Technology News

Women In Technology Face Many Unique Challenges

(3BL Media/Justmeans) – “Women in the technology industry face many unique challenges that are often beyond their control,” says Dennis Kennedy, founder and chairman of the National Diversity Council.

Germany to Increase Storage on its Renewable Grid

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - Last week, grid storage provider Younicos, in partnership with the German utility WEMAG, broke ground on a new facility to increase grid storage capacity at the Schwerin battery park. The Schwerin facility was Europe’s first battery storage facility, commissioned in 2014 with a capacity of 5MW. The primary function of the storage facility is to level out momentary dips in output coming from the grid, which is mostly powered by wind turbines. When so-called frequency regulation power is provided by conventional power plants, the plants are required to remain running at 60% capacity in order to be able to respond quickly enough. Batteries can provide the same function far more efficiently, and because of their rapid response time, more effectively as well. According to the Energy Storage Association, “In the group of “ancillary services” provided in the open market management of the grid, frequency regulation has the highest value.”

This latter, no doubt underscores the rationale. “The fact that WEMAG is now investing €5 million in order to increase the available power and energy for system service is a strong testament to the commercial success and performance of battery storage in Europe,” said Alexander Schönfeldt, Younicos Vice President of Sales for EMEA.

World Solar Prices Smashed Yet Again in Abu Dhabi

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - The sun rises earlier in Abu Dhabi than in Europe or North America, a fact that is becoming true in more ways than one.

A bidding war for a new, large-scale Sweihan solar project in Abu Dhabi has led to what Renew Economy analyst Giles Parkinson calls “jaw-dropping” prices. Smashing through what had been the $30 per MWh barrier, Chinese PV manufacturer JinkoSolar, in collaboration with the Japanese industrial giant Marubeni, set a new record low solar price with a bid of $US24.20/MWh. Three other bids of the six tendered also came in below $30 on a weighted LEC basis.

What’s more, the low-bidding team claims that for a larger scale project, greater than 1.1GW, they could go as low as $23, and still achieve a rate of return of 7%. The Sweihan bid request was for a 350MW project, though bidders were invited to suggest larger projects. The Abu Dhabi Electricity and Water Authority (ADWEA) will need to decide if they are willing to expand the project.

Electric Cars Are Coming on Strong

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - Change takes time, but sometimes not as much time as one would have thought. A few short years ago, the idea of electric vehicles seemed like a tiny speck on a distant horizon—a toy for technophiles and early adapters. But even the Wall Street Journal says the EV’s will be here sooner than you think. And by here, they don’t mean on the fringes.

The numbers seem to bear this out. Worldwide, some 312,000 plug-in vehicles were sold in the first half of this year. That’s a 49% increase compared to last year. That growth rate, says Clean Technica, is roughly ten times that of the overall vehicle market. The biggest action was in China, where they grew 128% with home grown BYD vehicles providing the lion’s share. Japan came in second, and Europe, taken as a whole comes in third, with 21% growth before we get to the 18% growth seen here in the US.

Here at home, some 64,296 were sold through June. That is about one for every 150 cars sold. The top five models were Tesla Model S, Chevy Volt, Ford Fusion Energi PHEV, Tesla Model X, and Nissan Leaf with Tesla Model S sales roughly double that of the Leaf. Leaf sales have dropped recently in anticipation of a new model with significantly improved range, a phenomenon that has become common in the rapidly-changing EV world.

The tipping point, says WSJ, is the 200 mile range mark, which Tesla has already hit, and others, including the soon to be released Chevy Bolt, will meet and improve on.

Data Centers Move Toward 100% Renewable Energy

(3BL Media/Justmeans) – As more digitization occurs in daily life, corporate and cloud data centers have become increasingly large consumers of power. Data centers in the U.S. now consume about two percent of the total power produced in the country. In 2014, U.S. data centers consumed energy equivalent to the amount consumed by about 6.4 million average American homes that year, according to a recent U.S. Department of Energy study.

The Problem with Measuring the Future in Minutes: The NRG Story

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - A recent story in the New York Times drew attention to some of the challenges to be faced in making big societal changes, such as overhauling a nation’s entire energy system that had run, relatively undisturbed for close to a hundred years.

It told the tale of the less-than-seamless transformation by NRG Energy, framing it as a cautionary tale with echoes of Icarus, who got a little too close to the sun, only to plunge to his demise with the melting of his waxen wings. The company was a traditional electric utility, a big one, producing massive amounts of power, from traditional sources including, coal, natural gas and nuclear. In 2014, they were the fourth largest emitters of carbon dioxide among the nation’s power companies.

This was a difficult time, with shifting tectonics undermining any sense of stability. The ugly head of climate change had been reared long enough and high enough that it had become impossible for all but fools to deny. Investment money for cleaner sources of power began to flow, sending solar and wind costs plummeting. Fossil fuel giants, seeking to fend off the perceived renewable threat, conducted a successful counter-attack in the form of fracking. They succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. The US become the world largest oil and gas producer, literally overnight.

What followed was the equivalent of several ocean-going supertankers finding themselves on a collision course, with not enough time to turn around. David Crane was CEO of NRG from 2003 until suddenly he wasn’t at the end of last year. Crane had seen what climate change was going to mean to his industry.  Then he proceeded to do all the right things, or at least what would be considered the right things in a rational world. He made substantial long term investments in renewable power sources such as wind and solar. In doing so, he became recognized as a leader in the growing CSR movement, and a hero to many on the green side of things. But as Crane says in a blog at Greenbiz entitled, “If I was right, why was I fired?” He was trying to transform the company from brown-to-green, but investors didn’t like it.

Making Sense of Energy Storage

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - There’s no question that a wave of renewable power generation is sweeping this country, and just about every other country around the world. But there are a number of questions surrounding it. Will there be enough power to meet our needs? Can we afford to eliminate nuclear power? How can a transient power source take the place of steady “baseline” power that is being served today be conventional sources? At the center of all these questions lies the promise of energy storage. Storage can certainly transform the erratic contributions of wind and solar into an unflagging, continuous stream. But what kind of storage should we use? How much do we need? And perhaps most commonly, how much will it cost and how long will it take?

The storage question is certainly a dynamic one, as new analyses and new technologies become available. There are, and will likely continue to be differences of opinion about a lot of this, in part because of lot of it depends on things that are still unknown.

That being said, let’s see if make some sense of things. It’s kind of like a really messy room. We may not be able to fully clean it up right now. But if we can at least start putting things into piles, it will start to look less messy.

First question, how badly do we need storage?

A Walk Through the Smart Buildings of Tomorrow

Guest blog by Yaniv Vardi

It isn’t hard to understand the thinking behind early architecture. Dangerous neighbors called for high, sturdy walls. Nomadic lifestyles called for tents. Colder climates called for fireplaces, which called for chimneys. Whatever the circumstances of life or geography, chances are we had a building for it.

Artificial Intelligence Cuts Google’s Data Center Energy Use

(3BL Media/Justmeans) – Data centers operate the equipment that processes the data consumed by Internet users. It takes large amounts of energy to keep their servers cool, so much so that some of the newer data centers are now being built in colder climates. According to some estimates, data centers are now responsible for two percent of global GHG emissions.

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