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'Streamers': Birds Fried in Midair by Solar Plant, Feds Say

Workers at a state-of-the-art solar plant in the Mojave Desert have a name for birds that fly through the plant's concentrated sun rays — "streamers," for the smoke plume from birds that ignite in midair. Federal wildlife investigators who visited the BrightSource Energy plant last year reported an average of one "streamer" every two minutes.They’re urging California officials to halt the operator's application to build a still-bigger version until the extent of the deaths is assessed. Annual estimates range from a low of about a thousand by BrightSource to 28,000 by an expert for the Center for Biological Diversity environmental group.

BrightSource’s partners are NRG Solar of Carlsbad, California, and Google. The $2.2 billion plant, which launched in February, is at Ivanpah Dry Lake near the California-Nevada border. More than 300,000 mirrors reflect solar rays onto three boiler towers up to 40 stories high. Water inside is heated to produce steam, which turns turbines that generate enough electricity for 140,000 homes. The new plant would have towers up to 75 stories high. Federal wildlife officials said Ivanpah’s bright light might be attracting insects, which in turn attract insect-eating birds. But Ivanpah officials say at least some of the puffs of smoke mark insects and bits of airborne trash being ignited.

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— The Associated Press