Publication Date

Summer 2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Environmental Studies


Lynne Trulio

Subject Areas

Environmental studies


With an ever-increasing demand for renewable energy in response to climate change, utility-scale solar energy (USSE) is on the rise, particularly in California. Although solar energy is viewed as an essential resource for transitioning from a fossil fuel economy, USSE installations can cover thousands of acres of habitat used by avian species. Little is known about the effects of USSE on avian populations, although some evidence suggests that USSE facilities may be leading to bird mortality. The lake-effect hypothesis suggests that birds may mistake solar arrays for large bodies of water resulting in injury or mortality. Though several studies describe the direct impacts of USSE on birds, far fewer evaluate indirect effects of USSE on birds. This study used point counts to contrast bird abundance, species richness, bird behavior and human disturbance at the Wright Solar Park (WSP), adjacent grasslands, and agricultural land. The USSE facility had lower bird abundances, species richness, and percent of birds foraging compared to both the grassland and the agricultural sites. These results indicate that USSE facilities should be placed in previously transformed locations especially urban settings that have little to no wildlife value.