t take it.

          • No, that’s not it at all. There plenty of press about the bird problems at Ivanpah – major national news and then the hype drummed up by the anti-renewable folks like you. But it’s a problem and one that needs to be remedied. You can expect such problems with a new technology and the attention of its developers and their regulators are squarely upon fixing it.

            As you and so many gas industry advocates have stated, fracking has been around for decades. So fix the god damn problem. It’s simple, put a net over your poison ponds or try one of a dozen other remedies used in other sectors.

            It does no good when someone like FrackDaddy says ” With the activity at the site ducks and geese will surely stay away. And also i don’t think any fish or insects are there to eat, so they have no reason to be there.” He knows better and you guys lose all credibility as a result.

          • Oh, so sorry Tom, I was mislead. The article complained, “the natural gas industry is held to such a higher standard than any other industry.” Now I find out you want to limit the discussion to Northeast PA.

            There are so many more creative ways to dance around an issue. Why not just talk about birds that live in the Mohave Desert.

            Your credibility meter just went into negative red.

  2. Cliff if we compared all forms of energy productions impact on animals and the. Banned them all on the soul criteria of bird kill you would end up with Geothermal and hydro elecfric being the only means of elctricity . The United States is the king of Geothermal total production but that only amount to about 0.2 percent of all US electricity capacity . I think if you choose wisely the risks bird kill can be reduced.across renweable and fossel fuel types . Personally Solar throught and Natural gas are what I see as the least impactful

    • Paul, I agree that assessment and no doubt someone will come up with a negative impact associated with geothermal. So the only solution is to opt for the least impacts and mitigate where possible. Concentrated solar power has it’s problems with desert wildlife. Wind has problems with birds and bats. Wave power at meaningful scales is likely to alter sand distribution patterns. There’s no free lunch.

      But I submit that these problems are transient ones that can be either eliminated as technology matures or minimized and then mitigated satisfactorily. The important thing is to compare the outcomes with the present ways of supplying energy. This is what bothered me about Tom’s “Green Energy Double Standards” piece above. The O&G industry is in no position to be throwing stones at any renewable energy technology based on environmental impacts.

      The process of exploration, production, delivery, and use of fossil energy is a messy business. That’s the reality of it. Even if we placed all the wind turbines and solar facilities in the middle of bird sanctuaries it would not approach the collective damage on birds and other wild life caused by spills, leaks, and just the day-to-day business of the O&G sector. It’s one of the prices we pay for the luxury of energy at our fingertips. Some people are more comfortable with that situation than others.

      Surely you agree that any energy scenario that includes the use of fossil fuels is but a temporary one. They are finite and it will never make economic sense to squeeze those last few drops of oil or cubic feet of gas out of the Earth. At some point renewables will have to go it alone – and they will.

  3. Here is further evidence that Ivanpah and renewables in general are not the problem wildlife face.

    http://www.politico.com/story/2014/09/climate-change-isnt-for-the-birds-110733.html

    “Climate change is the greatest threat facing birds in the United States, and it could drive the bald eagle from its nests in most of the country.

    “That warning about America’s national bird comes from a National Audubon Society study due out Tuesday that predicts climate change could put about half of North America’s bird species at risk by the end of the century. And if greenhouse gas emissions aren’t curbed, many species could go extinct, the group said.” ….

    … “Analyzing climate change data and historical bird records, Audubon scientists sought to project how global warming will affect the hundreds of bird species that are common in the United States and Canada. The study forecast that 314 of the 588 species Audubon examined will be at risk of severe population declines because they’ll lose more than half of their livable geographical range by 2080.”

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