Foreign Policy Blogs

En Vacance

I'm on a short vacation now between the end of my daughter's school year and the beginning of day camp.  We're in the Florida Keys and the whole experience makes one mindful of a number of things:  technology, for one thing.  Checking destinations and flights out on the web, making reservations by phone (the old fashioned way), flying relatively enormous distances in a short amount of time (but with the delays that travelers have endured since the dawn of time), and driving.  Driving!?  Well, I'm one of the majority of folks from the Big Apple that don't own a car.  Shocking concept?  Not a bit if you consider the availability and speed of our subway system.  Mayor Bloomberg's proposed congestion pricing plan, referenced at this blog in a few spots (see "Mike Bloomberg's Earth Day" for instance, from April 24), seems to me to be perfectly reasonable because I can't imagine why anyone would want to drive in midtown Manhattan during the business week.

Anyway, driving when we're on vacation is a bit of a change.  The other thing that is still novel to an old buzzard like me is being somewhere with a laptop and hooking up to the world and doing a lot of what I normally do in my office on the road.  I know, I know, get over it , but it's different.  I'm reading Robert Fagles's translation of "The Aeneid" poolside and that also gives one a longer perspective.  It also gives one an appreciation of extraordinary literature.  But this isn't a literary appreciation.

I mentioned Caro's biography of Lyndon Johnson the other day.  Johnson didn't take vacations really.  He was always on a phone wherever he was and he had secretaries and aides and papers, even as a young Congressman.  He also didn't pay much attention to either of his daughters.  That ain't me, babe, so I'm going to return to the sun and sand , and get some scuba diving in this afternoon (I would've been a marine biologist in an alternate life), and maybe have some stuff to say about that when I get back.  

Meanwhile, here a few items to consider that I thought might grab you.

From A weekly newsletter from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). The EERE Network News is also available on the Web at:

Largest Solar Thermal Plant in 16 Years Now Online – Acciona Energy announced last week that Nevada Solar One, a 16-megawatt solar thermal power plant near Boulder City, Nevada, is now online. The new facility is the largest of its type to be built in the world since 1991, although a 1-megawatt solar thermal plant was built in Arizona last year. Like its predecessors, Nevada Solar One relies on long lines of trough-shaped parabolic mirrors that focus the sun's heat onto a receiver tube filled with a heat transfer fluid, such as oil. The fluid is heated to about 750 degrees Fahrenheit and is then used to produce steam, which drives a turbine and generator to produce electricity. The Nevada Solar One plant consists of 47 miles of parabolic mirrors arranged in a grid and will produce enough power to supply 15,000 average U.S. homes. See the Acciona Energy Web site.

A number of other companies plan to employ parabolic trough technology in the United States, primarily in California. In early April, the California Energy Commission (CEC) announced that it is reviewing the license application for a proposed 563-megawatt power plant near Victorville, about 60 miles northeast of Los Angeles. The proposed facility would produce 50 megawatts of power from parabolic troughs but would generate most of its power from natural gas. In March, Solel Solar Systems, Ltd., an Israeli company, announced a deal to sell thousands of parabolic trough systems to FPL Energy, the co-owner and operator of seven large plants in California's Mojave desert. Solel has a previous deal with FPL Energy to upgrade the receivers at the existing plants, while the new deal will allow for additional power production at those plants. Meanwhile, the Spanish company Solucar Energia, S.A. is developing two solar thermal power plants near Seville, Spain, that employ another technology, called a power tower. The facilities will consist of a large field of heliostats‚ flat mirrors on sun-tracking mounts‚ that focus the sun's heat onto a receiver mounted on a central tower. A heat transfer fluid is pumped through the receiver and used to generate power, just as in a parabolic trough plant. The first power plant, PS10, is 11.02 megawatts in capacity and is essentially complete, with startup scheduled for later this year. Site preparation for the second plant, the 20-megawatt PS20, began last October. The PS10 plant will be the first commercial solar power tower facility in the world. See the Solucar Web site. 

In the Black: The Growth of the Low Carbon Economy from The Climate Group is a report on the state of play of the business and economics of fighting to avert a climate change crisis.  There's some good material from this hard-working non-profit here.   

The Economist's Technology QuarterlyThis has got some interesting items with high-flying wind generators and an ingenious system of drawing cooling power from lakes for air conditioning.



Bill Hewitt

Bill Hewitt has been an environmental activist and professional for nearly 25 years. He was deeply involved in the battle to curtail acid rain, and was also a Sierra Club leader in New York City. He spent 11 years in public affairs for the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation, and worked on environmental issues for two NYC mayoral campaigns and a presidential campaign. He is a writer and editor and is the principal of Hewitt Communications. He has an M.S. in international affairs, has taught political science at Pace University, and has graduate and continuing education classes on climate change, sustainability, and energy and the environment at The Center for Global Affairs at NYU. His book, "A Newer World - Politics, Money, Technology, and What’s Really Being Done to Solve the Climate Crisis," will be out from the University Press of New England in December.

Areas of Focus:
the policy, politics, science and economics of environmental protection, sustainability, energy and climate change