Company drops California proposal to build solar tower using technology that can burn up birds

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SACRAMENTO, California — A solar-energy company has dropped a proposal to build a 75-story solar tower near California's Joshua Tree National Park employing a kind of solar technology that can cause birds to ignite in midair.

The California Energy Commission was slated to vote on BrightSource Energy's project this month, before the company withdrew its application.

The plant would have used "power tower" technology that trains concentrated solar power on steam boiler towers. State and federal officials and conservation groups say a similar BrightSource tower near the Nevada border proved unexpectedly deadly to birds that flew through the concentrated rays.

BrightSource and its partners decided they needed a project that would "better meet the needs of the market and energy consumers," Senior Vice President Joe Desmond said Wednesday.

The company remains committed to solar power-tower technology, as well as "sound and responsible environmental measures," Desmond said.

California law requires that state utilities get one-third of their energy from renewable sources, including solar, by 2020. Power towers lose energy more gradually than standard solar panels, making them potential assets to power grids, supporters say.

Some conservation groups opposed the proposed plant's site along a flyway for migratory birds. Others urged a moratorium on power-tower plants pending longer study of the threat to birds from the concentrated rays.

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