Is concern about local birds a valid reason to oppose a solar project?

Solar power projects can be valuable investments for businesses and property owners. Companies can theoretically produce most or all of the electricity that they require to operate, thereby defraying a significant ongoing expense. In cases where facilities produce more electricity than they need, the excess energy produced can be a source of revenue.

Installing a large-scale solar panel project could be a worthwhile investment that returns dividends for years. However, the project might face opposition from regulatory agencies or locals in the community. Concerns about negative ecological impact can drive opposition to proposed solar power projects.

One common reason people give for opposing solar energy production is the idea that solar panels kill a huge amount of birds every year. Is there any truth to that claim?

Solar panels are less dangerous than people think

Those talking about the risks to birds may focus on an urban legend that the heat radiating off of solar panels is enough to cause their feathers to burst into flame. The real risk comes from bird strikes on solar panels and the destruction of habitat. It is possible for those installing solar panel systems to situate them in a way that mitigates the risk for local birds. By minimizing intrusion into habitat and the removal of plant life those operating solar projects can reduce the potential harm to local bird populations.

Some birds may still die if they dive at the panels because they look like water from above. However, such deaths are actually far less frequent than the deaths associated with fossil fuel energy production. Overall, the total number of annual bird deaths related to solar electrical production is between 37,800 and 138,600. That number does initially seem quite large. However, research indicates that roughly 14.5 million birds die annually due to issues related to fossil fuel power plants.

Additionally, the process of burning fossil fuels to generate electricity contributes to climate change, and increased global temperatures put avian species around the world at risk of extinction. Solar projects can actually be beneficial for local birds and birds around the world.

Having responses prepared for likely sources of pushback when in the planning stages of a solar electric project could benefit property owners and businesses alike. Those who understand the impact that solar panels have on bird populations can respond to one of the more common complaints people may have about these proposed endeavors.