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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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ONPOINT
TODAY
Dec 18, 2014
This handout photo from the Twitter account of Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. shows Alan Gross arriving at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014. The US and Cuba have agreed to re-establish diplomatic relations and open economic and travel ties, marking a historic shift in U.S. policy toward the communist island after a half-century of enmity dating back to the Cold War, American officials said Wednesday. (AP)

Following months of secret talks the US will restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba after more than fifty years.

Dec 18, 2014
A poster for the movie "The Interview" is carried away by a worker after being pulled from a display case at a Carmike Cinemas movie theater, Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014, in Atlanta. (AP)

A big Sony hack gets weirder and wider. And Hollywood and Homeland Security are on edge.

RECENT
SHOWS
Dec 17, 2014
Germany's Andre Schuerrle, left, celebrates scoring his side's 6th goal as Brazil's goalkeeper Julio Cesar reacts during the World Cup semifinal soccer match between Brazil and Germany at the Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Tuesday, July 8, 2014.  Germany went on to win the World Cup championship later that month. (AP)

From the Sochi Olympics and Ray Rice to Lebron’s return to Cleveland, we’ll unpack a big year in sports.

 
Dec 17, 2014
Relatives of a victim of a Taliban attack in a school, mourn over her lifeless body at a hospital in Peshawar, Pakistan, Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014. Taliban gunmen stormed a military-run school in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar on Tuesday, killing and wounding scores, officials said, in the highest-profile militant attack to hit the troubled region in months. (AP)

The Taliban take responsibility for killing more than 100 Pakistani schoolchildren. We ask why there, why now.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Cosby Accuser Beverly Johnson: ‘He's A Black Man. I Had To Separate The Trayvon Martins, The Michael Browns From What Happened To Me’
Tuesday, Dec 16, 2014

Beverly Johnson accused comedian Bill Cosby of drugging her in a high-profile Vanity Fair column. She tells us why she waited so long to share her story, and why it was even harder to share now.

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Our Week In The Web: December 12, 2014
Friday, Dec 12, 2014

On listener engagement, the meeting of trans-Atlantic royalty and the elusive origins of the chicken. (We promise this feed hasn’t been taken over the BBC…yet)

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Quinn Sullivan, LIVE In Our Studio
Wednesday, Dec 10, 2014

Fifteen-year old Quinn Sullivan is a humble, “ordinary” high school sophomore. But he’s also a blues guitar phenom. He brought his talents to the On Point studio today.

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