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On energy front, one standard needed for wildlife protection

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board Published: August 26, 2014

FANS of the foodie movie “The Hundred-Foot Journey” left the theater knowing that there’s more ways to prepare fowl than roasting or frying and there are more kinds of birds to cook than chicken, turkey, ducks and the odd dove. With its focus on fabulous French haute cuisine, the movie makes a viewer wish the popcorn were a bit more sauced up.

Far from the picturesque French countryside is America’s Mojave Desert, where a high-tech solar power plant has been cooking birds by the thousands. Literally.

BrightSource Energy’s plant generates heat to a point that birds passing over are ignited. Plant workers refer to the unfortunate birds as “streamers,” supposedly for the smoke plume they create when falling from the sky.

Solar power thus joins another favorite (wind) of the environmental community in causing havoc to our avian friends. This is a spicy pickle for the wealthy lovers of alternative energy who also enjoy pigeon served with foie gras and truffles, a dish featured in “The Hundred-Foot Journey.”

The Associated Press reports that the $2.2 billion solar plant, which opened in February, is under scrutiny from federal wildlife investigators. BrightSource doesn’t have the typical array of solar panels. Instead, it uses more than 300,000 garage door-sized mirrors that reflect solar rays, beaming the heat to towering boilers that make steam without fossil fuel.

These pressure cookers turn turbines that generate electricity, some of which is used to fire up ovens to roast turkeys.

As with the giant wind turbines, the desert power plant will kill as many as 25,000 birds a year — and in a most gruesome fashion. AP reported that wildlife officials view such “power towers” as a “mega-trap” for wildlife. The bright light attracts bugs, which attract birds, which die, unloved and uneaten.

So we’re beginning to learn that green, healthy alternatives to fossil fuels may indeed be green but certainly not healthy for all concerned. Wind turbines kill birds as well; sometimes the dead birds are among the most noble of avian species — eagles and other raptors.

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by The Oklahoman Editorial Board
The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Gary Pierson, President and CEO of The Oklahoma Publishing Company; Christopher P. Reen, president and publisher of The Oklahoman; Kelly Dyer Fry, editor and vice president of news; Christy Gaylord...
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