In the USA, Brightsource, a solar thermal technology company involved in the high profile $2.2 billion Ivanpah plant in the Mojave desert in California proposes paying $1.8 million towards programs that neuter domestic cats. I presume they are referring to trap-neuter-return programs for feral and stray cats. That is a lot of money that could be injected into feral cat TNR programs. What prompted this apparent act of generosity?
Well it is not genuine generosity, more a hardcore business decision. They want to deflect public concern over the Ivanpah plant which kills an estimated 28,000 birds annually. How does it do that?
The Ivanpah plant generates electricity for the equivalent of 140,000 homes. It does this by focusing sunlight using 300,000 garage door-sized mirrors onto three 40 storeys high towers containing water. The water heats up and boils. The steam powers turbines which generate electricity. It is turning the sun into electricity.
The bird problem is this: insects are drawn to the light. The birds follow the insects to prey on them. The birds enter a solar-flux field of extreme heat which singes their wings whereupon they fall to the ground and die on impact or they are so disabled they cannot prey on insects anymore and die of starvation.
Conservationists visiting the site saw “streamers” (burnt birds crashing to earth with smoke trails) falling at the rate of one every two minutes.
A similar but larger solar power plant is planned near the Joshua Tree National Park in California. There are concerns about its even greater impact on birds.
This is another example of human activity killing birds to add the the estimated 365-988 million birds killed from crashing into buildings in the USA every year.
There are many other ways humans deliberately and inadvertently kill birds. I mention this in defense of the cat because the cat is frequently criticized as a bird killer. It is major argument for keeping cats inside. There is much debate about the cat. There should be more about the human in my opinion.
The Ivanpah plant is innovative and good for the planet in terms of CO2 emissions but there is always a wildlife downside somewhere where human commercial activity is involved.
The unexpected positive spin off, on this occasion, is probably a first in the USA: a major company funding feral cat TNR programs to the tune of $1.8 million. It may help to kick start some more programs and it serves to validate TNR as the only known humane way to reduce stray and feral cat populations.
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