California solar power plants singeing bird feathers .
Environmentalists aired their concerns about potential bird deaths at Palen at a recent public hearing on the project, and days later, state officials issued a call for more information on how to minimize chances of birds being singed or burned. A key question the California Energy Commission raised in a Nov. 1 memorandum was how to measure when bird deaths might be excessive enough to consider a temporary shutdown of a plant.
BrightSource, federal, state and local agencies, and environmental and tribal groups are invited, but not required, to provide answers to the commission's questions as part of legal briefs typically submitted during a permitting process for large solar plants.
The problem is the intense radiation — called solar flux — from the project's 170,000 reflecting mirrors that will surround two 750-foot-tall towers that would become the tallest structures in Riverside County.Sunlight from the mirrors will superheat liquid in boilers at the top of the towers, creating steam that in turn will power a turbine.
Pacific Gas & Electric has contracts with BrightSource to buy the electricity from the plant, which could power up to 200,000 homes.
BrightSource declined to comment for this story, and company representatives consistently have avoided discussing bird mortality.