Recent news reports that a giant solar power plant in the Mojave Desert is scorching birds in mid-air spurred a fierce debate over the environmental impacts of renewable energy, and left us all wondering whether we’ll be able to preserve the planet without destroying it in the process.

The questions come at an important moment, as the Obama administration is ramping up solar energy development on public lands. The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, which the AP story covered, is currently the largest thermal solar energy plant in the world; it uses three roughly 450-foot “power towers” to concentrate the rays of 300,000 mirrors, creating a glaring “solar flux” field that does scorch at least a few birds (and irritate a few pilots).

The proposed Palen project is even bigger — promising to power over 200,000 homes instead of 140,000 — and will have two 750-foot towers instead of three 450-foot ones. That means its solar flux field will be three times the size of Ivanpah’s. And it’s slated for development just east of Joshua Tree National Park, near several wildlife refuges and along the Pacific Flyway, a key migration route.