Last week I made a drive that I hadn't made in about four years, a drive to our corporate offices in San Diego for an annual meeting I have flown to in recent times.
As usual when I go somewhere I haven't been for awhile I always marvel at how things have changed. The growth of St. George continues, there are houses in the desert near Mesquite that I haven't seen before and Las Vegas and its Spaghetti Bowl interchange was just as bad or worse than ever. A lot of new buildings are going up there too.
But from my I-15 perch, as I slogged through the holiday traffic (Presidents Day) that was returning to LA from Las Vegas I spied something I had heard about but hadn't thought much about.
It was the largest solar powered electrical generation plant in the world, in the Primm Valley, just at the state line of California and Nevada.
Having lived in Orange County many years ago this route was quite familiar to me until I came upon that. The once vast and dark desert west of all the resorts at state line was now a sea of mirrors and three huge towers that act as a gathering point for the heat generated by hundreds of thousands of mirrors parked on five square miles of what was once Joshua trees, sagebrush and dirt.
It was dusk when I went by but you could see how huge it was. I wondered at the time what environmentalists had to say about this monstrosity marring what once was a desert full of animals and plants.
Well not much it seems, or not as much as they would say about some other developments.
The owners and builders of this project did do a lot of work removing desert tortoises and relocating them. However there is one thing they cannot control.
Where birds fly.
Apparently since the plant was set up (it only recently began actual operation) hundreds of birds have been found dead on its property, possibly from being almost incinerated by the heat (at about 540 degrees) generated by the mirrors. While the problem is being studied the outcry has been fairly muted.
I guess that is because since the plant is making "clean energy" it is acceptable for this to happen. Regrettable, but acceptable.
For those of us that are realistic we always realize there is some kind of trade off for anything we do, create or build. We are apt to displace something, ruin another things habitat or create circumstances where some animal doesn't have the same free space they did before.
It seems all industry has dirty little secrets, but this particular problem surely would not have been so quiet had the plant causing the problem been a coal fired generation plant and if birds were being killed by flying through the discharge from the stacks.
I can hear now the loud wailing from many conservation groups had that been the case.
Yet with this situation, the wailing is barely a whimper.
Makes you think, doesn't it.