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Big Solar And Renewable Energy In The Age Of Fracking

The world’s largest solar power plant is up and running in California. We’ll look at where solar stands now, and the future of renewable energy.

Solar Power Rising BY MICHAEL R. BLOOD and BRIAN SKOLOFF -- Some of the 300,000 computer-controlled mirrors, each about 7 feet high and 10 feet wide, reflect sunlight to boilers that sit on 459-foot towers. The sun's power is used to heat water in the boilers' tubes and make steam, which in turn drives turbines to create electricity Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014 in Primm, Nev.  (AP)

Some of the 300,000 computer-controlled mirrors, each about 7 feet high and 10 feet wide, reflect sunlight to boilers that sit on 459-foot towers. The sun’s power is used to heat water in the boilers’ tubes and make steam, which in turn drives turbines to create electricity Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014 in Primm, Nev. (AP)

A gigantic solar farm, biggest of its kind in the world, opened last week in the California desert. Three-hundred and fifty thousand huge mirrors reflecting sunlight on 40-story towers — to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit up there — making steam, turning turbines, generating clean electricity. And we not build another one like it. Solar and other renewable energies are up against an era of cheap, fracked natural gas. Environmentalists say cut back fossil fuel consumption, or climate change will croak us. The market’s saying here’s cheap gas. This hour On Point: solar and renewable energy in the age of fracking.

– Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Julie Cart, environmental reporter at the Los Angeles Times. (@julie_cart)

Tonio Buonassisi, associate professor of mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Daniel Kammen, professor of energy, founding director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley. Coordinating lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.

From Tom’s Reading List

Wall Street Journal: The $2.2 Billion Bird-Scorching Solar Project — “A giant solar-power project officially opening this week in the California desert is the first of its kind, and may be among the last, in part because of growing evidence that the technology it uses is killing birds. U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz is scheduled to speak Thursday at an opening ceremony for the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating Station, which received a $1.6 billion federal loan guarantee.”

Slate: World’s Largest Solar Plant Opens in California. Is It the Future, or a Dead End? –“Sprawling across 3,500 acres of the Mojave Desert is a system of gleaming mirrors and soaring towers that looks like nothing else you’ve seen. It is, in fact, the largest solar thermal power plant in the world, and it officially began operating today. At full capacity, its 173,500 heliostats and trio of 459-foot-tall towers will pump out 392 megawatts of energy, or enough to power some 140,000 California homes.”

Los Angles Times: Firm seeks to harness Wyoming’s wind energy for California — “Wyoming residents enjoy the cheapest electricity prices in the nation, thanks to low-cost power from coal-fired plants near vast surface mines in the Powder River Basin. California, which has all but phased out coal power and has the nation’s most aggressive renewable energy laws, has close to the highest prices, according to U.S. Energy Department data. State law requires that one-third of the state’s power come from alternative energy by 2020.”

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