Proclivity towards renewable sources of energy has led to large-scale harnessing of natural elements and eco-friendly though the concept might appear at first glance, is it truly as green and beneficial as it is meant to be? With more than 300 avian deaths having been reported from state d’art Ivanpah solar project which is operated by NRG Energy Inc (NYSE:NRG), it is but natural to wonder if the so-called eco-friendly project is truly worth the environmental misbalance.
Located in the Mojave Desert, the $2.2 billion asset of NRG Energy Inc (NYSE:NRG) at Ivanpah Dry Lake commenced operations in February, 2014. Instead of using photovoltaic panels, it relies on mirrors to collect solar rays. Fitted with as many as 300,000 mirrors spread over 1416 hectares, the idea is to focus and concentrate the sun’s rays into beams that are collected by every mirror and directed onto 40-storey high boiler towers filled with water. On being heated to boiling point, the water in the three towers produces steam which is channeled to turbines for generating electricity.
Everything about this operation is eco friendly except for the fact that when a bird flies through the solar beam created by the mirrors, it is unable to withstand the high concentration of heat and catches fire. In just a matter of seconds the creature is burned out and falls to the ground in a plume of smoke, thus earning for itself the title of a ‘streamer’. Owing to the number of birds being singed to death in this manner, environmentalists have expressed serious concern over the viability of the project.
However, officials do not share this opinion and cite statistics for proving that as compared to other bird-killers like cats, cars and mobile phone towers, casualties occurring due to solar energy project are minimal. Garry George, renewable energy director for the state of California, expresses support for the power plant through these words –
“Birds face a lot of threats all over the U.S. I wouldn’t say solar plants are a threat.”
This claim is further supported by Nathan Lee, an MIT Graduate and researcher in Energy Initiative –
“There are sacrifices that every technology has and the question is how visible those are. In the case of the birds getting singed by giant towers, it’s pretty visible and understandably it is therefore probably more upsetting than the quieter ways in which energy technologies cause a lot of harm.”
Jeff Holland, spokesperson for NRG Energy Inc (NYSE:NRG) also justified the company’s support for the power plant by saying that the estimates of bird killings due to the project were inflated.
According to NRG Energy Inc (NYSE:NRG)’s official statement,
“If the frequency cited in the article was true, there would be over 100,000 documented avian fatalities at Ivanpah since the beginning of operations this year. The fact is Ivanpah reported 321 total avian fatalities between January and June 2014. In the 2.5 hours the outlet visited our facility, no falling bird(s) were observed; this was omitted from the article.”
This article has been written by Vinita Basu and Edited by Serkan Unal.