ReCast | Solar in the Desert

The Solar System Dilemma


Stirling Solar SunCatcher, from NREL

Barry Commoner’s 2nd Law of Ecology: Everything must go somewhere.

Earlier this week I wrote my first piece as a correspondent for OnEarth, the online vision of the magazine of the same name, published by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

Even amid charges and counter-charges of NIMBYism and wilderness destruction, this is an important discussion — too important to let it degenerate into the same old shouting match.

For some background on this debate, I want to highlight one of my favorite radio discussions on the subject: “Solar Power Scales Up,” first broadcast on NPR’s excellent program, Science Friday,with host Ira Flatow on March 14, 2008.

Some of the hypotheticals discussed on the show are now becoming realities.

Rep. Giffords, Pre-Copenhagen

US Rep. Gabrielle Giffords

Among the guests on the show is Arizona Congresswoman, Representative Gabrielle Giffords. Two years after the radio show, Giffords is now receiving some much-deserved national and international attention as one of the leading voices in congress for solar power.

Her Solar Technology Roadmap bill has passed the full House and was recently discussed in a Senate hearing on what could be amendments to the climate bill.

Jonathon Overpeck, director of the Environmental Studies Laboratory in the Department of Geosciences, University of Arizona, was a coordinating lead author for the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment. When Giffords was in Copenhagen as part of the official Congressional Delegation to the COP15 summit, I asked Overpeck what he thought of the congresswoman’s work on solar power. After all, in Congress you don’t have the luxury of working on just one issue. At any given time, there are a dozen or more important bills requiring your attention.

“I’m not sure anyone knows more about climate change issues and solar in Congress than Rep. Giffords,” Overpeck responded.

So, check out this broadcast. Don’t worry, there’s still plenty of time to catch the dogs barking “Jingle Bells” later.

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Other experts on the show:

Frederick Morse
Senior Advisor for the U.S.
Abengoa Solar
Washington, DC

David Mills
Chairman, Founcer, Chief Research Officer
Ausra Incorporated
Palo Alto, California

Mark Mehos
Program Manager
Concentrating Solar Power Program
DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Golden, Colorado

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