Facts without background are a dangerous thing. If you were to ask the question, ‘do solar panels kill birds?’ the binary answer would be yes; solar panels have killed birds.
However, forming an opinion against solar panels based simply on this truth, would be extraordinarily short-sighted.
What do I mean?
Have you ever wondered, ‘do buildings kill birds?’
Again, the answer is yes. The Urban Bird Foundation estimates 599 million birds are killed every year by flying into glass. Point of fact, buildings account for the second highest amount of avian deaths.
So should we boycott buildings now? Of course not!
Please do not think me callous. As someone who is a huge fan of ducks, nothing impacts me more than seeing the aftermath of some beautiful flying creature that was struck down by a car (#3 killer).
But choosing to boycott solar panels without understanding the entirety of the situation, can be short-sited and, quite possibly, harmful to these incredible creatures that are worthy of our admiration.
Solar Farms Vs. House Installs
One thing that must be taken into account is that generating electricity from the sun comes in many different forms.
For example, concentrated solar works on focusing sunlight onto one particular spot in order to generate heat. Temperatures at the focal point can reach 1079 F. Clearly anything organic exposed to a temperature of more than a thousand degrees is going to fatal.
Another aspect that should be considered is solar farms versus household installations.
While the type of panels used in a solar farm and for individual use are the same, the number of them are significantly different.
Our house is off-grid and we currently have 30 panels.
A solar farm can use hundreds or even a few thousand panels. In this situation, you are significantly impacting acres upon acres of avian habitat. This means that the potential of fatal encounters between birds and man-made solar panels increases exponentially.
How Do Solar Panels Kill Birds?
The overwhelming number of avian fatalities are caused by impact.
So why are birds flying into them?
Some current theories to this are:
- Birds are mistaking the blue color of panels as the surface of water. In other words, they dive down to swoop across the ‘water’ only to find a hard surface that is not horizontal.
- They are temporarily blinded by glare from the panels and misjudge their landing.
The actual answered has yet to be agreed upon. It could be either, both or something yet to be discovered.
# Note #
I was unable to find any data regarding black solar panels and bird fatalities. If birds are mistaking the blue panels for water, then it would stand to reason that impacts would be less for black solar panels.
If you have research regarding this, then I would love to hear from you.
We have had solar panels, on a ground mount, since 2015. In that short time, we have had NO birds killed by the solar panels.
By way of comparison, we have a 6ft wire fence around our chicken enclosure. Every single year, particularly in the spring, we find birds that were killed by flying into the fence.
The fence is not blue, nor does it have a glare. The birds just simply fly into it. (From my observation, it appears to be related to territorial disputes.)
We have also had at least three birds fly into the back window of our house. Fortunately, these were not fatal, but it is frustrating.
On the positive though, it absolutely must be mentioned that our solar panels actually host at least one nest – every single year without fail!
Based on the personal experience of no fatalities and multiple nestings, it is our opinion that our solar panels are a benefit to the bird population rather than a detriment.