NPR isn't really good for breaking news, but I've realized that people who cover breaking news don't do a good job. Their coverage is cursory, covering the surface. NPR likes to dig one level deeper. Many of their news articles wouldn't qualify as "news" as it could have been reported last week, last month, or a few months from now. However, they're usually timely to current events.
In particular, with the cost of gas so high (although recently, there has been a twenty cent decrease in cost per gallon, which isn't all that much, really, but enough to encourage people to want to travel this Labor Day.
High prices also encourage people to think about alternative sources of energy. Remember the last time when that happened? Maybe not? During the oil crisis of the 70s, many alternate fuel sources were considered. The top two were nuclear and solar power. But once gas prices went down, or more properly, stopped going up (for twenty years, it hovered around a dollar), these alternatives were less attractive.
What's happened to solar?
That's what NPR did an article on this morning. Most people think of solar as solar panels, that only require light to power them. Perhaps the most common solar appliance anyone has seen is the solar powered calculator. They seem rather scarce these days.
But there's another way to make energy from solar. It's called solar thermal. The idea is somewhat akin to using a magnifying glass to fry insects. Arrange mirrors in a parabolic shape, and you can focus light/heat to a point or a line. That line gets hot, hot, hot. Put something their to heat up, say, a pipe filled with oil. That oil heats up to 700F, and circulate it around. Boil water, create steam, and you can move turbines.
Of course, you can't do this anywhere. Desert areas with lots of sunlight benefit the most from this, thus, places in the southwest benefit most.
To be fair, the technology is not that new. I've heard of using reflection to heat up to twenty years ago, but interest has grown.
In any case, these are the kind of news articles that don't have the kind of paparazzi appeal that puts in on network news (and I hate to use that word to describe what they do), but exactly the kind of one-level deeper news digging that makes NPR much more compelling to listen to.
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