The eco-dilemma: birds or solar panels? Green advocates find themselves in the awkward position of promoting less than eco-friendly energy that is potentially more devastating to wildlife and delicate eco-systems than the global warming it is supposed to prevent. Such is the case with a massive, commercial solar project in the San Luis Valley.
SolarReserve, recipient of a $737 million DOE loan for a Nevada project, has filed an application for a 200 megawatt, industrial scale solar project in Saguache County about 15 miles from Colorado’s treasured Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. The project will include “two 82 story tall (656 feet) towers surrounded by 24 million square feet of mirrors aimed at the top of those towers to create temperatures from 1000 to 2000” degrees Fahrenheit, which will create a type of convection oven effect over roughly a 10 square mile area according to John Keyes, editor of Fried Cranes, a Web site hoping to bring attention to the project.
Unfortunately for hundreds of thousands of birds such as the Great Sandhill Crane, the gigantic convection oven will sit right in their migrating path. Keyes said in an interview on the Amy Oliver Show that the solar project literally will fry birds as they fly over the heat field. Think of it this way, most of us roast our Thanksgiving Day turkey at 350 degrees, “no mammal can survive these temperatures long enough to escape, once the high temperature field has been entered.”
Others points that Keyes made in the interview:
- In size, this is the largest construction project in Colorado since the Denver International Airport
- The “Twin Towers” dwarf a number of landmarks including Mount Rushmore, the St. Louis Gateway Arch, the Washington Mounument, and the Great Pyramids. (See pictures below)
- Nickname is “Towers to Nowhere,” because right now there are no plans for energy transmission and current lines aren’t capable of handling the load.
- Other environmental concerns center on the design of the massive concrete structures such as not going deep enough into bedrock to sustain the weight of the towers.
- Keyes has approached a number of environmental groups including the Sierra Club, Audubon Society, and PETA. Not one has agreed to help.
- Residents only have 50 days left to stop the project. Find out more information at Fried Cranes.
As for Keyes himself, he and his wife run the Web site and are not seeking donations of any kind but rather action on the part of concerned citizens. Having founded the first commercial solar energy corporation in the United States, International Solarthermics Corporation, Mr. and Mrs. Keyes are far from anti-solar. What they do oppose is bad solar energy policy.
Another resource for information: Renewable Communities Alliance