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Fried-Birds Controversy: Solar Tower Project Dropped

A solar-energy company has dropped a proposal to build a 75-story solar tower near California's Joshua Tree National Park employing technology that can cause birds to ignite in midair. The California Energy Commission had been slated to vote on BrightSource Energy's project this month. The plant would have used "power tower" technology that trains concentrated solar power on steam boiler towers. State and federal officials and conservation groups say a similar BrightSource tower near the Nevada border proved unexpectedly deadly to birds that flew through the concentrated rays.

BrightSource and its partners wanted a project that would "better meet the needs of the market and energy consumers," Senior Vice President Joe Desmond said Wednesday. The company remains committed to solar power-tower technology, he said. The San Jose Mercury News reported that the company's main push would be at a solar power station in Israel's Negev desert. California law requires that state utilities get one-third of their energy from renewable sources, including solar, by 2020. Some conservation groups opposed the proposed plant's site along a flyway for migratory birds. Others urged a moratorium on power-tower plants pending longer study of the threat to birds.

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— The Associated Press