Roast bird record at Mojave solar plant even worse than predicted?

Plant workers call them “streamers.” Birds that fly through the beams of concentrated sunlight at the massive Ivanpah solar plant near Primm, Nevada catch fire and fall from the sky, leaving a smoky trail as they burn and die.

This solar plant is not the typical solar plant made of photovoltaic cells. Photovoltaics are thought usually harmless to wildlife except for the cleared land. Photovoltaics are very scalable — they can be built in all sizes, shapes, and put on the ground, rooftops, parking lots, platforms at sea, etc.  The Ivanpah style plant instead uses many thousands of large mirrors (300,000 at Ivanpah). They concentrate reflected sunlight into powerful beams aimed at “power towers” — boilers that use the steam to turn turbines and generate electricity in the old fashioned way. Photovoltaics produce electricity directly.

The Ivanpah plant has been controversial from the start. At first it was because the land selected in the Ivanpah Valley was splendid habitat for many hundreds of desert tortoises. The land was also very near to the Mojave National Preserve. It is also on public (BLM) lands covering about 6 square miles from which all vegetation has been removed and the desert soil covered over.

As time went by it occurred to people that the solar beams with their temperatures up to 800º F would be dangerous to anything that passed through them. In addition the flashes from the mirrors could carry a long way and be a danger to pilots. Now it is thought that the rows of mirrors reflecting light look like desert lakes to birds.  Moreover, the light from the mirrors attracts insects too, further attracting birds.

One formally reported incident of “flash glare” was reported in March this year. Extremely bright flash-glare from the mirror fields around the towers briefly blinded the pilots flying a corporate light 2 turbojet. It had passengers aboard.

There is no agreement how many birds are roasted, but a recent study made public by the California Energy Commission by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) indicates that the number is high. The report says “It appears that   Ivanpah may act as a “mega-trap,” attracting insects which in turn attract insect-eating birds, which are   incapacitated by solar flux injury, thus attracting predators and creating an entire food chain vulnerable to   injury and death.”

Unlike wind farms which seem to preferentially kill certain kind of birds, Ivanpah was “equal opportunity.”

The remains of 71 species were identified, representing a broad range of ecological types. In body size, these ranged from hummingbirds to pelicans; in ecological type from strictly aerial feeders (swallows) to strictly aquatic feeders (grebes) to ground feeders (roadrunners) to raptors (hawks and owls). The species identified were equally divided among resident and non-resident species, and nocturnal as well as diurnal species were represented. Although not analyzed in detail, there was also significant bat and insect mortality at the Ivanpah site, including monarch butterflies.

Collecting birds on the ground does not give a full accounting of bird death because not all “streamers” fall and die on sight. Birds were observed to fly through, catch fire and then perch, only to make a erratic flight off to die somewhere else.  CBD estimated that perhaps 28,000 birds die from what happens at the site each year.

BrightSource Energy runs the place. They estimate about a thousand birds a year dead, but last year federal investigators report they saw “streamers” about every 2 minutes during their visit to Ivanpah.

Right wing fossil fuel advocates are criticizing environmentalists using Ivanpah as an example of what alternative energy, which they misleadingly call “green energy,” is like. It is not green, and Ivanpah was opposed by a number of environmental groups from the start, including CBD and Western Watersheds Project, who sued to try to stop it. Back in 2011, we ran a number of stories in the Wildlife News about WWPs efforts to stop it. Excellent updates with photos on the project and other controversial solar projects can be found at Below are select articles from the News.

Despite the controversy over Ivanpah, BrightSource has applied to build another such plant in the middle of an important flyway where much larger birds, and larger numbers of birds are at risk. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is reported to be trying to stop this project. This would be a 75-story power tower and mirrors. The tower would rise above the sand dunes and creek washes the run between Joshua Tree National Park and the California-Arizona border. The flyway is between the Colorado River and the Salton Sea.


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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan's Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of "Hiking Idaho." He also wrote "Beyond the Tetons" and "Backpacking Wyoming's Teton and Washakie Wilderness." He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

202 Responses to Ivanpah thermal solar power plant produces “death rays” torching many birds

  1. Ida Lupine says:

    We can’t even do green energy without having wildlife as collateral damage. And the Obama administration is handing out 30-year exemptions from the ESA. And what’s the rush to proceed without environmental studies? The effects of climate change are all speculative anyway, according to USF&W.

  2. Ralph Maughan says:

    Ida Lupine,

    As I see it, this kind of solar power, solar thermal power, is not green. However, I think solar photovoltaic often is.

    • Ida Lupine says:

      Yes, you’re right! I’m not crazy about photovoltaics (they take up too much land for very little return), but I’d much prefer them to this kind of thing. And these are just too large – I can’t see these all over our desert areas.

      I don’t know why we have to do everything on such a large scale – it’s like the Titanic, full speed ahead despite warnings in order to be the first, biggest and best.

      • Bob Wallace says:

        Actually solar panels, in numbers we would need to produce about 40% of our electricity, would easily fit on existing rooftops, over parking lots and brownfields/landfills.

        It’s not likely we’ll install many more solar farms on desert land unless it’s land close to point of use. Desert installations were financially attractive when panels cost much more (>$3/watt) but now with the low cost of solar (~ 50 cents/watt) it makes more sense to install them close to point of use and save the transmission costs.

        • Ida Lupine says:

          Yes, rooftop I think would be ideal, and a much smarter use of already developed land. Thanks! I do hope that F&W calls a halt to this 2nd proposed solar plant.

      • Ralph Maughan says:

        When I wrote that photovoltaics were highly scalable, I meant that they can be (and are) deployed in small arrays too. Think of solar panels on the roof of a home or a school.

  3. Bob Wallace says:

    Ralph – did you read the CEC report you linked?

    They explained how “streamers” were caused by a variety of causes.

    “When OLE staff visited the Ivanpah Solar plant, we observed many streamer events. It is claimed that
    these events represent the combustion of loose debris, or insects. Although some of the events are likely
    that, there were instances in which the amount of smoke produced by the ignition could only be explained
    by a larger flammable biomass such as a bird. Indeed OLE staff observed birds entering the solar flux and
    igniting, consequently becoming a streamer.”

    Streamers do not equal number of birds killed.

    Ask yourself, if the federal investigators were watching birds being killed at the rate of one every couple on minutes why they did not count the bodies on the ground?

    I would recommend people keep the 28,000 number at arm’s length until study numbers are released.

    • Ralph Maughan says:

      Bob Wallace,

      Yes,I read much of the report including that all streamers are not birds. Yes streamers do not represent the numbers of birds killed, but neither do the body counts on the ground.

      Many birds were observed to smoke, but they did not fall out of the sky immediately. They flew off, perhaps with difficulty, to die off-site where they would not be counted.

      Counting bodies on the ground seems to me likely an undercount for another reason. There are 173,500 heliostats, each with two mirrors, focusing solar energy on the towers. The facility is six square miles in area. It is not easy to find dead birds and count them uniquely among the many rows of heliostats filling this vast space.

      • Bob Wallace says:

        If you read the report, which is just a preliminary study of how birds are getting killed, you also know that some of the birds were apparently killed by predators and least one died from starvation. One bird was electrocuted, six “smashed” birds were found on roads.

        Wildlife biologists are very skilled at collecting this sort of data.

        Why don’t we hold back and let the pros do their job before casting judgement? What we have right now is no useful data plus one very large, unsupported estimate.

      • Bob Wallace says:

        Ralph, here’s the BrightSource page on the number of bird kills at Ivanpah. “… 321 avian fatalities between January and June 2014, of which 133 were related to solar flux.”

        That number, if it holds would put Ivanpah on par with nuclear in terms of kills per GWh and well below coal.

        • Ken Cole says:

          So we are supposed to trust what BrightSource is saying about the numbers? You sound like a corporate hack trying to cover for them.

          Ivanpah should be torn down and the lands should be allowed to recover. Unfortunately, it will take hundreds, maybe thousands of years for them to recover. These types of plants should never be built again and solar should only be placed on rooftops or in brownfields, not in remote public lands that are habitats for rare and endangered species.

          • Ida Lupines says:

            Ivanpah should be torn down and the lands should be allowed to recover.

            Yes, totally agree.

            We were given assurances, at least by the wind industry, that they would be more careful about siting these alternative energy plants. Now BrightSource is planning to build another giant solar plant in the middle of a flyway?

            It’s easy to see why birds would think they are bodies of water.

          • Bob Wallace says:

            I did not suggest we accept what either BrightSource or CBD have stated.

            I suggested we make sure we have legitimate data before we form an opinion and call for either Ivanpah be torn down or more solar towers built.

            Projects like this are required to engage an independent, qualified organization to collect data on environmental impact. The companies that do this work must produce trustworthy data or they go out of business.

            I received a lead on the data filed with the federal government. Let me read through it a couple more times so that I make sure fully understand it and then I’ll bring it here.

            • Mary Numbers says:

              One of the problems with “green energy” – which the term itself turned out to not be true – is that neither the developers nor those that they hire are unbiased.

              The problem is that the data from the supposed “independent firm” is considered unreasonably low by much of the public and they are being less and less believed by the general public.

              There is concern from the public when the wind turbines that destroy habitat and kill birds and bats are being hooked up to solar panel farms that destroy habitat and kill birds and everything that flies or they’re hooked up to miles-long transmission power lines. It appears to them our government is designing an environmental disaster.

              Though you’re arguing conservationists believe too high a number, the truth is the birding groups have the least reason to lie than anyone. They have no financial or any gain in criticizing these companies that are otherwise not stopped by the government. And really, if they didn’t, bird populations would be in much more harms way. And really, the companies wouldn’t receive pressure to even consider environmental concerns.

              It’s difficult to get permission to gather data in the first place from these facilities, which also hinders accuracy of conservationists.

              Even cutting the number in half, it’s 14,000 birds. There is reason for serious concern at this plant. And it’s very strange they would use the type of material they did in the first place.

              • Bob Wallace says:

                So what you’re saying, Mary, is that you don’t want to believe the numbers that are generated by trained scientists who take their work very seriously.

                You’d prefer to take a number made up by someone who has not been on the site and done any counts.

                I don’t know why you’re biased against green energy, but some people do prefer coal and nuclear, even if they kill far more birds and other animals.

        • Pamela W says:

          Frankly, even one “streamer” is too many in my view. Responsible technology means responsible treatment of all beings.

          • Bob Wallace says:

            Ah, Pamela, what you are advocating is that we use only perfect solutions. I can get behind that.

            Now, please tell me the perfect way to make electricity so that I can support it. And please hurry. Coal is killing a lot birds while you tarry.

            • Pamela W says:

              As I stated, I am not an engineer. Are you suggesting that unless a person has the perfect solution, s/he should be silent? I actually long for a more engaged community in which people have opinions, share them, and collaborate with others to develop solutions. Is that as ludicrous as believing we can design an energy system that doesn’t inherently sacrifice other species as a business-as-usual part of its operations?

              Negative impacts to wildlife are very far down on the list of considerations, if they are recognized at all. I strongly object to such a stupid and heartless system.

              I agree with those who advocate that massive wasteful consumption should be addressed, as well as too many people and too many births. Since as a society we seem unwilling and disinterested in addressing either of those issues, I’m okay with increased scarcity and higher costs. Will it affect me? Absolutely, and I still choose for the greater good – which in my opinion protects the interests of all beings.

              And if you interpreted my previous comments as a defense of coal, think again.

              • Bob Wallace says:

                I am suggesting that unless you know a better solution than what’s now on the table you pick the best of the non-perfect.

                “Negative impacts to wildlife are very far down on the list of considerations, if they are recognized at all.”

                That’s BS. Every project has to prepare an environment impact statement which is then reviewed before permission is given to turn a shovelful of dirt. Look at all the work that Ivanpah had to do with tortoises before starting construction.

                “I agree with those who advocate that massive wasteful consumption should be addressed, as well as too many people and too many births. Since as a society we seem unwilling and disinterested in addressing either of those issues, ”

                The US society? We’re addressing both consumption and birth rates. US electricity and oil demand is dropping. US birth rates are dropping with the exception of first generation immigrants from countries with high birth rates.

                (It takes a little time for people from some other countries to learn that one doesn’t need lots of children in order for one or two to survive and take care of you during your final years when you live in a country with decent health care and safety nets.)

                “And if you interpreted my previous comments as a defense of coal, think again.”

                When someone states that we shouldn’t be building wind farms because they kill about 0.27 birds per GWh, or that we shouldn’t build thermal solar because it seems to be killing less than 1 bird per GWh, then they are saying that we should be sticking with coal which kills about 9.4 birds per GWh.

                Most of us would rather see one or fewer birds killed per GWh rather than 9+ birds killed while producing the same amount of electricity.

                Most of us would rather see zero birds killed per GWh, but that is not a choice available.

              • Nancy says:

                +1 Pamela W.

  4. Yvette says:

    This is disturbing. Beyond disturbing. Now they want to build another one in the middle of a flyway?

  5. Ida Lupine says:

    Plus, I’ve been reading that the birds killed are drawing in predators, and you know what that means – keeping Wildlife Services employed!

    With an unbelievable 30-year exemption from the ESA, we’ll possibly never know the extent of this problem.

  6. Rich says:

    I agree completely with Ralph and Ken that rooftop and brownfields are the preferred solution to our energy needs long term. The transmission losses are minimized as the power generation is located in close proximity to the user and the adverse environmental impacts are significantly reduced so it is a win-win. Fly into Phoenix, Vegas, Albuquerque or other cities in the Southwest and you will see all those roof tops baking in the sun requiring power from dams on the Colorado or coal plants for air conditioning. It should be obvious to even the most casual observer that there are better solutions than huge solar power plants located remotely in the desert far from where the power is used. Since solar is distributed equally in the Southwest it does not require a special site to take advantage of it

    “Why don’t we hold back and let the pros do their job before casting judgement? What we have right now is no useful data plus one very large, unsupported estimate.

    Bob, with all due respect it seems like I recall the tobacco industry making similar statements. Regarding the studies by BrightSource and their “pros”of bird kills, its virtually impossible to accurately count every bird fatally injured but able to fly or crawl off to die far from where it was injured. Bird hunters know well the ability of birds to continue flying some distance before succumbing to injury if a wing isn’t broken

    For many years smoking studies by the tobacco industry showed smoking was safe even thought it was obvious to most casual observers that it wasn’t. If birds are being found dead on the site it may just be the tip of the iceberg and the real costs will be seen over time just as many humans died waiting for the final conclusive evidence that smoking was indeed hazardous to their health.

    I will be interested in seeing the data you are able to find and just how robust and accurate the studies turn out to be.

    • Bob Wallace says:

      Rich, I did not suggest letting BrightSource be the determiner of bird kills.

      BrightSource is required to hire an independent outside firm to do the biological studies.

      Now, please go to Ralph’s paragraph which begins “There is no agreement how many birds are roasted, …”

      Click on the study and read it. You’ll see that the streamer issue is hyped in many current reports. Streamers are (apparently) caused by insects and debris as well as birds. We do not yet know what percentage of streamers are birds and what are bugs/stuff. If you read the pearl-clutching reports you’ll come away with the impression that a bird is getting roasted every two minutes.

      (That seems to be the source of CBD’s 28,000 kill estimate. They took ‘1 streamer per 2 minutes’, assumed they were all birds, and multiplied by hours of operation per year.)

      You’ll see how bird deaths drop off with distance from the site. You’ll see that many of the bird deaths at the site were not from the “death rays” but other causes.

      You will not see an accurate ‘kill per year’ or ‘kill by GWh’ number. That was not the purpose of this study. That was not what this group was tasked to do. They studied how birds were being killed at Ivanpah and other desert solar sites, including trough and panel facilities.

      How about we not assume the worst (or assume the best) based on no data?

      • Ken Cole says:

        Do you have an economic interest in this issue? It sure sounds like it.

        • Bob Wallace says:

          No, Ken, I have absolutely no financial interest in Ivanpah.

          I have an immense interest in truth and great disdain for those who lie. Don’t you?

          • Ken Cole says:

            Yes, I do, but we’ve been lied to so many times about Ivanpah that I have a very deep skepticism about anything they say.

            • Bob Wallace says:

              Ken, this isn’t Ivanpah saying anything. This is data from an independent firm who specializes in environmental impact studies. Read up on them. Read their reports. I gave the links.

              Then go back and read the first part of Ralph’s article. About the high rate of “streamers” and 28,000 birds killed.

              Ralph apparently got taken in by dishonest people working at CBD. No shame in that, I did too.

              I thought a few days ago that there was a terrible problem at Ivanpah. But I knew that thermal towers in other countries had not reported those kinds of numbers. It sent me looking for what facts I could find. What I’ve found to date I’ve shared.

              It looks like the number of birds killed per year by Ivanpah will be no more than 1,000.

              Based on the power produced over a year (1,079 GWh) that makes Ivanpah less damaging to birds than either nuclear or coal, the electricity sources Ivanpah will replace.

              If people are truly concerned about birds they should be storming coal plants and shutting them down. Not attacking alternatives which, while not perfect, kill far fewer birds per unit of electricity produced.

              Don’t you agree?

              • Ken Cole says:

                No, I don’t agree. Both should be attacked. They are both damaging and both should be shut down. The degree to how damaging they are doesn’t make much difference to me.

                I get riled up when people assert that solar plants are “green”. They aren’t.

                • Bob Wallace says:

                  Well, Ken, tell us how our electricity would be produced were we to shut down all coal and nuclear plants.

                  As well as thermal solar and wind as well?

                  Do you have a plan for ‘the perfect’? Best I’ve come up with is ‘as good as we can’. I’d love to hear a perfect plan.

              • W. Hong says:

                Bob, he does not have one, based on what I have read since January.

              • Ralph Maughan says:

                Bob Wallace,

                The cost per kilowatt hour of photovoltaics is less than solar thermal, and the cost is dropping rapidly.

                There are many kinds of alternative energy. Many of them are not green, or if they are, they are too costly.

                What needs to be done is to sort out those that meet these criteria. Corn derived ethanol is another alternative kind of energy that has failed, but persists at a high level of production because of political pressure from the Corn Belt.

                • Bob Wallace says:

                  I agree, Ralph, we have to sort out what works from what doesn’t work or is too expensive.

                  Right now wind is our least expensive way to generate new electricity. Onshore wind has dropped below 4 cents/kWh.

                  Our next cheapest clean, renewable method is PV solar, running about 8 cents but dropping rapidly.

                  Natural gas falls between the two. Of course, NG is neither clean nor renewable.

                  Coal and nuclear are both too problematic and expensive to play a role going forward.

                  Offshore wind is more expensive but it delivers during the daytime when demand is high and it is expected that costs will come down. Remember, onshore wind cost 38 cents/kWh about 30 years ago and as we learned how to make it cheaper we’ve dropped the cost by almost 10x.

                  Tidal may turn out to be an affordable option, but will be geographically limited.

                  Geothermal is not likely to drop as low in price as wind and PV solar.

                  Wave is turning out to be very difficult to master.

                  Hydro works but the amount we can add to our grids is limited.

                  Then there’s thermal solar.

                  Those are our choices, best I can tell. We’ll likely settle on a mix of sources, varying from area to area. But in order to create a clean grid we’re going to need storage. And storage adds cost.

                  The appeal of thermal solar is that it might not be expensive to add thermal storage, heat up the medium during sunny hours and then use the energy to produce electricity once the Sun as gone down. Right now people are trying to figure out how to make an efficient thermal solar plant. After that, I think, would come the storage part.

                  I don’t know whether it will be cheaper to store wind and PV solar in “generic” storage or to use thermal solar with storage.

                  (My personal guess is that we will build few thermal solar plants. But that’s just a guess.)

                  The decision of what we use to power our future grid will be a matter of adding up all the costs and benefits.

                  If it turns out that Ivanpah actually kills tens of thousands of birds per year then I think it would be very unlikely we would build more.

                  If it turns out that Ivanpah actually kills less than 1,000 then it will come down to whether thermal solar with storage is competitive with stored wind and PV solar.

                  Remember, what we’re working against is fossil fuels which is killing millions of birds a year. Just consider habitat loss alone. We’ve lost over 40 million acres of woodlands to bark beetles. We’re seeing extended fire seasons across the West resulting in very high count wildlife mortality. We need, IMO, to turn our strongest tools into weapons to fight further climate change.

                  And we need to make sure we are using the best data available and not let ourselves be led astray by bad data.

              • JB says:

                “I get riled up when people assert that solar plants are “green”. They aren’t.”


                We can’t produce energy without some sort of environmental impact. The question is, which type of energy is less impactful? Ideally (were I ‘god for the day’), I would start by using already-developed areas to produce electricity (via solar, and some wind), then go to mass generation of solar, and wind. The continued focus on fossil fuels brings us mountain top removals, fracking, and worse. I’d fry a few birds to avoid the latter any day.

                Anyway, I worry that in their zeal to come up with ideal solutions, advocates for the environment are actually making things worse by preventing the adoption of technologies that would be better than what we have currently (here’s an opening for Brian to insert his usual jeers about compromise).

              • Immer Treue says:


                “We can’t produce energy without some sort of environmental impact. The question is, which type of energy is less impactful?”


              • Ken Cole says:

                Here is part of the plan. It may not be realistic but it is the only one that will work. First, quit using so much. Second, quit having kids. The order can be reversed.

                • Bob Wallace says:

                  Those are good points, Ken, and we’ve already started doing both. US birth rates are down and world birth rates are falling. We are putting lots of efficiency practices in place and US electricity generation peaked in 2007 and has been falling since.

                  But you well know that you didn’t address the issue.

                  What’s your plan for supplying the electricity we need in the least damaging way? And please use the technologies we have at hand, not some method that might be invented in the future.

              • JB says:

                Great! I’m on board with both. In fact, (as I noted below) we’ve already pretty much quit on having kids (US growth is due exclusively to immigration at this point).

                I’m all for using less (and trying to practice what I “preach” in this regard). However, we’re always going to use something [i.e., require energy]; rational policy-making would weigh the technologies and incentivize those that do the least damage. What we need are clear estimates of the impacts caused by various technologies.

              • Immer Treue says:

                ” What we need are clear estimates of the impacts caused by various technologies.”

                And all these new technologies will have start-up lumps and bumps. Think how long we have been yoked into fossil fuels and the horrible past associated with our growth toward dependency upon them. We’ve come a long way. I would submit that with so many safety valves in place, we would not leave the same torturous wake behind us with wind and solar technologies, in particular as they evolve.

  7. aves says:

    It’s worth noting that most of the carcass collection dates fell on days the facility was operating at only 1/3 of it’s capacity. From page 25 of the report:

    “Of especial concern is the Ivanpah facility which was not fully-functioning at the time of the
    latest carcass submissions. In fact, all but 7 of the carcasses with solar flux injury and reported dates of
    collection were found at or prior to the USFWS site visit (October 21-24, 2013) and, therefore, represent
    flux mortality from a facility operating at only 33% capacity.”

    • Bob Wallace says:

      OK, I’ve plowed my way through a couple of site studies.

      First, a company named H.T. Harvey and Associates has been hired to do a detailed study of bird kills at Ivanpah. If you’re really interested in this issue you might want to read about them.

      They have submitted their first quarterly report covering 29 Oct, 2013 to 21 March, 2014. As with studies such as this they do not have data collectors in the field every day, but take sample days and use that data to project likely numbers.

      This is from their report…

      “Of the 96 avian detections during the 2013-2014 winter season, 24 fatalities (13 carcasses and 11 feather
      spots, together 25%) and three injured birds showed signs of singed feather damage from flux effects.

      Twenty-three of 27 detections (85.2%) showing signs of flux occurred in the tower area. Evidence of collision
      (primarily with heliostats) was observed in the case of 14 detections (14.6%). The five bats were all detected
      in and adjacent to the ACC, but the cause of death is unknown. The cause of injury or mortality for the
      remaining 55 detections (57.3%) could not be confirmed, mainly because the evidence of mortality was
      limited to feather spots; however, none of these detections with unknown causes of mortality displayed
      evidence of flux effects or observable evidence of collision. Thirty-eight (39.6%) of the 96 detections
      consisted only of feather spots. Because singed feathers are readily observable, fatalities for which the cause
      of death is unconfirmed are likely to have resulted from predation, collision, or illness.”

      Based on data obtained they estimate that approximately 200 birds died due to the project during the quarter but suggest improvements to data collection methods which will be incorporated in future quarters.

      You should be able to read the document by googling


  8. Bob Wallace says:

    Here’s a graph of kills by reason and by month for January 2014 through June 2014. Perhaps Ralph can post it for all to see.

    Google –

    Ex.1203 – Summary of ISEGS Bird and Bat Mortality – January through June 2014

    133 Singed
    24 Collision
    156 Cause undeterminable, not singed
    8 Bat deaths, cause undetermined, not singed

    Now these are sample numbers. They have to be extrapolated up to an estimate of total numbers but there is no way that the final number is going to be remotely like 28,000.

  9. Bob Wallace says:

    More background on the ‘streamer every two minutes’ and 28,000 kills per year’.

    The large number seems to have come from testimony from Kenneth Smallwood, an ecologist who has been taking field counts done by other ecologists and making estimates by multiplying the numbers.

    He asserts that counts are very faulty, that predator removals are greatly under counted.

    Smallwood is making his estimates, as far as I can determine, based on nothing but opinion. He has, as far as I can tell, produced zero data to support his claims.

    He simply takes study numbers and multiplies them by a number he has generated from only opinion.

    If one reads early mortality studies there was quite a bit effort expended in determining things like how much predator removal impacted bird death counts and numbers by ecologist are adjusted to allow for removals.

    If you read the first quarter report from Ivanpah you will see that they address the predator removal issue and allow for that in the estimates they project.

    It seems to me that Smallwood has gone off in a very strange direction, accusing the other scientists in his field of sloppy research while producing no evidence that large scale inaccuracies have occurred.

  10. Ida Lupines says:

    Shaking my head at these cavalier comments. What we’ve got is alternative energy industries taking the same path of fossil fuels with total unconcern for wildlife. But at least fossil fuels are penalized. 30-year exemptions and permits granting exceptions from the ESA and migratory bird laws are totally unacceptable. We may never know the extent of the impact these utility scale solar and wind plants have on wildlife. We’d like to have some birds left to survive climate change.

    If we can’t even protect 300 wolverines because of climate uncertainties, I don’t know what the rush it for solar and wind. Yes I do, it’s to create a new industry and money, and money from the government. Same old story, greenwashed.

    I do hope the USF&W doesn’t approve the new one that threatens a flyway.

    • Ida Lupines says:

      No, we can’t produce energy without having ‘some sort’ of impact on the environment, but total disregard for the effects is unacceptable, and further study and transparency is needed. You can’t trust industry to make their own rules.

    • JB says:

      “If we can’t even protect 300 wolverines because of climate uncertainties, I don’t know what the rush it for solar and wind. Yes I do, it’s to create a new industry and money, and money from the government. Same old story, greenwashed.”

      No, the ‘rush’ is to get us out of the greenhouse gas mess that we’ve created.

      Short-sighted and self-riteuous will get you more of the same.

      • Ida Lupines says:

        This is not the way to do it. We don’t have to keep sacrificing non-human life and undeveloped land in order to do it. There are plenty of other alternatives to these desert steam kettles.

        Our current administration is environmentally clueless, and does not take a harder line with industry.

        • Bob Wallace says:

          No, our current administration is rational.

          We can’t shut down coal and gas plants unless we replace them with something. Very simply the American people would not tolerate the grids crashing and the county going dark.

          An administration that tried to shut down all coal and gas plants overnight would be out of office within days.

          We have to find the best solutions and then install them. While looking for the best solutions we are almost certain to make mistakes.

          But let’s use real data to judge the cost of each technology rather than latching on to whatever extreme number floats into reach.

          Take the streamers number. One every couple of minutes. Someone took that rather casual observation and, innocently or with malice, turned it to a bird being flamed every two minutes.

          Now we know that some streamers are birds, some insects, some probably just debris.

          What we don’t know is whether there’s a “streamer season”, some variability in occurrence and perhaps the observation was made during unusually high occurrence times. We also don’t know if 99 out of 100 streamers are birds or 1 out of 10,000 streamers is a bird.

          We can’t act rationally without good, reliable data and it will take a few months to gather and evaluate that data.

          We can feel a bit better by looking at the first quarter data. The ecologists studying mortality rates found ‘about 200’, not ‘about 7,000’.

          • Ida Lupines says:

            Maybe so, we await the data eagerly. But putting an even larger one in a flyway? That’s certainly showing complete indifference. They should find an alternative site.


            • Bob Wallace says:

              Halfway through the second sentence in your link I find –

              “BrightSource Energy has temporarily suspended its plans to develop the Rio Mesa Solar project.”

              Then further down I find –

              “BrightSource Energy instead plans to focus its investment on developing a solar power tower facility on the Palen Solar project site further to the west along the Interstate 10 corridor, which it bought from Solar Trust of America last year.”

              Given the (apparently bogus) numbers put forth by the Center for Biological Diversity the Rio Mesa project is on hold. In what way does putting the project on hold demonstrate “complete indifference”?

              • Ida Lupines says:

                I don’t think the link I posted is the site in contention.

              • Ida Lupines says:

                This one is on hold (for now), but others are not. I don’t think it is the one in question. Just even presenting a location such as this is just as environmentally indifferent as the original route for the Keystone pipeline! The environment isn’t their first consideration.

                The video mowing down desert yuccas and other plants is ghastly – this article is old, but it’s not a total loss because it does give background and some of the politics involved. There are more recent articles too.

                • Bob Wallace says:

                  Ida, are you aware that all projects like this require environmental clearance before getting underway?

                  Perhaps you might want to read up on Ivanpah and see how much effort went into minimizing damage to the tortoises who lived on the site. BrightSource didn’t just drive up one day with a bulldozer and start pushing dirt around.

                  Review of other thermal solar operations had, best as I can tell, not found high bird mortality problems. Ivanpah mitigated what was thought to be mitigated.

                  After going into service this “two-minute streamers” and “28,000 kills per year” stuff appeared. And new concerns were raised.

                  Rio Mesa, as you linked, was put on hold because of the concerns at Ivanpah.

                  I’m now fairly convinced that the numbers pushed by the CBD are bogus, but I and the EPA will await well collected data before passing final judgement.

                  When you make statements such as “The video mowing down desert yuccas and other plants is ghastly” I find it hard to take you seriously. You seem to have no idea how vast the American desert is and how much of the desert is used for things like off-road recreation, cattle grazing, parking lots, buildings and all sorts of stuff. That comment of yours is totally devoid of perspective.

                  We’re talking about a technology that might help save all the desert, all the birds, all the tortoises, all the yuccas from being devastated by climate change.

                  Don’t loose sight of the forest by looking too selectively at only one tree. The bear may sneak up and bite you in the butt.

              • Ken Cole says:

                “You seem to have no idea how vast the American desert is”

                Wow! That’s the problem right there. You don’t seem to value the desert for how important it is.

                You also assert that these projects have to go through some kind of vigorous environmental clearance and that BrightSource did great things for tortoises before building Ivanpah. You’re delusional.

                We were told that Ivanpah would only “displace” a few tortoises. The number was an order of magnitude higher and, as it turns out, for every tortoise “displaced” and moved to an adjacent area one dies. There is only so much in the way of resources in these landscapes and when tortoises are moved they often die because they don’t know the landscape or they displace another one. In essence, every tortoise “displaced” by Ivanpah is doomed to death. They are an endangered species. There is your vigorous environmental clearance for you.

                Don’t get me started about how long it takes for these desert communities to develope after they’ve been destroyed.

              • Ken Cole says:

                “We’re talking about a technology that might help save all the desert, all the birds, all the tortoises, all the yuccas from being devastated by climate change.”

                Here is a better technology for saving the desert and the birds:

              • Ken Cole says:


                “ReWire has talked off the record to more than a few field biologists who have been informed at one point or another during their careers that reporting too many mortalities could cost them their jobs.”

              • JB says:


                To be clear, the US isn’t growing because of births–our fertility rate is actually at an all time low (about 1.9 births per woman). The US population would actually be shrinking if it weren’t for immigration.


              • Immer Treue says:

                JB and Ken,

                About 25 years ago, I went to my first and only Sierra Club meeting. A guest speaker, a demographer for the Government commented that the US was at zero population growth, and could remain that way or decline in population just a bit, if not for ILLEGAL immigration. He was not well received.

                That said, where I live, with a bit more research and investment, I could all but go off grid. Living rural, one can do that. A bit more difficult to do in large urban areas.

                • Bob Wallace says:

                  Regardless of how you feel about immigration, legal or illegal, you need to understand that climate change means more environmental refugees.

                  As it becomes more difficult to produce food and obtain water in the places ‘on the edge’ people are going to be forced with the choice of move or die.

                  Just like we are observing both plants and non-human animals move from their previous ranges into new areas humans are going to move to where food and water are available.

                  Put yourself in the position of someone who has been struggling to feed their family on a small farm or with a few head of cattle. Their family had likely scratched out a living in that area for generations. Now their crops won’t grow, their cattle are dying of hunger and thirst.

                  At some point wouldn’t you pack up what you could carry and start making your way to where you might find enough food and water to keep you and your family alive?

                  You want to keep immigration as low as possible? Then help reduce the reasons that people are going to be forced to move.

              • Immer Treue says:


                I have no issue with immigration, for the reasons you state. This nation was founded upon immigration.

                The conversations WE are having on this blog is because of the good fortune where WE were born. And walls never really keep people out.

              • JB says:

                You’ll get no arguments from me, Bob.

  11. Ida Lupines says:

    And here’s an excerpt that JB might appreciate re his comment about all energy sources having ‘some sort’ of effect on the environment:

    Climate change is an urgent threat to the environment, but it is a product of our careless and unsustainable consumption. If our solution to climate change continues to promote unsustainable consumption, and ignore ecosystem destruction and the erosion of biodiversity, then what have we learned from this challenge?

    I think I’ll settle in for some good reading!

  12. Nancy says:

    This is the one of the biggest problems with solar:

    “The success of solar power is forcing utilities to rethink their business model and push for the changes,” said Franc Del Fosse, an energy industry lawyer and partner at Snell & Wilmer. “If you have an individual putting solar panels on the roof, it’s easy to suggest that a utility is making less money.”

  13. Nancy says:

    Too funny Ken 🙂

    “Here is a better technology for saving the desert and the birds:

    Maybe its time for a TV reality show on what over population is doing to the planet?

  14. Ida Lupines says:

    Taken as a whole, the number of births in the United States in 2013 ticked up slightly to 3,957,577, about 5,000 more births than in 2012.

    The US’ population growth may have slowed, but we are still adding nearly four million people a year, and it is not ‘exclusively’ due to immigration! That is still a lot of people. People are living longer as well due to better health and advances in medicine. It’s a huge drain on natural resources.

    We don’t allow other living things to have populations that high.

    • Bob Wallace says:

      This discussion has gone off into birth rates and population growth, which is fine. Those are problems we need to address. And especially address on a global scale.

      But cutting US or global birth rates will not be an effective tool for creating significant cuts in US and world CO2 emissions. We must move faster than we can through population reduction.

      According to leaked parts of the 2014 ICPP report we need to cut world CO2 emissions by 40% to 70% by 2050 to avoid a very dangerous 2C degree temperature rise.

      We’re already seeing heat impacts on desert ecology. The desert is where life often hangs by a thread. We can’t stress desert flora and fauna with additional heat without destroying the ecosystems of millions of acres of desert.

      • Ida Lupines says:

        Overpopulation is the cause of climate change. Decreasing birth rates, voluntarily for those who want to not be burdened and stuck in a cycle of poverty in developing countries and elsewhere, is the most effective tool to slow climate change.

        Ripping up the desert to build these monstrous thermal solar plants isn’t helping the desert.

        I don’t know how I got into this conversation, but it is something that I find important and must be talked about. Ken posted the best tool to prevent climate change was a condom, and I and many others agree with him. There’s no need to get defensive about it, it’s the truth.

        • Bob Wallace says:

          “Overpopulation is the cause of climate change.”

          Well, one can screw facts around and sort of make that statement true.

          Were there only a few million people on the planet we could burn all the fossil fuels we liked and not create enough CO2 to make a noticeable change in the climate.

          But we’re here in the billions and we’re driving our climate toward disaster. So what to do? I can give you two, no, three choices.

          1) We kill off several billion of ourselves very rapidly.

          2) We “go back to living in caves”.

          3) We switch from fossil fuels to renewables with much haste. (And probably break a few eggs in the process.)

          What’s your favorite solution?

          • Ida Lupines says:

            All the good

            We don’t need to go back to ‘living in caves’. *eyeroll* We just don’t all have to have McMansions with 3 or 4 car garages containings big SUVs. We don’t need to eat as much beef and meat as we do, and junk food. We use birth control so unwanted pregnancies are reduced (which nobody wants to address.) It’s not killing anybody off rapidly – talk about hyberbole! I’d rather see birth control than abortion, quite frankly. Once you become pregnant, you really ought to be responsible.

            Living in caves and killing off rapidly. We’re doing a fine job of that on our own – the future doesn’t look good for our food and water supplies.

            Teenager girls should not be getting pregnant, I was happy to see that the rates are down. There’s a young girl I know of who just turned 25 and she’s got four children – two infants, one one-year old and a five year old. And she’s not the only one. I don’t know where this rarefied place is where people are consciously planning families. It isn’t in CA, where schools are now running classes in two or more shifts.

            I’m tired of our first response all of our problems being to kill off other creatures on the planet so we can continue being wasteful, greedy, sex-obsessed, and irresponsible. And don’t kid yourself – nobody is switching away from fossil fuels anytime soon.

            My favorite solution is Ken’s – put a wrapper on it! I don’t know why I am being singled out for answers here!

            • Ida Lupines says:

              Oops, that first sentence should read ‘all the good inflammatory talking points’.

            • Ida Lupines says:

              So I guess my solution is conserve – use less, consume less, and you’ll be happier the simpler your life is. I know I am.

              Overpopulation is not just the cause of climate change, but the cause of all of them – economy, jobs, wars, unrest, poverty, pollution, extinction of species.

              • Ida Lupines says:

                that shoud read ‘overpopulation is the cause of all of our problems’.

            • Bob Wallace says:

              Hate to tell you, but we can’t drop our CO2 levels sufficiently by increasing efficiency, decreasing use.

              And we can’t cut our CO2 levels sufficiently rapidly by producing fewer babies.

              Now, what’s your favorite solution?

              1) Kill off billions.

              2) Return to lives of very low electricity use.

              3) Build out renewables rapidly.

              If you’ve got a viable fourth option, let’s hear it. But please first think it through and see if you’re willing to defend it as practical and acceptable to the “masses”.

              • Ida Lupines says:

                Again, none of those possibilities is necessary, and just inflammatory. I will not allow you to back me into a corner like that, on complete falsehoods. There are billions living in poverty and starving already. Plenty of experts agree.

                Building out renewables rapidly without the proper environmental impact studies is ill-advised, and hiding environmental damage behind take permits and excemptions from protections for birds and other wildlife is unethical and makes the green energy business no better than the oil companies. In fact some of the big oil companies are behind these companies, so following the same playbook would be par for the course. They’d not have a leg to stand on if it weren’t for government handouts of taxpayer money, because they don’t have investors. Once the subsidies dry up, these things are going bye-bye anyway. Thank God.

                Educate our young girls about birth control. Teenage pregnancy shouldn’t be as high as it is in our developed country, which also has the highest use of resources on the planet. And rooftop solar is my choice for a truly green, alternative energy source. I’m also not for large on or offshore wind, but smaller places that can have a few turbines on coastal areas seems to be working out well.

                I’ve said my piece about this and now I’m done.

                • Bob Wallace says:

                  I’m glad you’re done.

                  The world has all the misinformation it needs.

                  I’m also sorry that you won’t let yourself understand the problems facing us. But if you’re done talking at least you won’t mislead others.

              • Yvette says:

                Ahh shoot. I knew someone would eventually reference the oft referenced “cats kills billions of birds study.

                I was skeptical when the study came out and newspapers across the globe latched on to the ‘billions of birds killed by cats’. It certainly isn’t the first study of its kind.

                I have a colony of cats; more than I’ve ever had in my life. Nearly all of them came to me starving, sick and skinny due to the idiot human that abandoned them. I take them in then spay and neuter. In the few years that I’ve had this many cats I’ve been able to watch their behavior as a colony vs. a couple of pet cats. One of the things I noticed is not all of them hunt. Out of 15 cats there are 3 that I would say are excellent hunters, and they are unsuccessful more than they are successful. 1 of those 3 doesn’t go for the birds but likes the moles and she isn’t successful often. Of the remaining 11 I suspect 2 will hunt, but I haven’t caught them; the other 9 cats show no interest in hunting. I’ve also noticed that the hunting behavior is dependent on season. The feather count goes up in late spring and again in mid-summer when the young ones are attempting their first flight.

                An excellent rebuttal to Loss’s ‘billions of birds killed’ study is here,

                I do not deny that cats hunt birds, but I’m skeptical that their success rate of kills has a significant effect on bird populations. I suspect the decrease in bird populations is more significantly affected by development that causes a loss of native habitat.

                We humans are masters of blaming anything but ourselves. Have any of these Audubon people or Smithsonian people conducted a study on decreased bird populations due to development vs. cat predation? Perhaps they have but I’ve never investigated.

                Have you ever driven into the Dallas, aka, the ‘Metroplex’? All one sees are rows and rows of McMansions (2-5 or 6K ft) houses and a highway lined with nothing but malls, corporate chain stores and concrete. It’s huge, and there is not much there but concrete, huge new houses and shopping malls. Dallas has birds; they’re called grackles and starlings. I suppose the Audubon people will say the cats killed off all the native birds.

              • Mark L says:

                Yvette says,
                “I do not deny that cats hunt birds, but I’m skeptical that their success rate of kills has a significant effect on bird populations. I suspect the decrease in bird populations is more significantly affected by development that causes a loss of native habitat.”

                Won’t argue the whole ‘whether cats are bad or not’ thing, and they are not all bad, but cats on islands where birds breed are horrid. The evidence is undeniable that they’ve taken out whole species of birds breeding on islands. Mainland cats? Coyotes and bobcats should be allowed an equal opportunity to participate in the foodchain. (jmho)

              • Ken Cole says:

                The biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions is actually meat production due to methane produced and the fact that it is 24 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2.



                • Bob Wallace says:

                  That’s methane, Ken. We were discussing CO2.

                  We do need to reduce methane emission as well. We have a problem caused both by ruminates as well as natural gas leaks.

                  Methane is more potent than CO2 but it is much shorter lived in the atmosphere. And methane is a much smaller percentage of our GHG emission.

                  We need to cut methane emissions. We need to quickly cut all GHG emissions.

              • Nancy says:

                Yvette – there are feral cats and then there are FERAL cats 🙂


              • Yvette says:

                Nancy, that’s just too much. Someone snuck the cat inside the school, (that would have been me when I was in school) but….’Ferocious kitty’ hasn’t scratched yet but they closed the entire school and sent 500 kids home? Banging my head against the wall.

              • Nancy says:

                Yvette – have you read the book by James Patterson titled Zoo? Thought provoking for sure.


          • Pamela W says:

            This seems rather simplistic, Bob Wallace. Why should we have to figure out the solution? I’m not an engineer. It seems reasonable to me to demand that those with the technical expertise figure it out. As a society, I believe we have a right (and obligation!) to demand fair and just solutions for all beings. To suggest that there are only 3 options — 2 of which are preposterous — is very old-think.

            • Bob Wallace says:

              Thousands, if not millions, of talented engineers and scientists have looked for perfect ways to generate electricity. Ways that endanger no humans or other animals, wreck no habitat and could fulfill our desire for electricity.

              To date they have found none.

              We’re stuck with a list of “less than perfect” alternatives. What makes sense to me is to use the least bad and not use the most bad.

              • Ida Lupines says:

                Yes, but meanwhile, we’re still the top exporters of the fossil fuels with no signs of stopping, so we’re killing ’em now, and killing ’em later too. Drill baby drill by Democrats doesn’t even warrant much comment, I guess.

                I’m glad you posted, Bob, because I had a question for you about our billions. You seem to want to follow the fear-mongering route to squelch debate, but what about attrition? If we didn’t have the concept of replacement value, is 6 million of us really that bad as opposed to 7+ billion, or 10 billion?

                • Bob Wallace says:

                  We, the US, are not top fossil fuel exporters. We consume all the oil and natural gas we produce. We’re starting to export some coal as we decrease our coal use, but we’re not exporters on the scale of Australia and Indonesia.

                  Let’s face a fact or two. The vast majority of Americans are not willing to give up cars and electricity. Any elected official who tried to make them do so would quickly be out of office.

                  Stopping fossil fuel use “cold turkey” will not happen. What we have to do is to find acceptable substitutes.

                  The acceptable substitutes we have are wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, and tidal electricity and electric cars. None of those are “perfect” solutions. Wind turbines and solar towers will still kill a few birds as will EVs. But they are many, many times better than what we’re doing now.

                  I really don’t get your point in your last paragraph. You end by asking ” If we didn’t have the concept of replacement value, is 6 million of us really that bad as opposed to 7+ billion, or 10 billion?”

                  My position is that we have far too many humans on the planet Earth. The Earth could support 10 billion, or more, but life for most humans would be more enjoyable if there were a much smaller number of us.

                  I look at what is happening with birth rates and see a gradual slowing which should lead to a gradual decline. I’d like to see that slowing and decline happen faster but I’m not willing to intentionally kill off hundreds of millions of us to make it happen. And I see problems with a too rapid decline.

              • Ida Lupines says:

                sorry, that should read: ‘is ‘6 billion’ really so bad’.

                • Bob Wallace says:

                  “‘6 billion’ really so bad”

                  Bad? 6 billion strains resources and means that not everyone can have “all the comforts”.

                  I grew up in a world of about 2.5 billion and that seemed like enough people to me. Back then it was possible to drive on roads that weren’t packed with cars and one didn’t have to go far to find open space that they didn’t have to share with others.

                  The US population was about half what it now is back then. One didn’t need reservations to go to a National Park and then drive bumper to bumper from entrance to exit.

                  I think humans would be a lot better off if they rolled their numbers back the ~ 3 billion or even lower.

              • Ida Lupines says:


                Yes, it’s out of the question, to me, for any living thing.

                The weakness every energy method has is that people don’t want to use less of it. Equating cutting down on consumption by some to ‘living in a cave’ is just preposterous.

                • Bob Wallace says:

                  Ida, we are working hard on decreasing our use of electricity. We are increasing efficiency and watching demand drop.

                  Personally, I’ve cut my electricity usage a lot. I suspect you use a lot more electricity than I do. So why don’t you first look at your own use and then start doing what you can to help others lower their usage?

                  People don’t mind at all using less energy as long as it 1) doesn’t cost them a lot of money and 2) doesn’t significantly lower their standard of living.

                  By pushing people into non-incandescent light bulbs we cut their electricity use for lighting by 75% or more while saving them money. TVs, computers and refrigerators are more efficient than they were ten years ago and quality is generally better while prices haven’t risen.

                  We’re doubling the efficiency of cars over the next ten years. That will be done without sacrificing comfort and cost.

                  If you’ve got better ideas then please share them.

              • Nancy says:

                Bob – have you been to this site? Your thoughts?


                And forgive but not seeing a lot of interest in promoting individual home solar use, as in making it affordable (where humans & wildlife would not be endangered) Would that have anything to do with large utility companies becoming obsolete?

                • Bob Wallace says:

                  I’ve spent a lot of time discussion the solar roads idea. Basically, it’s flawed. For a number of reasons.

                  One. They may start out with a good non-skid surface but glass is lower on the scratch resistant scale than sand. After a while, perhaps only a year, the surface will be slippery.

                  Two, and related to number one, as the surface is scratched by sand it transmits less light to the solar cells mounted below. And it diffuses the light from the LEDs turning them from a readable sign into a glowing area.

                  Three, the LEDs would be pretty much useless in bright sunlight.

                  Four, maintenance costs would be very high. The panels would be under stress from vehicles passing over and the stress would cause the panels to deform, wrecking the electronics. Entire panels would have to be taken up and replaced.

                  Those are some of the problems. It makes more sense to put our panels on buildings and over parking lots and brownfields. Use LED signs along or over the road for communication.

              • Nancy says:

                “Those are some of the problems. It makes more sense to put our panels on buildings and over parking lots and brownfields. Use LED signs along or over the road for communication”

                Have you been in touch with this company Bob? Can see where they would appreciate your input.

                Certainly worth thinking about when applied to driveways (that sit empty most of the day) and why not walkways to and from businesses, colleges, government buildings?

                • Bob Wallace says:

                  A lot of people have given this couple a lot of feedback.

                  They brush it away.

                  Now they have a couple million dollars of other people’s money so they have no legitimate excuse to put some panels out where they will be driven over in real world conditions.

                  Let’s see if they prove lots of engineers and solar experts wrong. At least they are spending ‘true believer’ money and not public money that could likely be better spent.

              • Pamela W says:

                What was the motivation of those thousands or millions of engineers, Bob? Maximize profit? Least-cost? I seriously doubt that most of the energy systems we have in place were based on a “do least harm” principle. And indeed, that is exactly the problem.

                • Bob Wallace says:

                  Pamela, do you think all people but you are evil?

                  Obviously least cost has to come into the equation. But even if it didn’t we have no zero-bird kill technology.

    • JB says:

      ‘The US’ population growth may have slowed, but we are still adding nearly four million people a year, and it is not ‘exclusively’ due to immigration!’

      Ida–The current fertility rate in the US is below 2.0 (1.86 to be exact). The fertility rate needed for population replacement (sans immigration or emigration) is around 2.1 births per female. So yes (of course!) more people are being born, but our population growth is due to immigration and it has been this way for some time.

      • JB says:

        Here’s the CDC report on US fertility rates in 2013:

        There’s also a pretty good discussion on US and world total fertility rates on Wikipedia:

        These data underscore what I wrote above. Were it not for immigration, our population would be shrinking in the US.

        • Ida Lupines says:

          I just don’t know about that. I don’t believe we can blame it all on immigration. When all is said, done (and spun) we’ve still got a lot of people on this planet, and it is still predicted to grow to about 10 billion in 2050.

          But don’t worry, we’re assured by then it will ‘level off’. Whew!

          We really need to take a serious look at how these so-called improvements to traditional energy really affect our wildlands and wildlife, and do something about it. Nuclear should be completely out of the question, because we have nowhere to dispose of the nuclear waste, and disaster is too horrible to contemplate. We shouldn’t look at places where meltdowns have occurred and consider that acceptable, as in (oh, look how the wildlife has survived and adapted!).

          • Ida Lupines says:

            Fossil fuels, because they have been used for so long, damages are better quantified than our newer technologies. We’re hiding the damage behind ‘take permits’ and exemptions from laws to protect wildlife too. As more wind and solar plants are built, and the longer we study their effects, you’ll see a very large impact, and all of it is cumulative, on our wildlife. It’s laughable to single out domestic cats (which humans can control), buildings, wires, individually.

            Regardless of how we choose to view our country’s population rate, we are the third most populous country after China and India, and the Western lifestyle we hold so dear (and which influences the rest of the world) uses an unfair amount of ours and the world’s resources.

            • Bob Wallace says:

              Ida – domestic cats in the United States kill up to 3.7 billion birds each year.


              That’s 6,457 times as many as wind turbines.

              Right now we get about 5% of our electricity from wind turbines. If we increased the number 20x in order to get 100% of our electricity from wind cats would be killing 322 times as many birds per year than wind turbines.

              322x as many.

              No one is singling out cats. Or buildings. We’re just putting the issue into perspective and attempting to avoid exaggeration and distortion so that we can make rational decisions.

              • Ida Lupines says:

                Yes, some people do single out bird threats individually. Thankfully, the USF&W does not and considers all threats cumulative. Somewhere I’ve posted a report from them.

                Dogs are so intrinsic to American society that their effects are not included. I often see dogs off leash when I am out walking. People do not follow rules, I wonder if they are pre-programmed not to. I happen to see a lot of illegal fire evidence too.

                But, back to population. When my number comes up some day, it’s beautiful to think that a little baby in China, India, Mexico, South America, Europe, etc. will be born to replace me. If he or she make their way to America, that’s great!

        • Ida Lupines says:

          You’re not trying to bait and switch, are you JB? Of course not.

        • WM says:

          Well, JB, you can add on to the in-migration the increased fertility rate of many who are coming (child bearing years and sometimes a socio-cultural thing for larger families – it all adds up). Some can’t afford the ones they are having, so who does that leave with the social obligation to feed, provide health care, and otherwise care for them? I also wonder about the carbon footprint that comes with some in-migration as well, buying older and possibly less fuel efficient cars, huggies and the big screen TV. Maybe include living in some of the less energy efficient housing.

          Of course, nobody wants to tackle these issues because we have made it taboo to have discussions on the topic, couched in the cloak of “racism.”

          • Ida Lupines says:

            Yes, WM.

            And I am not rich by any means, but the money I do have I can do whatever I want with.

          • Bob Wallace says:

            Best we not focus on population growth in the US (except for the fact that people in the US have a very high carbon footprint).

            Climate change knows no boarders. If we don’t work aggressively we will cause great ecological disruption, the extinction of species and billions upon billions of unnecessary deaths. Trillions. We will simply wipe out plants and animals on a scale rarely seen in the history of the planet.

            • Ida Lupines says:

              Yes, but let’s try to work on the bird thing. 🙂

              • Bob Wallace says:

                I’m all for that.

                The part I’m working on is trying to get trillions of birds and many species of birds from being wiped out by extreme climate change.

        • rork says:

          I did not see the “were in not for immigration” statement in there and I’m a bit skeptical cause of “population-lag effect” (discussed in your wikipedia link).
          From I see for 2010 birthrates were 13.5 per 1000 people (fertility rate 1.93). Death rate: 8.38 per 1000 (but no citation). Simple is good.
          Statement like “if the rate were to stay below 2.1 forever” make sense ofcourse.

          • rork says:

            Pew’s report (search “Chapter 4. Population Change in the U.S. and the World from 1950 to 2050”) shows 2010-2015 estimated birth rate of 13.2 and death rate of 8.3, both per thousand. Expectation for 2050-2055: 12.2 births, 10.2 deaths.

          • JB says:

            You’re right–it’s important to acknowledge the lag effect. However, with a few exceptions, we’ve been below population replacement for more than 40 years (and the exceptions are years in which we barely were above pop. replacement). Moreover, as WM points out, immigrants often have more children (can’t seem to find a current report), which means immigration (whether legal or illegal) can actually impact total fertility rates.

            • Bob Wallace says:

              I believe it’s – first generation immigrants tend to have more children.

              Many immigrants are coming from countries with higher child mortality rates and poor or no safety nets. If you live in a country with no Social Security/Medicare type programs you need children to take care of you when you are older. And you need live children to do that.

              Second generation immigrant birth rates (IIRC) are similar to that of the children of long ago immigration. I.e., the rest of us.

            • WM says:

              Try this report, for the impact of Hispanics on birth rates. It will knock your socks off. The missing piece of the report is that Hispanic in-migration is largely responsible for the base population that gives rise to the rate within that group. I think you need to go to another report to link everything together.


      • Ken Cole says:

        Actually, the age of the mother influences the rate of population growth too. If the average age mothers is young when they have 2 children then population increases faster than if they were older.

  15. Ida Lupines says:

    Put yourself in the position of someone who has been struggling to feed their family on a small farm or with a few head of cattle. Their family had likely scratched out a living in that area for generations. Now their crops won’t grow, their cattle are dying of hunger and thirst.

    Yes, of course. That’s what the Dust Bowl was all about.

  16. JB says:

    For those who are interested. Here is the World Bank’s data on Total Fertility Rates in the US for the past 40 years. During that time we have exceeded the population replacement rate just twice–meaning that the US population would have been contracting over the past two generations were it not for immigration. (Sorry to ‘go off’ on this subject. But I think we need to be clear about where our collective problems lie.)

    (1974)1.835 1.774 1.738 1.79 1.76 1.808 1.8395 1.812 1.8275 1.799 1.8065 1.844 1.8375 1.872 1.934 2.014 2.081 2.0625 2.046 2.0195 2.0015 1.978 1.976 1.971 1.999 2.0075 2.056 2.0305 2.0205 2.0475 2.0515 2.057 2.108 2.12 2.072 2.002 1.931 1.8945 1.8805 (2013)1.86

    • Ida Lupines says:

      The US isn’t an island, and ‘replacement rate’ is one of the biggest spins going. We don’t need to ‘replace’ ourselves – there are plenty of people being born the world over to replace us.

      • Immer Treue says:

        Sure don’t want the “good ole boys” club to know about that.

      • Immer Treue says:

        “The US isn’t an island, and ‘replacement rate’ is one of the biggest spins going.”

        No. Two children per couple = zero population growth, or replacement rate. Below that, population contracts.

        • Ida Lupines says:

          It is never that simple. Zero growth of approx. 300,000,000 is still a lot of people. The ‘base rate’ is very high.

          • JB says:

            You’re right, Ida–it isn’t that simple. Due to the fact that some people die before the get a chance to reproduce, population replacement rates vary per country. In the US it hovers near 2.1 births.

            “A lot of people” is your qualitative judgment, which doesn’t refute the fact that our total fertility rate is below replacement rate and–with a few exceptions– has been for 40+ years.

            Your entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts.

            • Ida Lupines says:

              I think 7 to ten million people is a lot by anybody’s judgement. Replacement rate is a meaningless concept when you have that many people. There’s even a fraction of a percent included in case a child were to die. Even if most people had only one child, we’d still have a hell of a lot of people. Yes, children of immigrants counts for some of it, but it is far from ‘exclusive’ to them. It is all a meaningless concept anyway from a world perspective.

              Today, we’ve got reproductive technology for people who are infertile, and in ages past wouldn’t have been able to have children. Natural restraints on our population are gone with advances in medicine. We think people will live forever. So when you say hunting teaches that something must die so that something else must live, it sounds more like animals must die so that people can live, even though we’re in no danger of extinction.

              So the fact that population growth has slowed, we’re still headed toward 10 or more billion by 2050. Is it ok to do that and lead to extinction of other species?

              For example, 7 billion people in the world vs 20,000 or so orangutans left in the entire world (and being brutally decreased daily), so that we can have palm oil for things as trivial as junk food and toilet paper? There’s no way you can population spin to justify our devastating effects on the planet. It’s doing a disservice to encourage people to think everything is hunky-dory, and telling them what they want to hear.

              12,000 to 15,000 orangutans remaining in Borneo (compared to about 20,000 in 1996) and approximately 4,000 to 6,000 left in Sumatra (compared to about 10,000 in 1996) Experts estimate orangutans could be extinct in the wild in as few as 10 years.


              • Ida Lupines says:

                oops, my first sentence should read ‘7 to ten billion.

                With those kinds of numbers, sustainable anything is a falsehood also.

              • Immer Treue says:

                Lots of numbers.
                1. Suggestion(s) for change?
                2. How do you implement the change(s)?
                3. Where on Earth do you begin implementing ?
                4. Consequence non-compliance?
                5. Borrow from the Chinese madel?

                • Bob Wallace says:

                  1. Suggestion(s) for change?

                  Provide more education and employment opportunities for women. A woman who is better educated and an income earner tends to have more “power” within the family.

                  Provide easier access to reproduction education and birth control supplies.

                  Establish better support programs for old people so that they are not as dependent on children in the later years.

                  2. How do you implement the change(s)?

                  That varies from place to place. In places where there is very strong resistance to birth control techniques one would have to stick to general education and improving the economy.

                  In places that are accepting of birth control make sure the local clinics have the training they need and access to the materials.

                  3. Where on Earth do you begin implementing ?

                  Everywhere that the birth rate is much higher than average and the culture/government will permit.

                  4. Consequence non-compliance?

                  The country has more children. We won’t have the resources to work everywhere at once. Go for the low hanging fruit.

                  5. Borrow from the Chinese madel?

                  No. That’s too coercive and probably not needed.

              • JB says:

                “Replacement rate is a meaningless concept when you have that many people.”

                Meaningless? So you don’t think it’s relevant that the the women on average in the US will have fewer children than what is needed to maintain the population? Really? You don’t think that maybe that information might affect how you approached solutions to the policy problem? Can you really be that dense?

              • JB says:

                A few more relevant numbers for you:

                (1) In 1960, two countries had total fertility rates <2.0; in 2012 86 countries were lower than 5.5) have a lot in common: generally, they lack basic infrastructure, education and access to affordable health care (including birth control); they also generally have higher infant mortality and lower life-expectancy. (e.g., Zambia, Gambia, Uganda, Angola, Nigeria, Congo, Burundi, Chad, Somalia, Mali, Niger.)

                Again, these are World Bank data:


                Of course, all of this data is “meaningless” because the are more people in the world than Ida would like.

              • JB says:

                Well somehow 3/4s of my post disappeared. See if I can (partially) reconstruct:

                (1) In 1960, two countries had total fertility rates <2.0; in 2012 86 countries were <2.0.

                (2) In 1960 the average TFR was 6.6; today (2012) it is 2.8.

                (3) China's TFR is 1.66 and increasing, the US's is 1.88 (2012) and generally decreasing. China has also had considerable problems associated with its policies, including infanticide (specifically, people killing girls because they were only allowed one child), and is facing a 'bubble' in the population much like our baby-boomers. I don't think I would look there for solutions.

                (4) The countries with the lowest TFRs don't have much in common, except that they are generally developed, and people have some access to health care (and birth control). The lack of commonality is good because it suggests there are multiple ways to get from A to Z.

                5) In contrast, the countries with the highest TFRs have a lot in common; they also generally have higher infant mortality and lower life-expectancy. (e.g., Zambia, Gambia, Uganda, Angola, Nigeria, Congo, Burundi, Chad, Somalia, Mali, Niger.)

                Again, these are World Bank data:

              • WM says:

                Here is a distilled statistic on the dramatic increase of world population from Africa – up from 15% to 40% world population by the end of this century – 4 billion, from a pretty reliable source:


                So, what do you think that means for wildlife in Africa?

  17. Ida Lupines says:

    JB, for the benefit of all the world and its children that are already here and suffering in poverty, and well as our dwindling and brutalized wildlife, I hope the trend continues.

    • Bob Wallace says:

      Birth rates are falling in most parts of the world. Many countries are reproducing below replacement rate.

      It would be great if we would hit peak before 7 billion, 9 billion, wherever the peak will be but population is not our critical problem.

      Most high rates of birth are in places with very low carbon footprints per capita. A place where the majority lives with no electricity and very few motorized vehicles can add population without add much CO2 to the atmosphere.

      We can feed 8, 9, 10 billion. Not without some problems, but it can be done. But we can’t tolerate a rapidly rising and out of control global temperature.

  18. Ida Lupines says:

    Lots of numbers.
    1. Suggestion(s) for change? Stop breeding. Use birth control, voluntarily. No woman ought to feel pressured to have children unless she truly wants them. There are people who are terrible parents who never should have had children.

    2. How do you implement the change(s)? Just think of being saddled with bills for at least 18 years (or more, nowadays). That usually cools most people’s jets.

    3. Where on Earth do you begin implementing ? Charity begins at home.

    4. Consequence non-compliance? More devastation of the planet. See 2 above.

    5. Borrow from the Chinese model? They no longer have their one-child policy?

    Sorry for the irreverence. 🙂

    • Nancy says:

      An interesting group/read Ida.

      What other species leaves such a HUGE, permanent, irreversible, damaging mark on this plant than mankind?

      • Nancy says:

        Planet 🙂

        • Nancy says:

          And JB, you just added to the population what a year ago?

          It is what our species does regardless of our superior intelligence and information available about how it might end up destroying the planet.

          Think I might of posted before about a neighbor who’s daughter, to date, has given birth to 8 children. And this neighbor is giddy about these grandchildren and can’t thank God enough, for their presence in her life….

          • Ida Lupines says:

            Good God, how do you keep up with that many kids? I think I’d need a blue heeler just to round them all up at dinnertime.

            • Nancy says:

              Ida – the father is somewhere close to top level in a big pharmaceutical company, so childcare concerns/costs not a problem.

              But thinking that God is somehow gonna provide if either of these parents have to face a disaster, is what concerns me more about organized religions continuing to promote procreation.

              And then there are the adoptions of thousands of children from foreign countries that aren’t a part of the numbers that migrate to this country annualy. Legal or otherwise.

              Google it.

          • JB says:

            “And JB, you just added to the population what a year ago?”

            We made a conscious decision to have 2 and only 2 children (i.e., to replace ourselves); we also waited until our mid-30s for the first (I was 40 when our second was born); which means if my children make similar choices, any grandchildren I have won’t likely know me (especially given that every man in my family has had a heart attack before 50).

            “It is what our species does regardless of our superior intelligence and information available about how it might end up destroying the planet.”

            The data suggest that in at least 86 countries, TFR is below replacement rate. If you look at within-country data, you’ll find that women have fewer children when they have access to education and birth control–these data directly refute your claim.

            • Nancy says:

              “We made a conscious decision to have 2 and only 2 children (i.e., to replace ourselves)

              I guess the bigger question is, why did you find a need to replace yourselves?

              • JB says:

                What an odd question. Need had nothing to do with it. Do you really place so little value on human life ?

              • Immer Treue says:

                A biologically successful organism, is at times, regarded as one that passes on its genes. As we are, to the consternation of many, creatures no different than the countless others with whom we share the planet…

              • Nancy says:

                JB – I place value on all life and perhaps why that question might of sounded odd to you?

                Immer mentions it:

                A biologically successful organism, is at times, regarded as one that passes on its genes. As we are, to the consternation of many, creatures no different than the countless others with whom we share the planet…

              • JB says:

                “A biologically successful organism, is at times, regarded as one that passes on its genes. As we are, to the consternation of many, creatures no different than the countless others with whom we share the planet…”

                Other organisms don’t plan their families, nor consciously limit reproduction in an attempt to constrain their impact (someone will make the ant argument). If reproductive fitness is what all organisms strive for, and we are no different from other organisms, then the most educated among us –knowing the ‘goal’ in life is to leave offspring– should have the highest fertility rates, right? Yet this is exactly opposite of what we observe.

                A recent analysis examined total fertility among 45 to 50 year old women, looking at educational status. Here’s what they found:

                Education | White | Black
                HS dropout | 2.86 | 2.78
                HS graduate | 1.97 | 2.22
                Some college | 1.90 | 2.22
                College grad | 1.56 | 1.50
                (Note: this is 2004 data)

                This analysis suggests the solution to the population problem is simpler here than many would make it.

              • JB says:

                Forgot the citation:

                Adsera, A. (2005). Vanishing children: From high unemployment to low fertility in developed countries. American Economic Review, 189-193.

              • Immer Treue says:


                “A biologically successful organism, is at times, regarded as one that passes on its genes. As we are, to the consternation of many, creatures no different than the countless others with whom we share the planet…”

                “Other organisms don’t plan their families, nor consciously limit reproduction in an attempt to constrain their impact”

                That’s why I ended the statement with ditto marks. You filled in the blanks very nicely.

              • JB says:

                “That’s why I ended the statement with ditto marks. You filled in the blanks very nicely.”

                Gosh, I’m feeling a bit… used, Immer. 😉

              • Immer Treue says:


                Something you had to complete,as it was meant for you, not me to finish. Used,no… prompted, yes. 🙂

    • Immer Treue says:

      2. How do you implement the change(s)? Just think of being saddled with bills for at least 18 years (or more, nowadays). That usually cools most people’s jets.

      I fear this does not apply to those (those who can least afford children have more) who would most benefit from full implementation, and thus our population grows.

      • Ida Lupines says:

        Yes, like most creatures, the instinct to reproduce is very strong (the making babies part), and the full intellectual impact of it is rarely taken into account – nature’s design. I guess if we thought about it for too long, we might not reproduce! Statistics say half of pregnancies are unplanned.

        I think we are much different than other creatures who try to occupy the planet along with us (we do not share anything), with our crazy beliefs and politics.

        JB, genetics don’t have to be destiny today with advances in medicine.

      • Bob Wallace says:

        You hit upon one reason birth rates tend to fall in more developed countries.

        In rural areas children are an asset. They are cheap labor on the farm. All you have to do is to feed them enough to stay alive and give them some basic clothing. At a very early age children start performing useful labor – feeding the chickens, gathering firewood, watching the family animals while they graze.

        In urban areas children are a liability. (At least once a society moves past child labor.) In most developed countries children earn the family no money. They have to be fed, clothed and educated. Upon completing their education they may well leave the household and contribute little or nothing back to the family that raised them.

  19. Ida Lupines says:

    “Other organisms don’t plan their families, nor consciously limit reproduction in an attempt to constrain their impact.”

    LOL Don’t make me laugh with your arrogant rationalizations about planning families, and constraining our impact on the environment. Many are not even aware of their impact, and if they are, don’t care. Most people unconsciously reproduce with no planning. And I guess an attempt to limit is the key phrase. ‘And failing’ ought to be included in the ditto marks as well. We are different from other organisms because we make unending excuses for our behavior.

    I hope we’re now done with this little exercise in race baiting and can move on to something else. Does it really help to blame someone’s race/ethnicity? Overpopulation is overpopulation, no matter where people live or come from. And the boundaries of our Southwestern states weren’t always what they are today.

    • Immer Treue says:

      More yodeling in the thunder mug.

    • JB says:


      You’re exceptionally good at ‘sticking your fingers in your ears’ when the data don’t agree with your preconceived ideas! Perhaps re-reading the comment I made–without editing out the important part–will have the desired effect?

      “Other organisms don’t plan their families, nor consciously limit reproduction in an attempt to constrain their impact… If reproductive fitness is what all organisms strive for, and we are no different from other organisms, then the most educated among us –knowing the ‘goal’ in life is to leave offspring– should have the highest fertility rates, right? Yet this is exactly opposite of what we observe.

      A recent analysis examined total fertility among 45 to 50 year old women, looking at educational status. Here’s what they found:

      Education | White | Black
      HS dropout | 2.86 | 2.78
      HS graduate | 1.97 | 2.22
      Some college | 1.90 | 2.22 <- LOOK HERE IDA
      College grad | 1.56 | 1.50 <- AND HERE
      (Note: this is 2004 data)”

      You can laugh all you like, but you really don’t have a leg to stand on here. Each time you’re confronted with data, you fall back on generalized anecdotes (e.g., “Many are…” “Most people…”) without any evidence to support your claims. Or you attempt to change the subject (e.g., “race baiting”). Race baiting? Seriously? Good grief.

      Fact. For the past 40 years the US TFR has been at or below replacement rate.

      Fact. TFR in the US is significantly lower among women with higher education.

      Fact. Roughly 10-15% of pregnancies in the US are unplanned–given the low TFR (1.86) relative to its potential (in some countries it has been as high as 8), it’s safe to say that most women in the US, most of the time, are consciously seeking to prevent pregnancy, as I suggested above.

      Again, I’m sorry if these facts don’t agree with your anecdotes.

      • Ida Lupines says:

        I’m not disputing that women are delaying/having less children. I’m saying that we’re still overpopulated. We can all find statistics and facts to bolster either side of our arguments.

        I’m not going to debate it further. We’re already annoying people with the back-and-forth having the last word. (Even the scholarly Immer and the lawyer WM have been reduced to making juvenile insults, I guess that usually means someone is out of arguments!)

        Mayuke has a point – but being a bit of a Luddite, I don’t bother with email much and certainly wouldn’t continue these arguments via email!

        But let’s agree to disagree. You like to see the world as a better place than I do.

      • Immer Treue says:

        Insult! Hardly! Someone took the time to explain something to you, again, and again, and again. You either don’t read, won’t read, or don’t comprehend what someone has taken the time and patience to provide for you. That is an insult. If I may invoke JEFF E’s analogy about arguing/debating with a shadow, I find it very fitting.

        I’m happy your carbon footprint is small, and I might presume most who post on this forum would also have a smaller carbon footprint than the average Joe.

        • Ida Lupines says:

          I might presume most who post on this forum would also have a smaller carbon footprint than the average Joe.

          Not with kids they don’t.

        • Nancy says:

          Immer – pretty sure most of us who post here have the occasional “brain farts” Doesn’t mean our hearts aren’t in the right place when it comes to the issues 🙂

        • Ida Lupines says:

          You know, I really don’t care one whit about what you, JEFFE, Pollyanna or anybody else thinks about my comments. These issues are much too important and urgent to waste time worrying about ruffled feathers (except the ones at Ivanpah).

          • JB says:

            “Not with kids they don’t.”

            And what do you propose, Ida? That we all stop having kids simultaneously? Assuming that even could happen (it can’t), why don’t you take a moment to reflect on the consequences of that type of action. Project out 40 years or so.

            Our family has made considerable effort to reduce our carbon footprint. It’s not enough for me, but we’re improving all the time.

            Never in my life have I met someone so simultaneously convinced with their rightness–and righteousness. You would’ve made a hell of an inquisitor, Ida.

  20. Ida Lupines says:

    Sorry to be irreverent again, but here’s one of those questionable newspaper headlines that make you go hmmmmm….

  21. Ida Lupines says:

    Bob, I agree with Ken on another point – are you sure you’re not a BrightSource hack, because you sure sound like one.

    • Bob Wallace says:

      I’m a BrightSource hack because I advocate collecting data to find out how many birds are being killed rather than using someone’s “estimate”?

      You define “hack” as someone who operates from a data base as opposed to someone who pulls stuff from their neither regions and calls it facts?

      • Ida Lupines says:

        I define ‘hack’ as spouting the company line and using scare tactics to try to push their agenda. you certainly fit the bill. You are not interested in facts or data. You came out of the woodwork immediately when this article was posted, and haven’t left since.

        • Bob Wallace says:

          Sorry, Ida, I just can’t engage in your type of shallow thinking. I live in a more complex world, one in which sometimes the choices are tough and fantasies aren’t answers.

          • Ida Lupines says:

            Sure you do. You really have a lot of nerve don’t you. Nothing is more shallow than overconsumption and not caring about the environment and wildlife so that we can have more and more meaningless stuff.

            Using less, more efficient electricity is an easy choice that everyone can do. I consider your wasteful refusal to use less shallow. There are many people who are be open to these ideas I and others discuss, given half a chance. Nobody will get rich that way, unfortunately.

            I know a guy who has used solar panels to heat his home’s hot water decades ago, before it became ‘the thing to do’ and he saved quite a lot of money.

            • Bob Wallace says:

              Ida, I’ve lived off the grid for over 25 years. Solar.

              My electricity usage is only a small percentage of that of the average on grid person. I have a very small carbon footprint and purchase carbon offsets for what CO2 production I’m not able to avoid.

  22. Mareks Vilkins says:

    A technology that adds up

    So the correct statement about power from the Sahara is that today’s consumption could be provided by a 1000 km by 1000 km square in the desert, completely filled with
    concentrating solar power. That’s four times the area of the UK. And if we are interested in living in an equitable world, we should presumably aim to supply more than today’s consumption. To supply every person in the
    world with an average European’s power consumption (125 kWh/d), the area required would be two 1000 km by 1000 km squares in the desert.

    Fortunately, the Sahara is not the only desert, so maybe it’s more relevant to chop the world into smaller regions, and ask what area is needed in each region’s local desert. So, focusing on Europe, “what area is required in the North Sahara to supply everyone in Europe and North Africa with an average European’s power consumption?

    Taking the population of Europe and North Africa to be 1 billion, the area required drops to 340 000 km2, which corresponds to a square 600 km by 600 km. This area is equal to one Germany, to 1.4 United Kingdoms, or to 16 Waleses.

    The UK’s share of this 16-Wales area would be one Wales: a 145 km by 145 km square in the Sahara would provide all the UK’s current primary energy consumption.

  23. Mareks Vilkins says:

    Concentrating photovoltaics

    An alternative to concentrating thermal solar power in deserts is large-scale concentrating photovoltaic systems. To make these, we plop a high-quality electricity-producing solar cell at the focus of cheap lenses or mirrors.

    Faiman et al. (2007) say that “solar, in its concentrator photovoltaicsvariety, can be completely cost-competitive with fossil fuel [in desert states such as California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas] without the need for
    any kind of subsidy.”

    According to manufacturers Amonix, this form of concentrating solar power would have an average power per unit land area of 18 W/m2.
    Another way to get a feel for required hardware is to personalize. One of the “25 kW” (peak) collectors shown in figure 25.9 generates on average about 138 kWh per day; the American lifestyle currently uses 250 kWh per
    day per person. So to get the USA off fossil fuels using solar power, we need roughly two of these 15 m×15 m collectors per person.


    I’m confused! In Chapter 6, you said that the best photovoltaic panels deliver 20 W/m2 on average, in a place with British sunniness. Presumably in the desert the same panels would deliver 40 W/m2. So how come the concentrating solar power stations deliver only 15–20 W/m2? Surely concentrating power should be even better than plain flat panels?

    Good question. The short answer is no. Concentrating solar power does not achieve a better power per unit land area than flat panels. The concentrating contraption has to track the sun, otherwise the sunlight won’t be
    focused right; once you start packing land with sun-tracking contraptions, you have to leave gaps between them; lots of sunlight falls through the gaps and is lost. The reason that people nevertheless make concentrating solar power systems is that, today, flat photovoltaic panels are very expensive, and concentrating systems are cheaper. The concentrating people’s goal is not to make systems with big power per unit land area. °

    Land area is cheap (they assume). The goal is to deliver big power per dollar. But if flat panels have bigger power density, why don’t you describe covering the Sahara desert with them?

    Because I am trying to discuss practical options for large-scale sustainable power production for Europe and North Africa by 2050. My guess is that by 2050, mirrors will still be cheaper than photovoltaic panels, so
    concentrating solar power is the technology on which we should focus.

  24. Mareks Vilkins says:

    David Archer “The Long Thaw: How Humans Are Changing The Next 100, 000 Years Of Earth’s Climate” (2010), pb, page 168 – 169 from Epilogue. Carbon Economics and Ethics :

    “I have two personal favorite big ideas for generating lots of energy. One is to build solar cells on the moon, an idea advocated by David Chriswell at the University of Houston. There is no wind on the moon to cover solar cells with dust, no rain, no birds. No atmosphere and clouds would reflect the incoming sunlight away. The power could be beamed back to Earth as microwaves, a large beam that apparently wouldn’t fry birds as they flew through. The energy from the beam would be received by an antenna on Earth maybe 10 kilometers on a side. Solar cells on the moon could be constructed from material refined from the lunar regolith, so the mass of the cells wouldn’t have to be lifted up into space from the Earth’s surface. It would take decades, technological developments (especially in robotics), and hundreds of astronaut tours of duty to construct this power source, but once construction got started, it could continue until it reached the required tens of terawatts of power.

    My other favorite idea is high-altitude windmills, flying like kites in the jet steram. Electrical power can be transmitted through wires in the tether. For a nice artistic rendering of what this might look like, see The power density (watts of energy per square meter of propeller area) is much higher at 30,000 feet elevation than it is down at the ground. High-altitude windmill power could also potentially scale up to generate the tens of terawatts of power we’re looking for.”

    • Ida Lupine says:

      Thanks Jeff, and after re-reading George’s article from last August courtesy of Yvette’s post (‘Managing Forests Through a Rear-View Mirror’), the rear-view mirror approach and old business models and ways of doing things are not going to work in the future.

  25. Ida Lupines says:

    I love the solar roadways idea, Nancy – aside for the solar power, two more reasons to love it are ice and snow melting on roads and notifying drivers of wildlife in the road up ahead!

  26. Ida Lupines says:

    It would seem to me that rootop solar is the least harmful alternative to birds and other wildlife for two reasons – 1) it doesn’t harm them from the extremely high, concentrated temperatures the massive thermal solar plants with their mirrors do, and 2) it doesn’t eat up more and more undeveloped habitat, because it uses what’s already been developed and that is quite a lot, and will continue to grow. Rooftop and individual wind turbines allow birds and bats an escape route, whereas the big solar and windfarms do not. Obviously, these companies have found a way around environmental impact studies, or at least complete ones, because there’s no way that they would have been approved. These new bird frying studies I believe are going to spell the beginning of the end for them. It’s nothing new for industry to try to find ways around complete environmental studies, because they don’t want the possible restrictions.

    And there’s no money in it for the utility companies either, and they are already grumbling about it and wanting in on some of the potential dollars. So it is about money, and I do not believe that the majority of us care about wildlife as much as they do humanity. Wildlife has always been thought of as expendable for human needs. These are the lingering effects of religious teachings in my opinion, even if we don’t consider ourselves religious or even condider ourselves atheist, because religion was the basis of our moral codes – that the earth and all of its creatures are here for our ‘use’, and be fruitful and multiply.

    • Bob Wallace says:

      Rooftop and solar farm solar are likely the least harmful to birds. But the problem of storage limits the amount of our grid supply we can affordably make solar.

      ‘Individual’ wind turbines, here I assume you mean the sort of smaller turbines. Those kill more birds because their blades are closer to the ground and turn at much faster speeds. The turbines we are installing now are high above the ground and their slow moving blades are easier to see.

      Money will always be a major factor in the decision process. We, and birds, are very, very lucky in the fact that new wind and new solar is cheaper than new coal.

      • Ida Lupines says:

        I don’t believe that. No, I mean the ordinary ones you see around – one or two for a small town or area. I never hear about any problems with those, and I think birds can avoid them. Once they are stuck in the vortex which are these giant wind farms, there is no escape. There’s one proposed for our area, and people have been fighting it for years – if the ruination of what should be a marine sancturary doesn’t do it, just the extra profit proposed when it goes on line is enough to piss everybody off!

        • Ida Lupines says:

          I remember when Darth Vader Ken Salazar came to Massachusetts to give approval to that wind farm – *shudder*! We don’t want no stinkin’ wind farm!

          Despite the environmental impact study, he approved Ivanpah too. And look what he did to the wolves!

        • Bob Wallace says:

          You just made up the “vortex” thing. Birds aren’t sucked into wind farms and birds aren’t sucked into wind turbines. They fly into blades and towers.

          If what we were putting up was a giant fan and powering it so that it pulled in air then birds might be pulled in. But that is not how wind turbines operate.

          • Ida Lupines says:

            Wind farms consist of clusters of wind turbines as tall as 30-story buildings. According to NBC News, their spinning rotors are as wide as a passenger jet’s wingspan, and the blades can reach speeds of up to 170 mph at the tips. This creates a tornado-like vortex behind the wind turbines that can cause sudden changes in air pressure that can traumatize bats flying through the vortex.


            I can only assume that it would be the same for birds.

            • Bob Wallace says:

              Bad assumption.

              • Ida Lupines says:

                No, it’s common sense, really.

                Bats Get ‘The Bends’ From Wind Turbines

                • Bob Wallace says:

                  Read some history of philosophy and see why we moved away from “common sense” and “strong argument” as a way to determine the truth and moved on to empiricism. A move that created science.

              • Ida Lupines says:

                The facts, or lack of them for these technologies’ effects on wildlife, speak for themselves. None of these outcomes were planned for or anticipated, and actually are being aided in hiding them by our current Administration.

                I borrowed this comment from one of the Telegraph articles from a Mr. Andres H. MacKay, and I think it says it all:

                “The rationale for these worthless aerogenerators is that they ‘save the planet’ by stopping the burning of fossil fuels; but they do not come close to doing that. They may keep the odd lump of coal in the ground for a few minutes longer but that lump of coal will still be burned creating the same amount of pollution as before.”

                Have a good night, all –

                • Bob Wallace says:

                  This year, 2014, the United states will get more than 5% of its electricity from wind turbines.

                  That means that a lot less fossil fuels will be burned and there will be a meaningful drop in birds – and children – killed.

              • Ida Lupines says:

                Bob, I posted this before, but in case you didn’t read it:

                Nevertheless, the numbers — from production to consumption — are anything but promising. According to the latest EIA projections, U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from petroleum use will increase by eight million metric tons between 2013 and 2015; such emissions are then expected to level off, at about 2.2 billion tons per year, despite substantial increases in average vehicle fuel efficiency.

                With emissions from natural gas expected to rise — the inevitable result of the shale gas boom — and coal emissions experiencing only a modest decline (some of which is offset by rising U.S. exports of coal to be burned elsewhere), total domestic carbon emissions from energy use in 2040 are still predicted to be a devastating 6% higher than they are today. Can there be any question at this point of how this will help ensure the sorts of predicted global temperature increases, with all the ensuing side effects, that every expert knows will be devastating to the planet?

                Oil is Back! And in a Big Way.

                And whose children? Sure, we’ll take care of our own (as we always have done and do by being the biggest consumers in the world) but certainly not those children of impoverished nations if we are going to continue to export coal.

                • Bob Wallace says:

                  If you spend a little time and look at EIA predictions over the last few years you will see that something is very amiss in that office.

                  They are predicting that wind and PV solar will cost significantly more in 2019 than they do right now in 2014. And the price of wind and solar are continuing to fall.

                  They are predicting that we will burn more coal going forward when we are in the process of closing about 200 of our coal plants and have ceased building new coal plants.

                  US CO2 emissions peaked in 2005 and have been falling since. Not only are we burning less fossil fuels for electricity, the number of miles we drive each year is falling and our average fuel mileage is increasing.

                  Whose children? Our children.

                  One out of every ten American child is struck by asthma. Coal is a major source of air pollution.

                  Coal is also a major source of mercury.

  27. Dave Svoboda says:

    I am a natural skeptic. I see a lot of breathless “shut-er-down” rhetoric from supposed environmentalist, but I’m suspecting they are fossil-fuel people. This is obviously a carbon-free way (with no human risk) of generating energy. If it replaces a strip mine, well, how much wildlife is displaced or killed by THAT?

    If “streamers” are SO common, one ever couple minutes, why is there not a single video on youtube that shows them? Everyone has a cellphone video camera these days, and lots of people (oil people) have a vested interest in bringing down competitors, so where’s the cellphone or telephoto videos of birds being incinerated?

    I could be wrong. So show me.


August 2014


‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey