Tesla forced to turn down €1.1 billion in EU support for German battery plant

A Tesla logo superimposed over a mess of numbers and figures.

(credit: Tesla / Aurich Lawson)

Tesla has been forced to turn down more than €1.1 billion in European subsidies for its planned battery plant near Berlin after delays to the flagship project breached a key condition of the funding.

The electric car maker had applied for the money through an EU program established to develop the battery industry on the continent.

The EU requires any sites in receipt of the funds to be the “first industrial deployment” of the technology, according to official documents, meaning the batteries cannot already be made at another Tesla plant.

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#batteries, #cars, #energy, #eu, #tesla

Bill Gates’ nuclear power company selects a site for its first reactor

Computer rendering of the reactor site design.

Enlarge / In TerraPower’s design, the nuclear reactor is separated from the power generation process by molten salt heat storage. (credit: TerraPower)

On Tuesday, TerraPower, the US-based nuclear power company backed by Bill Gates, announced it has chosen a site for what would be its first reactor. Kemmerer, Wyoming, population roughly 2,500, has been the site of the coal-fired Naughton Power Plant, which is being closed. The TerraPower project will see it replaced by a 345 megawatt reactor that would pioneer a number of technologies that haven’t been commercially deployed before.

These include a reactor design that needs minimal refueling, cooling by liquid sodium, and a molten-salt heat-storage system that will provide the plant with the flexibility needed to integrate better with renewable energy.

Public-private

While TerraPower is the name clearly attached to the project, plenty of other parties are involved, as well. The company is perhaps best known for being backed by Bill Gates, now chairman of the company board, who has promoted nuclear power as a partial solution for the climate crisis. The company has been selected by the US Department of Energy to build a demonstration reactor, a designation that guarantees at least $180 million toward construction and could see it receive billions of dollars over the next several years.

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#bill-gates, #energy, #nuclear-power, #science, #terra-power

Can we use big batteries to power our trains?

An eastbound manifest freight swoops through an S curve in Lombard Canyon, just east of Toston, Montana, on September 11, 2011. The tracks here snake along the Missouri River between Toston and Lombard.

Enlarge / An eastbound manifest freight swoops through an S curve in Lombard Canyon, just east of Toston, Montana, on September 11, 2011. The tracks here snake along the Missouri River between Toston and Lombard. (credit: Mike Danneman / Getty Images)

With the rapid pace of development in electric vehicles, we will likely get to a place where eliminating carbon emissions from one form of transport is possible. But cleaning up the remaining major modes—planes, trains, and ships—appears to be considerably more challenging. A new analysis suggests we have a good idea of how to improve one of those.

The study, performed by California-based researchers, looks at the possibility of electrifying rail-based freight. It finds that the technology is pretty much ready, and under the right circumstances, the economics are on the verge of working out. Plus, putting giant batteries on freight cars has the potential to create some interesting side benefits.

Giving freight a jolt

Right now, most freight in the US is moved by diesel-powered locomotives. In a typical year, these locomotives produce about 35 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, and the rest of the pollutants they make are estimated to cause 1,000 premature deaths and $6.5 billion in health damages.

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#batteries, #energy, #freight, #green, #rail, #renewable-energy, #science

What Is a Smart Grid, and How Might One Protect Our Energy Future?

Our electric grid is old and fraying, but new technology could insulate us from the possibility of widespread blackouts and cyberattacks.

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#energy, #technology

Fossil fuels doomed in New York as regulator blocks new gas power plants

Fossil fuels doomed in New York as regulator blocks new gas power plants

Enlarge (credit: iStock)

New York took an aggressive stance toward fossil fuels this week, effectively killing the development of new fossil fuel power plants in the state. The Department of Environmental Conservation denied permits for two proposed natural gas power plants, saying they were incompatible with the state’s climate law, which calls for an end to fossil fuel-generated electricity by 2040. 

Though the proposed plants would be more efficient than those currently in operation, the state agency said the plants would generate “significant” amounts of pollution and that their construction now, less than 20 years from the targeted net-zero emissions date, would be “inconsistent” with what is required by the climate law.

New York’s climate law requires polluters to account for two sources of emissions: from the plants themselves and from the natural gas supply chain. Once the latter was included—figures which in the past were nearly always ignored when determining a power plant’s pollution—the emissions quickly exceeded the DEC’s thresholds, the decisions say.

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#climate-change, #electrical-grid, #energy, #fossil-fuels, #new-york-state, #policy, #power-plants

Coal bucks 15-year decline in US with 22% increase as natural gas prices rise

Heavy equipment moves coal into piles at PacifiCorp's Hunter coal-fired power plant outside of Castle Dale, Utah.

Enlarge / Heavy equipment moves coal into piles at PacifiCorp’s Hunter coal-fired power plant outside of Castle Dale, Utah. (credit: GEORGE FREY / AFP)

The US is expected to burn 22 percent more coal than last year, marking the first annual increase in the use of the polluting fossil fuel since 2014, the Energy Information Administration said.

“The US electric power sector has been generating more electricity from coal-fired power plants this year as a result of significantly higher natural gas prices and relatively stable coal prices,” the government agency said. Coal is selling for record prices, though, and economists say that skyrocketing energy costs are fueling inflation.

President Joe Biden has set a target of reducing economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 50–52 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. The news is a setback for those plans, but the EIA predicts that the bump in coal use will be transitory, with 2022 consumption down 5 percent from this year.

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#coal, #eia, #energy, #natural-gas, #policy, #renewable-energy

The decreasing cost of renewables unlikely to plateau anytime soon

Image of a wind turbine.

Enlarge

Past projections of energy costs have consistently underestimated just how cheap renewable energy would be in the future, as well as the benefits of rolling them out quickly, according to a new report out of the Institute of New Economic Thinking at the University of Oxford.

The report makes predictions about more than 50 technologies such as solar power, offshore wind, and more, and it compares them to a future that still runs on carbon. “It’s not just good news for renewables. It’s good news for the planet,” Matthew Ives, one of the report’s authors and a senior researcher at the Oxford Martin Post-Carbon Transition Programme, told Ars.

The paper used probabilistic cost forecasting methods—taking into account both past data and current and ongoing technological developments in renewables—for its findings. It also used large caches of data from sources such as the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and Bloomberg. Beyond looking at the cost (represented as dollar per unit of energy production over time), the report also represents its findings in three scenarios: a fast transition to renewables, a slow transition, and no transition at all.

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#climate, #economics, #energy, #forecasting, #modelling, #oil-and-gas, #renewables, #science, #solar, #wind

New report suggests Texas’ grid was 5 minutes from catastrophic failure

Image of a woman bundled against the cold on a bed in a furniture store.

Enlarge / HOUSTON, TX – FEBRUARY 18, 2021: Dialina Ganzo, 29, rests on a bed while taking shelter at a Gallery Furniture store that opened its door and transformed into a warming station after winter weather caused electricity blackouts. (credit: Go Nakamura / Getty Images)

With autumn arriving in much of the US, it won’t be long before parts of the country start experiencing cold weather again. Texas residents can be forgiven for the thought triggering a bit of PTSD, given that last winter saw the near-collapse of the state’s power grid, leaving many residents without any power for several days of below-freezing weather.

A long list of factors contributed to the mess, and in the immediate aftermath, it was difficult to understand their relative importance. But now, grid regulatory and governance groups have put together a preliminary report on the event, along with some recommendations for avoiding future calamities. A central conclusion is that the grid failure was tightly coupled to the failure of the natural gas supply—in part because natural gas processing facilities were among the places that saw their power cut.

The basic stats

The preliminary report has been put together by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in combination with the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, a nonprofit set up by utilities to help set standards and practices that keep the grid stable. The draft itself isn’t being released at this point, but the two have posted a detailed presentation that describes the report’s contents. A final version will be released in November.

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#electric-grid, #energy, #ercot, #ferc, #science, #texas

China to stop building coal plants in developing nations

Image of railway tracks leading to a power plant.

Enlarge / Coal plants at the end of the line? (credit: Ryan Pyle / Getty Images)

Chinese President Xi Jinping used his speech to the United Nations General Assembly to announce a major new step towards controlling global emissions. After reiterating his own country’s climate pledges, Xi said that China would start making it easier for other countries to keep emissions in check: new support for renewable energy projects and an end to construction of coal plants.

China finances a lot of infrastructure projects in developing economies as part of its foreign policy efforts; these often have the side benefits of involving Chinese companies and engineers. When these projects involved production of electricity, they often involved China’s most heavily used source: coal. As such, the number of coal plants slated for construction in the developing world was large and raised legitimate questions about the prospect of meeting any global carbon emissions targets.

China had already committed to having its emissions peak at the end of this decade and to reach carbon neutrality by 2060. But until this point, its development banks were continuing to finance coal plants, and its companies would often construct them. In a recorded speech played at the UN today, however, Xi indicated that this would stop: “China will step up support for other developing countries in developing green and low-carbon energy and will not build new coal-fired power projects abroad.”

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#china, #climate-change, #coal, #energy, #renewable-energy, #science, #un

How to meet the demand of EV infrastructure and maintain a stable grid

As electric vehicles (EVs) become the new standard, charging infrastructure will become a commonplace detail blending into the landscape, available in a host of places from a range of providers: privately run charging stations, the office parking lot, home garages and government-provided locations to fill in the gaps. We need a new energy blueprint for the United States in order to maintain a stable grid to support this national move to EV charging.

The Biden administration announced 500,000 charging stations to be installed nationally and additional energy storage to facilitate the shift to EVs. Integrating all of this new infrastructure and transitioning requires balancing the traffic on the grid and managing increased energy demand that stretches beyond power lines and storage itself.

The majority of EV infrastructure pulls its power from the grid, which will add significant demand when it reaches scale. In an ideal situation, EV charging stations will have their own renewable power generation co-located with storage, but new programs and solutions are needed in order to make it available everywhere. A range of scenarios for how renewables can be used to power EV charging have been piloted in the U.S. in recent years. Eventually, EVs will likely even provide power to the grid.

These technological advances will happen as we progress through the energy transition; regardless, EV infrastructure will heavily rely on the U.S. grid. That makes coordination across a range of stakeholders and behavior change among the general public essential for keeping the grid stable while meeting energy demand.

The White House’s fact sheet for EV charging infrastructure points to a technical blueprint that the Department of Energy and the Electric Power Research Institute will be working on together. It is critical that utilities, energy management and storage stakeholders, and the general public be included in planning — here’s why.

Stakeholder collaboration

Charging infrastructure is currently fragmented in the U.S. Much of it is privatized and there are complaints that unless you drive a Tesla, it is hard to find charging while on the road. Some EV owners have even returned to driving gas-powered vehicles. There’s reason to be hopeful that this will rapidly change.

ChargePoint and EVgo are two companies that will likely become household names as their EV networks expand. A coalition made up of some of the largest U.S. utilities — including American Electric Power, Dominion Energy, Duke Energy, Entergy, Southern Company and the Tennessee Valley Authority — called the Electric Highway Coalition, announced plans for a regional network of charging stations spanning their utility territories.

Networks that swap out private gas stations for EV charging is one piece of the puzzle. We also need to ensure that everyone has affordable access and that charging times are staggered — this is one of the core concerns on every stakeholder’s mind. Having charging available in a range of places spreads out demand, helping keep power available and the grid balanced.

Varying consumer needs including location and housing, work schedules and economic situations require considerations and new solutions that make EVs and charging accessible to everyone. What works in the suburbs won’t suit rural or urban areas, and just imagine someone who works the night shift in a dense urban area.

Biden’s plan includes, “$4 million to encourage strong partnerships and new programs to increase workplace charging regionally or nationally, which will help increase the feasibility of [plug-in electric vehicle] ownership for consumers in underserved communities.” Partnerships and creative solutions will equally be needed.

An opportunity to fully engage technologies we already have

“Fifty percent of the reductions we have to make to get to net-zero by 2050 or 2045 are going to come from technologies that we don’t yet have,” John Kerry said recently, causing a stir. He later clarified that we also have technologies now that we need to put to work, which received less air time. In reality, we are just getting started in utilizing existing renewable and energy transition technologies; we have yet to realize their full potential.

Currently, utility-scale and distributed energy storage are used for their most simplistic capabilities, that is, jumping in when energy demand reaches its peak and helping keep the grid stable through services referred to as balancing and frequency regulation. But as renewable energy penetration increases and loads such as EVs are electrified, peak demand will be exacerbated.

The role that storage plays for EV charging stations seems well understood. On-site storage is used daily to provide power for charging cars at any given time. Utility-scale storage has the same capabilities and can be used to store and then supply renewable power to the grid in large quantities every day to help balance the demand of EVs.

A stable power system for EVs combines utilities and utility-scale storage with a network of subsystems where energy storage is co-located with EV charging. All of the systems are coordinated and synchronized to gather and dispatch energy at different times of the day based on all the factors that affect grid stability and the availability of renewable power. That synchronization is handled by intelligent energy management software that relies on sophisticated algorithms to forecast and respond to changes within fractions of a second.

This model also makes it possible to manage the cost of electricity and EV demand on the grid. Those subsystems could be municipal-owned locations in lower-income areas. Such a subsystem would collect power in its storage asset and set the price locally on its own terms. These systems could incentivize residents to power up there at certain times of the day in order to make charging more affordable by providing an alternative to the real-time cost of electricity during peak demand when using a home outlet, for example.

Behavior change

The greatest challenge for utilities will be how to manage EV loads and motivate people to stagger charging their vehicles, rather than everyone waiting until they are home in the evening during off-peak renewable generation periods. If everyone plugged in at the same time, we’d end up cooking dinner in the dark.

While there’s been talk of incentivizing the public to charge at different times and spread out demand, motivators vary among demographics. With the ability to charge at home and skip a trip to the “gas station” — or “power station,” as it may be referred to in the future — many people will choose convenience over cost.

The way we currently operate, individual energy usage seems like an independent, isolated event to consumers and households. EVs will require everyone — from utilities and private charging stations to consumers — to be more aware of demand on the grid and act more as communities sharing energy.

Thus, a diverse charging network alone won’t solve the issue of overtaxing the grid. A combination of a new blueprint for managing energy on the grid plus behavior change is needed.

#automotive, #charging-station, #column, #electric-vehicles, #energy, #energy-management, #energy-storage, #opinion, #tc, #transportation, #vehicle-to-grid

Rezilion raises $30M help security operations teams with tools to automate their busywork

Security operations teams face a daunting task these days, fending off malicious hackers and their increasingly sophisticated approaches to cracking into networks. That also represents a gap in the market: building tools to help those security teams do their jobs. Today, an Israeli startup called Rezilion that is doing just that — building automation tools for DevSecOps, the area of IT that addresses the needs of security teams and the technical work that they need to do in their jobs — is announcing $30 million in funding.

Guggenheim Investments is leading the round with JVP and Kindred Capital also contributing. Rezilion said that unnamed executives from Google, Microsoft, CrowdStrike, IBM, Cisco, PayPal, JP Morgan Chase, Nasdaq, eBay, Symantec, RedHat, RSA and Tenable are also in the round. Previously, the company had raised $8 million.

Rezilion’s funding is coming on the back of strong initial growth for the startup in its first two years of operations.

Its customer base is made up of some of the world’s biggest companies, including two of the “Fortune 10” (the top 10 of the Fortune 500). CEO Liran Tancman, who co-founded Rezilion with CTO Shlomi Boutnaru, said that one of those two is one of the world’s biggest software companies, and the other is a major connected device vendor, but he declined to say which. (For the record, the top 10 includes Amazon, Apple, Alphabet/Google, Walmart and CVS.)

Tancman and Boutnaru had previously co-founded another security startup, CyActive, which was acquired by PayPal in 2015; the pair worked there together until leaving to start Rezilion.

There are a lot of tools out in the market now to help automate different aspects of developer and security operations. Rezilion focuses on a specific part of DevSecOps: large businesses have over the years put in place a lot of processes that they need to follow to try to triage and make the most thorough efforts possible to detect security threats. Today, that might involve inspecting every single suspicious piece of activity to determine what the implications might be.

The problem is that with the volume of information coming in, taking the time to inspect and understand each piece of suspicious activity can put enormous strain on an organization: it’s time-consuming, and as it turns out, not the best use of that time because of the signal to noise ratio involved. Typically, each vulnerability can take 6-9 hours to properly investigate, Tancman said. “But usually about 70-80% of them are not exploitable,” meaning they may be bad for some, but not for this particular organization and the code it’s using today. That represents a very inefficient use of the security team’s time and energy.

“Eight of out ten patches tend to be a waste of time,” Tancman said of the approach that is typically made today. He believes that as its AI continues to grow and its knowledge and solution becomes more sophisticated, “it might soon be 9 out of 10.”

Rezilion has built a taxonomy and an AI-based system that essentially does that inspection work as a human would do: it spots any new, or suspicious, code, figures out what it is trying to do, and runs it against a company’s existing code and systems to see how and if it might actually be a threat to it or create further problems down the line. If it’s all good, it essentially whitelists the code. If not, it flags it to the team.

The stickiness of the product has come out of how Tancman and Boutnaru understand large enterprises, especially those heavy with technology stacks, operate these days in what has become a very challenging environment for cybersecurity teams.

“They are using us to accelerate their delivery processes while staying safe,” Tancman said. “They have strict compliance departments and have to adhere to certain standards,” in terms of the protocols they take around security work, he added. “They want to leverage DevOps to release that.”

He said Rezilion has generally won over customers in large part for simply understanding that culture and process and helping them work better within that: “Companies become users of our product because we showed them that, at a fraction of the effort, they can be more secure.” This has special resonance in the world of tech, although financial services, and other verticals that essentially leverage technology as a significant foundation for how they operate, are also among the startup’s user base.

Down the line, Rezilion plans to add remediation and mitigation into the mix to further extend what it can do with its automation tools, which is part of where the funding will be going, too, Boutnaru said. But he doesn’t believe it will ever replace the human in the equation altogether.

“It will just focus them on the places where you need more human thinking,” he said. “We’re just removing the need for tedious work.”

In that grand tradition of enterprise automation, then, it will be interesting to watch which other automation-centric platforms might make a move into security alongside the other automation they are building. For now, Rezilion is forging out an interesting enough area for itself to get investors interested.

“Rezilion’s product suite is a game changer for security teams,” said Rusty Parks, senior MD of Guggenheim Investments, in a statement. “It creates a win-win, allowing companies to speed innovative products and features to market while enhancing their security posture. We believe Rezilion has created a truly compelling value proposition for security teams, one that greatly increases return on time while thoroughly protecting one’s core infrastructure.”

#agile-software-development, #alphabet, #amazon, #apple, #articles, #artificial-intelligence, #automation, #ceo, #cisco, #computer-security, #crowdstrike, #cto, #cyactive, #devops, #ebay, #energy, #entrepreneurship, #europe, #financial-services, #funding, #google, #ibm, #jp-morgan-chase, #kindred-capital, #maryland, #microsoft, #paypal, #security, #software, #software-development, #startup-company, #symantec, #technology

House bill would eliminate natural gas, impose sweeping changes on economy

House bill would eliminate natural gas, impose sweeping changes on economy

Enlarge (credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

President Joe Biden’s climate ambitions will face a critical test on Monday as a major portion of the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill comes up for a vote. If it passes, the sprawling legislation will push the American economy to rein in its carbon emissions by spurring advancements in clean energy, electric vehicles, grid modernization, and more.

Nearly $500 billion worth of grants, incentives, and programs will be voted on by the members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. After that, the legislation will be merged with the other portions of the reconciliation bill as soon as Wednesday. Senate Democrats have been meeting to draft their version of the bill, and Congressional Democrats hope to send a finalized piece of legislation to Biden by the end of the year.

So far, Republicans are united in their opposition, and the reconciliation bill’s passage appears to hinge on whether Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) approves of key portions. Manchin, who represents coal-rich West Virginia and who owns millions of dollars of stock in a coal brokerage, has expressed reservations about the bill eliminating fossil fuels.

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#climate-change, #climate-policy, #energy, #energy-policy, #infrastructure, #policy

This Room Could Wirelessly Charge All Your Devices

New technology delivers power to electronic devices in a test space

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#electronics, #energy, #technology

In the US, wind power is getting bigger and better, report says

A wide angle shot of wind turbines at the foot of a mountain.

Enlarge (credit: Bloomberg / Getty Images)

Wind power isn’t the largest part of the United States’ energy mix, but it grew over the last year, according to the Wind Technologies Market Report. The renewable energy source grew to more than 8 percent of the country’s electricity supply—reaching 10 percent in a growing number of states—and saw a whopping $25 billion in investments in what will translate to 16.8 gigawatts of capacity, according to the report.

Put out by the US Department of Energy, the sizeable report draws upon a variety of data sources for its finding, including government data from the Energy Information Administration, trade data from the US International Trade Commission, and hourly pricing data from the various system operators. “The report itself covers the entire gamut of the US wind industry,” Mark Bolinger, a research scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and one of the authors of the report, told Ars.

Bigger is sometimes better

According to the report, the performance of wind power operations in the US has improved a great deal. We can measure this based on capacity factor, a ratio of the amount of energy a turbine actually produces compared to the amount it could have produced if it ran at its peak constantly. For recently constructed wind power projects, the average capacity factor has now cleared 40 percent. The biggest gains in this area, however, are seen in the US’ “wind belt,” a region that receives a large amount of wind, stretching from the Dakotas to Texas.

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#energy, #renewables, #science, #wind, #wind-power

Tesla wants to sell electricity in Texas

Elon Musk’s Tesla is looking beyond electric vehicles, solar panels and energy storage and wants to now supply electricity directly to customers, according to an application filed with Texas electricity regulators earlier this month. Energy Choice Matters first reported on the application.

The application, filed with the Public Utilities Commission of Texas on August 16, is a request to become what’s called a “retail electric provider” under its subsidiary Tesla Energy Ventures. On the deregulated, idiosyncratic Texas power market, REPs generally purchase wholesale electricity from power generators and sell it to customers. Over 100 REPs currently compete on the open market.

The company also filed separate applications for several utility-scale batteries in the Lone Star state: a 250-megawatt battery situated near its Gigafactory outside Austin, and a 100 MW separate project outside Houston. These projects are unrelated to the company’s efforts to become an electric provider, but taken as a whole, they reveal an ambitious roadmap for Tesla’s energy businesses.

Imagine: Tesla could not only sell electricity to customers, but it could also broker customers selling their excess energy – generated from Tesla Powerwall or Solar panel products, of course – back to the grid. It’s certainly one way to fulfill Musk’s vision of turning every home into a distributed power plant.

The latest request to the PUC comes just six months after an unprecedented winter storm shut down large parts of Texas’ power grid for days, leaving millions without power during a string of sub-freezing days. A handful of REPs shut down after the storm, which jammed wholesale electricity prices up to $9,000 per megawatt-hour (the seasonal average is around $50).

Musk, who moved many operations to Texas from California, including SpaceX’s sprawling facility in Boca Chica, criticized the state’s grid operator on Twitter at the time:

He said the company was not “earning that R” – referring to the R in the acronym, which stands for Electric Reliability Council of Texas.

Tesla Energy Ventures told PUC regulators that it would use Tesla’s existing energy division to help drive sales, including leveraging the company’s mobile app and website. “Specifically, [Tesla Energy Ventures] will target its existing customers that own Tesla products and market the retail offer to customers through the mobile application and Tesla website,” the application says. “In addition to the Tesla mobile application and Tesla website, the applicant’s existing ‘Tesla Energy Customer Support’ organization will be trained to provide support and guidance to customers in customer acquisition efforts.”

Ana Stewart is listed as president of Tesla Energy Ventures. She’s been with Tesla since 2017 as the director of regulatory credit trading. Prior, she worked at Tesla-acquired SolarCity.

The application is listed under docket number 52431.

#automotive, #elon-musk, #energy, #powerwall, #tesla, #transportation

Where the sun always shines: Putting solar in space

Image of the International Space Station.

Enlarge / See these solar panels in space? They’re way too heavy to economically provide power to Earth. (credit: NASA)

“This is an idea that’s older than even the space program,” Caltech’s Harry Atwater told Ars over Zoom. Citing Asimov and Clarke, Atwater conjured an image of gleaming solar panels floating above the Earth on a large metal truss, all wired in to hardware that converts the current to a form suitable to beam back down to Earth. Unlimited clean power, delivered around the clock.

He then went on to explain why the system he was working on would end up looking nothing like that vision, even if it would ultimately accomplish the same thing.

A long gestation

In August, Caltech announced that a member of its board of trustees had given over $100 million meant to foster the development of space-based power. The timing was somewhat odd, given that the donor, Donald Bren, had started the process over a decade ago. At the time, Bren had described his interest in space-based power to the university administration, which began identifying faculty who had research interests that might be relevant to the project.

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#caltech, #energy, #renewable-energy, #science, #solar-energy, #space

Most of the power sector’s emissions come from a small minority of plants

Most of the power sector’s emissions come from a small minority of plants

Enlarge (credit: Picture Alliance / Getty Images)

The world seems to be simultaneously on fire and flooding, and the latest expert report indicates that we’ve just about run out of time to avoid even more severe climate change. All of that should leave us in a place where we are looking for ways to cut carbon emissions as quickly and economically as possible.

Some good news in that regard came via the recent release of a paper that looks at how much each individual power plant contributes to global emissions. The study finds that many countries have a significant number of power plants that emit carbon dioxide at rates well above either the national or global average. Shutting down the worst 5 percent of this list would immediately wipe out about 75 percent of the carbon emissions produced by electricity generation.

CARMA revisited

It’s easy to think of power generation in simple terms, like “renewables good, coal bad.” To an extent, that’s accurate. But it also compresses all power generation, from “somewhat bad” to “truly atrocious,” into a single category. And it’s clear from a variety of research that this isn’t entirely accurate. Depending on their vintage, many plants convert fossil fuels to power at different degrees of efficiency. And some of the least efficient plants are only brought online during periods of very high demand; the rest of the time, they’re idle and produce no emissions at all.

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#carbon-emissions, #climate-change, #energy, #green-energy, #science

Wave Power Charges Ahead with Static Electricity Generators

An ocean-powered buoy brings technology closer to the dream of obtaining energy from the sea

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#energy, #environment, #oceans, #renewable-energy, #technology

Siga secures $8.1M Series B to prevent cyberattacks on critical infrastructure

Siga OT Solutions, an Israeli cybersecurity startup that helps organizations secure their operations by monitoring the raw electric signals of critical industrial assets, has raised $8.1 million in Series B funding.

Siga’s SigaGuard says its technology, used by Israel’s critical water facilities and the New York Power Authority, is unique in that rather than monitoring the operational network, it uses machine learning and predictive analysis to “listen” to Level 0 signals. These are typically made up of components and sensors that receive electrical signals, rather than protocols or data packets that can be manipulated by hackers.

By monitoring Level 0, which Siga describes as the “richest and most reliable level of process data within any operational environment,” the company can detect cyberattacks on the most critical and vulnerable physical assets of national infrastructures. This, it claims, ensures operational resiliency even when hackers are successful in manipulating the logic of industrial control system (ICS) controllers.

Amir Samoiloff, co-founder and CEO of Siga, says: “Level 0 is becoming the major axis in the resilience and integrity of critical national infrastructures worldwide and securing this level will become a major element in control systems in the coming years.”

The company’s latest round of funding — led by PureTerra Ventures, with investment from Israeli venture fund SIBF, Moore Capital, and Phoenix Contact — comes amid an escalation in attacks against operational infrastructure. Israel’s water infrastructure was hit by three known cyberattacks in 2020 and these were followed by an attack on the water system of a city in Florida that saw hackers briefly increase the amount of sodium hydroxide in Oldsmar’s water treatment system. 

The $8.1 million investment lands three years after the startup secured $3.5 million in Series A funding. The company said it will use the funding to accelerate its sales and strategic collaborations internationally, with a focus on North America, Europe, Asia, and the United Arab Emirates. 

Read more:

#articles, #asia, #computer-security, #cryptography, #cyberattack, #cybercrime, #cybersecurity-startup, #cyberwarfare, #data-security, #energy, #europe, #florida, #israel, #machine-learning, #north-america, #nozomi-networks, #phoenix, #ransomware, #security, #united-arab-emirates

Crypto community slams ‘disastrous’ new amendment to Biden’s big infrastructure bill

Biden’s major bipartisan infrastructure plan struck a rare chord of cooperation between Republicans and Democrats, but changes it proposes to cryptocurrency regulation are tripping up the bill.

The administration intends to pay for $28 billion of its planned infrastructure spending by tightening tax compliance within the historically under-regulated arena of digital currency. That’s why cryptocurrency is popping up in a bill that’s mostly about rebuilding bridges and roads.

The legislation’s vocal critics argue that the bill’s effort to do so is slapdash, particularly a bit that would declare anyone “responsible for and regularly providing any service effectuating transfers of digital assets” to be a broker, subject to tax reporting requirements.

While that definition might be more straightforward in a traditional corner of finance, it could force cryptocurrency developers, companies and even anyone mining digital currencies to somehow collect and report information on users, something that by design isn’t even possible in a decentralized financial system.

Now, a new amendment to the critical spending package is threatening to make matters even worse.

Unintended consequences

In a joint letter about the bill’s text, Square, Coinbase, Ribbit Capital and other stakeholders warned of “financial surveillance” and unintended impacts for cryptocurrency miners and developers. The Electronic Frontier Foundation and Fight for the Future, two privacy-minded digital rights organizations, also slammed the bill.

Following the outcry from the cryptocurrency community, a pair of influential senators proposed an amendment to clarify the new reporting rules. Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) pushed back against the bill, proposing an amendment with fellow finance committee member Pat Toomey (R-PA) that would modify the bill’s language.

The amendment would establish that the new reporting “does not apply to individuals developing block chain technology and wallets,” removing some of the bill’s ambiguity on the issue.

“By clarifying the definition of broker, our amendment will ensure non-financial intermediaries like miners, network validators, and other service providers—many of whom don’t even have the personal-identifying information needed to file a 1099 with the IRS—are not subject to the reporting requirements specified in the bipartisan infrastructure package,” Toomey said.

Wyoming Senator Cynthia Lummis also threw her support behind the Toomey and Wyden amendment, as did Colorado Governor Jared Polis.

Picking winners and losers

The drama doesn’t stop there. With negotiations around the bill ongoing — the text could be finalized over the weekend — a pair of senators proposed a competing amendment that isn’t winning any fans in the crypto community.

That amendment, from Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Mark Warner (D-VA), would exempt traditional cryptocurrency miners who participate in energy-intensive “proof of work” systems from new financial reporting requirements, while keeping those rules in place for those using a “proof of stake” system. Portman worked with the Treasury Department to author the cryptocurrency portion of the original infrastructure bill.

Rather than requiring an investment in computing hardware (and energy bills) capable of solving increasingly complex math problems, proof of stake systems rely on participants taking a financial stake in a given project, locking away some of the cryptocurrency to generate new coins.

Proof of stake is emerging as an attractive, climate-friendlier alternative that could reduce the need for heavy computing and huge amounts of energy required for proof of work mining. That makes it all the more puzzling that the latest amendment would specifically let proof of work mining off the hook.

Some popular digital currencies like Cardano are already built on proof of stake. Ethereum, the second biggest cryptocurrency, is in the process of migrating from a proof of work system to proof of stake to help scale its system and reduce fees. Bitcoin is the most notable digital currency that relies on proof of work.

The Warner-Portman amendment is being touted as a “compromise” but it’s not really halfway between the Wyden-Toomey amendment and the existing bill — it just introduces new problems that many crypto advocates view as a fresh existential threat to their work. Prominent members of the crypto community including Square founder and Bitcoin booster Jack Dorsey have thrown their support behind the Wyden-Lummis-Toomey amendment while slamming the second proposal as misguided and damaging.

Unfortunately for the crypto community — and the promise of the proof of stake model — the White House is apparently throwing its weight behind the Warner-Portman amendment, though that could change as eleventh hour negotiations continue.

#biden, #bitcoin, #blockchain, #broker, #cardano, #chairman, #coinbase, #cryptocurrencies, #cryptography, #democrats, #digital-currency, #electronic-frontier-foundation, #energy, #ethereum, #finance, #government, #internal-revenue-service, #jack-dorsey, #proof-of-stake, #proof-of-work, #republicans, #ribbit-capital, #ron-wyden, #tc, #white-house

The hydrogen economy is about to get weird

Image of a blue light rail vehicle.

Enlarge / A Coradia iLint hydrogen fuel-cell powered prototype railway train, manufactured by Alstom SA, travels in Salzgitter, Germany. (credit: Bloomberg/Getty Images)

If you were paying attention at the start of this century, you might remember the phrase “hydrogen economy,” which was shorthand for George W. Bush’s single, abortive attempt to take climate change seriously. At the time, hydrogen was supposed to be a fuel for vehicular transport, an idea that still hasn’t really caught on.

But hydrogen appears to be enjoying a revival of sorts, appearing in the climate plans of nations like the UK and Netherlands. The US government is investing in research on ways to produce hydrogen more cheaply. Are there reasons to think hydrogen power might be for real this time?

A new report by research service BloombergNEF suggests that hydrogen is set for growth—but not in transport. And the growth has some aspects that don’t actually make sense given the current economics.

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#energy, #green, #hydrogen, #renewable-energy, #science

Tech leaders can be the secret weapon for supercharging ESG goals

Environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors should be key considerations for CTOs and technology leaders scaling next generation companies from day one. Investors are increasingly prioritizing startups that focus on ESG, with the growth of sustainable investing skyrocketing.

What’s driving this shift in mentality across every industry? It’s simple: Consumers are no longer willing to support companies that don’t prioritize sustainability. According to a survey conducted by IBM, the COVID-19 pandemic has elevated consumers’ focus on sustainability and their willingness to pay out of their own pockets for a sustainable future. In tandem, federal action on climate change is increasing, with the U.S. rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement and a recent executive order on climate commitments.

Over the past few years, we have seen an uptick in organizations setting long-term sustainability goals. However, CEOs and chief sustainability officers typically forecast these goals, and they are often long term and aspirational — leaving the near and midterm implementation of ESG programs to operations and technology teams.

Until recently, choosing cloud regions meant considering factors like cost and latency to end users. But carbon is another factor worth considering.

CTOs are a crucial part of the planning process, and in fact, can be the secret weapon to help their organization supercharge their ESG targets. Below are a few immediate steps that CTOs and technology leaders can take to achieve sustainability and make an ethical impact.

Reducing environmental impact

As more businesses digitize and more consumers use devices and cloud services, the energy needed by data centers continues to rise. In fact, data centers account for an estimated 1% of worldwide electricity usage. However, a forecast from IDC shows that the continued adoption of cloud computing could prevent the emission of more than 1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide from 2021 through 2024.

Make compute workloads more efficient: First, it’s important to understand the links between computing, power consumption and greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels. Making your app and compute workloads more efficient will reduce costs and energy requirements, thus reducing the carbon footprint of those workloads. In the cloud, tools like compute instance auto scaling and sizing recommendations make sure you’re not running too many or overprovisioned cloud VMs based on demand. You can also move to serverless computing, which does much of this scaling work automatically.

Deploy compute workloads in regions with lower carbon intensity: Until recently, choosing cloud regions meant considering factors like cost and latency to end users. But carbon is another factor worth considering. While the compute capabilities of regions are similar, their carbon intensities typically vary. Some regions have access to more carbon-free energy production than others, and consequently the carbon intensity for each region is different.

So, choosing a cloud region with lower carbon intensity is often the simplest and most impactful step you can take. Alistair Scott, co-founder and CTO of cloud infrastructure startup Infracost, underscores this sentiment: “Engineers want to do the right thing and reduce waste, and I think cloud providers can help with that. The key is to provide information in workflow, so the people who are responsible for infraprovisioning can weigh the CO2 impact versus other factors such as cost and data residency before they deploy.”

Another step is to estimate your specific workload’s carbon footprint using open-source software like Cloud Carbon Footprint, a project sponsored by ThoughtWorks. Etsy has open-sourced a similar tool called Cloud Jewels that estimates energy consumption based on cloud usage information. This is helping them track progress toward their target of reducing their energy intensity by 25% by 2025.

Make social impact

Beyond reducing environmental impact, CTOs and technology leaders can have significant, direct and meaningful social impact.

Include societal benefits in the design of your products: As a CTO or technology founder, you can help ensure that societal benefits are prioritized in your product roadmaps. For example, if you’re a fintech CTO, you can add product features to expand access to credit in underserved populations. Startups like LoanWell are on a mission to increase access to capital for those typically left out of the financial system and make the loan origination process more efficient and equitable.

When thinking about product design, a product needs to be as useful and effective as it is sustainable. By thinking about sustainability and societal impact as a core element of product innovation, there is an opportunity to differentiate yourself in socially beneficial ways. For example, Lush has been a pioneer of package-free solutions, and launched Lush Lens — a virtual package app leveraging cameras on mobile phones and AI to overlay product information. The company hit 2 million scans in its efforts to tackle the beauty industry’s excessive use of (plastic) packaging.

Responsible AI practices should be ingrained in the culture to avoid social harms: Machine learning and artificial intelligence have become central to the advanced, personalized digital experiences everyone is accustomed to — from product and content recommendations to spam filtering, trend forecasting and other “smart” behaviors.

It is therefore critical to incorporate responsible AI practices, so benefits from AI and ML can be realized by your entire user base and that inadvertent harm can be avoided. Start by establishing clear principles for working with AI responsibly, and translate those principles into processes and procedures. Think about AI responsibility reviews the same way you think about code reviews, automated testing and UX design. As a technical leader or founder, you get to establish what the process is.

Impact governance

Promoting governance does not stop with the board and CEO; CTOs play an important role, too.

Create a diverse and inclusive technology team: Compared to individual decision-makers, diverse teams make better decisions 87% of the time. Additionally, Gartner research found that in a diverse workforce, performance improves by 12% and intent to stay by 20%.

It is important to reinforce and demonstrate why diversity, equity and inclusion is important within a technology team. One way you can do this is by using data to inform your DEI efforts. You can establish a voluntary internal program to collect demographics, including gender, race and ethnicity, and this data will provide a baseline for identifying diversity gaps and measuring improvements. Consider going further by baking these improvements into your employee performance process, such as objectives and key results (OKRs). Make everyone accountable from the start, not just HR.

These are just a few of the ways CTOs and technology leaders can contribute to ESG progress in their companies. The first step, however, is to recognize the many ways you as a technology leader can make an impact from day one.

#artificial-intelligence, #carbon-footprint, #cloud, #cloud-computing, #cloud-infrastructure, #cloud-services, #column, #energy, #environmentalism, #esg, #etsy, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #greentech, #machine-learning, #open-source-software, #opinion, #sustainability, #tc, #thoughtworks

Industrial cybersecurity startup Nozomi Networks secures $100M in pre-IPO funding

Nozomi Networks, an industry cybersecurity startup that aims to shield critical infrastructure from cyberattacks, has raised $100 million in pre-IPO funding. 

The Series D funding round was led by Triangle Peak Partners, and also includes investment from a number of equipment, security, service provider and go-to-market companies including Honeywell Ventures, Keysight Technologies and Porsche Digital. 

This funding comes at a critical time for the company. Cyberattacks on industrial control systems (ICS) — the devices necessary for the continued running of power plants, water supplies, and other critical infrastructure — increased both in frequency and severity during the pandemic. Look no further than May and June, which saw ransomware attacks target the IT networks of Colonial Pipeline and meat manufacturing giant JBS, forcing the companies to shut down their industrial operations.

Nozomi Networks, which competes with Dragos and Claroty, claims its industrial cybersecurity solution, which works to secure ICS devices by detecting threats before they hit, aims to prevent such attacks from happening. It provides real-time visibility to help organizations manage cyber risk and improve resilience for industrial operations.

The technology currently supports more than a quarter of a million devices in sectors such as critical infrastructure, energy, manufacturing, mining, transportation, and utilities, with Nozomi Networks doubling its customer base in 2020 and seeing a 5,000% increase in the number of devices its solutions monitor. 

The company will use its latest investment, which comes less than two years after it secured $30 million in Series C funding, to scale product development efforts as well as its go-to-market approach globally. 

Specifically, Nozomi Networks said it plans to grow its sales, marketing, and partner enablement efforts, and upgrade its products to address new challenges in both the OT and IoT visibility and security markets. 

#articles, #australia, #canada, #colonial-pipeline, #computer-security, #computing, #cyberattack, #cybercrime, #cyberwarfare, #energy, #funding, #internet-of-things, #malware, #manufacturing, #mining, #nozomi-networks, #porsche, #security, #technology, #united-states

A Tesla Megapack caught fire at the Victorian Big Battery facility in Australia

A 13-tonne Tesla Megapack caught fire on Friday morning at a battery storage facility in south-east Australia. The blaze occurred during testing at between 10 and 10.15am local time, according to Victorian Big Battery. The regional fire service said a specialist fire crew had been dispatched to the site in Geelong, Victoria. Firefighters were using a hazmat appliance designed for hazardous chemical spills and specialist drones to conduct atmospheric monitoring, according to Fire Rescue Victoria.

The site was evacuated and there were no injuries, Victorian Big Battery said in a statement. It added that the site had been disconnected from the power grid and that there will be no impact to the electric supply. French energy company Neoen, which operates the facility, and contractor Tesla are working with emergency services to manage the situation.

As a result of the fire, a warning for toxic smoke has been issued in the nearby Batesford, Bell Post Hill, Lovely Banks and Moorabool areas, reports The Sydney Morning Herald. Residents were warned to move indoors, close windows, vents and fireplace flues and bring their pets inside.

The Victorian Big Battery site, a 300 MW/450 MWh battery storage facility, is viewed as key to the Victorian government’s 50 percent renewable energy target by 2030. It follows the success of Neoen and Tesla’s 100 MW/129 MWh battery farm in Hornsdale in South Australia, which was completed ahead of schedule and has resulted in multi-million dollar savings for market players and consumers. Both sites essentially provide a regional power backup for when renewable energy is not available, effectively filling the gap when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing.

In February, Neoen announced that the Victorian Big Battery would utliize Tesla’s megapacks — utility-sized batteries produced at the company’s Gigafactory — and Autobidder software to sell power to the grid. Victorian Big Battery has a contract with the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO). As part of the pact, the site will provide energy stability by unlocking an additional 250 MW of peak capacity on the existing Victoria to New South Wales Interconnector over the next decade of Australian summers.

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on Engadget.

#battery, #column, #energy, #green-power, #solar, #tc, #tceng, #tesla

The ‘Hydrogen Olympics’ Lit a Torch for the Clean Fuel’s Future

An energy expert explains why Japan—along with much of the rest of the world—is committing to the clean-burning fuel

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#energy, #environment, #renewable-energy, #technology, #transportation

Entire Buildings Can Be Wrapped in Jackets to Save Energy

Apartment buildings, or blocks of row houses, can be upgraded in one installation

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#climate-change, #energy, #engineering, #environment

Tesla’s solar and energy storage business rakes in $810M, finally exceeds cost of revenue

Tesla’s primary source of revenue comes from the sale of its electric vehicles, but its latest quarterly earnings report showed growth in its energy storage and solar business.

The demand picture will get even sunnier for the division if the company can access enough chips for its energy storage products, according to Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

Tesla on Monday reported $801 million in revenue from its energy generation and storage business — which includes three main products: solar, its Powerwall storage device for homes and businesses, and its utility storage unit Megapack — but that’s just a sliver of the nearly $12 billion in total revenue. Small as it is, the division is selling more energy storage and solar. Revenue from this division grew 62% from the previous quarter and more than 116% from the same quarter in 2020. Tesla doesn’t separate solar and energy storage revenue.

More importantly, the cost of revenue for its solar and energy storage business was $781 million, meaning that for the first time the total cost of producing and distributing these energy storage products was lower than the revenue it generated. That’s good news.

As one might expect, total deployments also rose. Tesla installed 1,274 megawatt-hours of energy storage in the second quarter of 2021, a 205% increase from the same period last year. Similarly, the amount of solar energy deployed in the second quarter of this year was 85 MWh, up 214% from Q2 2020. As a side note: Tesla’s total solar and energy storage deployments were essentially flat when comparing Q2 2019 and Q2 2020 numbers, likely due to the pandemic’s general halting of business.

The important nugget is revenue growth. In 2019, Tesla reported $369 million in revenue from solar and storage. Revenue was stagnant in Q2 2020, with $370 million from that business. This quarter was more than double what Tesla brought in during the same quarters of 2019 and 2020.

What changed? Besides COVID-19, Tesla points to several Megapack projects coming online and growing popularity in its combined solar and Powerwall product. (Tesla no longer allows customers to order Powerwall without a solar installation.) According to a configurator on Tesla’s website, one Megapack is about $1.2 million before taxes. In some states, Tesla says the earliest deliveries will be in 2023.

Tesla’s energy storage business is facing headwinds, however. Musk said demand for both the Megapack and the Powerwall both exceed supply, and a backlog is growing. The company is unable to meet that demand because of the global chip shortage, he said.

Tesla uses the same chips in its Powerwall as it does in its vehicles, and Musk said vehicles are the priority while supply is low.

“As that significant shortage is alleviated, then we can massively ramp up Powerwall production,” Musk said during an earnings call. “I think we have a chance of hitting an annualized rate of a million units of Powerwall next year — maybe, on the order of 20,000 a week. Again dependent on cell supply and semiconductors. … As the world transitions to a sustainable energy production, solar and wind are intermittent, and by their nature really need battery packs in order to provide a steady flow of electricity. And when you look at all the utilities in the world, this is a vast amount of backup batteries that are needed.”

Musk said in the long term, Tesla and other suppliers would need to produce a combined 1,000 to 2,000 gigawatt-hours per year in order to keep up with energy storage demands. Musk said the company has asked its cell suppliers to double their supply in 2022, a goal that Musk caveated would be dependent on supply chain issues. The company’s current strategy is to overshoot cell supply and route it outward to its energy storage products, but as in the case of chip shortages, vehicle production would be prioritized, according to Musk.

Battery cell plans

While much of the battery cell discussion focused on its 4680 cell that is in development, Musk also touched on Tesla’s intentions to power some of its products with cheaper lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) batteries. Specifically, he said there’s a good chance that all stationary storage could move to iron-based batteries and away from nickel-manganese-cobalt (NMC) and nickel-cobalt-aluminum batteries.

“I think probably will see a shift, my guess is probably to two-thirds iron, one-third nickel,” Musk said of Tesla’s plans. “And this is actually good because there’s quite a bit of iron in the world, an insane amount of iron. But there’s much less nickel and there’s way less cobalt.”

The one-third of batteries that will remain nickel-based will be used for its longer-range electric vehicles. All of its other EVs would also move to LFP batteries, which is already the case in its vehicles assembled in China.

#cars, #electricity, #elon-musk, #energy, #energy-storage, #lithium-ion-batteries, #solar-energy, #tc, #tesla-model-s

Nuclear power’s reliability is dropping as extreme weather increases

Image of two cooling towers above a body of water.

Enlarge / Cooling water is only one factor that limits the productivity of nuclear power plants. (credit: Getty Images)

With extreme weather causing power failures in California and Texas, it’s increasingly clear that the existing power infrastructure isn’t designed for these new conditions. Past research has shown that nuclear power plants are no exception, with rising temperatures creating cooling problems for them. Now, a comprehensive analysis looking at a broader range of climate events shows that it’s not just hot weather that puts these plants at risk—it’s the full range of climate disturbances.

Heat has been one of the most direct threats, as higher temperatures mean that the natural cooling sources (rivers, oceans, lakes) are becoming less efficient heat sinks. However, this new analysis shows that hurricanes and typhoons have become the leading causes of nuclear outages, at least in North America and South and East Asia. Precautionary shutdowns for storms are routine, and so this finding is perhaps not so surprising. But other factors—like the clogging of cooling intake pipes by unusually abundant jellyfish populations—are a bit less obvious.

Overall this latest analysis calculates that the frequency of climate-related nuclear plant outages is almost eight times higher than it was in the 1990s. The analysis also estimates that the global nuclear fleet will lose up 1.4 percent—about 36 TWh—of its energy production in the next 40 years, and up to 2.4 percent, or 61 TWh, by 2081-2100.

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#climate-change, #energy, #nuclear-power, #science

Drought Threatens to Close California Hydropower Plant for First Time

Shutting down the plant, which has run continuously since 1967, would squeeze already tight electricity supplies

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#climate, #energy, #sustainability, #weather

Leap, a ‘social learning’ platform aimed at over 55s, raises a $3.1M Seed round

Leap, a platform for people over 55 to learn via social interaction, has raised $3.1M funding in a seed round led by European early-stage investor Creandum, and SF-based South Park Commons. Also participating was Learn Start/Learn Capital, alongside angels Michelle Kennedy (Peanut founder), Sahil Lavingia, and Tim Tuttle.

Leap members gather online to collectively “learn, connect and grow together,” says the company, via small online groups built around shared interests. Users connect over audio and video, in groups of between five and ten. The current beta features conversations and classes hosted by specially recruited members.

Leap was founded by Swedish entrepreneur Caroline Ingeborn, former CEO of Toca Boca, a Swedish app development studio that builds learning apps for kids, and Vishal Kapur, former CTO and co-founder of Screenhero, which was acquired by Slack in 2015. The two founders met through South Park Commons, an intentional learning community that practices many of the concepts applied in Leap.


In a statement, Caroline Ingeborn said: “When I looked at other online offerings created for this demographic, I didn’t feel that they particularly encouraged meaningful connections. Groups described as ‘small’ were often bursting at the seams, and experiences often felt flimsy and random. In most instances, it felt like we were all just alone, together. It motivated me to create something far more tailored and intimate.”

Fredrik Cassel, General Partner at Creandum: “Leap is targeting an interesting segment of society: retirees – the wealthiest and fastest-growing demographic who have been largely overlooked by tech developers. It is a generation of people with considerable time, energy, and spending power that have smartphones at their fingertips. The diverse founding team convinced us with their determination and unique experiences to build a product that is truly engaging.”

#ceo, #creandum, #energy, #entrepreneur, #europe, #general-partner, #leap, #learn-capital, #michelle-kennedy, #sahil-lavingia, #screenhero, #smartphones, #tc, #toca-boca

Mighty Buildings lands $22M to create ‘sustainable and affordable’ 3D-printed homes

Oakland-based Mighty Buildings, which is on a quest to build homes using 3D printing, robotics and automation, has raised a $22 million extension to its Series B round of funding.

The additional capital builds upon a $40 million a raise the company announced earlier this year, bringing its total funding since its 2017 inception to $100 million.

Mighty Building’s self-proclaimed mission is to create “beautiful, sustainable and affordable” homes.

The company claims to be able to 3D print structures “two times as quickly with 95% less labor hours and 10-times less waste” than conventional construction. For example, it says it can 3D print a 350-square-foot studio apartment in just 24 hours.

Execs say the new capital will go toward making supply chain improvements and moving up research and development timelines. The money will also go toward helping it achieve a new goal of achieving Net-Zero carbon neutrality by 2028 – which it says is 22 years ahead of the construction industry overall. 

“As a founding team, we have long been passionate about solving productivity for construction in a sustainable way,” said co-founder and CEO Slava Solonitsyn. “We have spent four years figuring out what it takes to achieve that. We believe that we have a master plan now that can work.”

Since its launch, the company has produced and installed a number of accessory dwelling units (ADUs).

Sam Ruben, co-founder and Chief Sustainability Officer of Mighty Buildings, said the new funds will also go toward kicking off development of the startup’s multi-story offering. The multi-story efforts will likely initially focus on 2-3 story single family homes and townhouses with an eye towards expanding into low-rise apartment buildings.  The company hopes to have at least a prototype multi-story offering in late 2022 or early 2023, according to Ruben.

“Along with the sustainability improvements already captured by our new formula, this will allow us to develop our next generation material to get us even closer to our goal of being carbon neutral by 2028,” Ruben said. “It will also give us opportunities to implement improvements in our existing design by reducing the impact of our foundations and other, non-printed elements.” 

Specifically, Mighty Buildings plans to speed up its carbon neutrality roadmap by building “high-throughput, sustainable” micro factories, forming strategic supply chain partnerships, accelerating ”blue skies” technology research and developing new composite materials produced from recycled or bio-based feedstock. 

The micro factories, according to the company, will be able to produce 200 to 300 homes per year in locations where housing gaps exist. Mighty Buildings plans to create single family residential developments with its panelized “Mighty Kit System.”

Mighty Buildings has seen quarter over quarter growth in sales, Ruben said, with the company seeing a record of over $7 million in total contracted revenue in the second quarter. 

The company is also excited about its new fiber reinforced printing material, which is currently undergoing testing with certification expected to be completed later this year. Mighty Buildings claims that its new formula shows “over 50% improvement” in embodied carbon from its original material and a strength profile similar to reinforced concrete, with more than 4 times less weight.

The round extension was supported by a few new and existing investors including ArcTern Ventures, Core Innovation Capital, Decacorn Capital, Gaingels, Khosla Ventures, Klaff Realty, MicroVentures, Modern Venture Partners, Polyvalent Capital, Vibrato Capital and others.

#3d-printing, #arctern-ventures, #articles, #construction-tech, #core-innovation-capital, #energy, #environmentalism, #funding, #fundings-exits, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #greentech, #khosla-ventures, #microventures, #mighty-buildings, #oakland, #proptech, #real-estate, #recent-funding, #recycling, #renewable-energy, #startup, #startups, #sustainability, #venture-capital

Soaring Temperatures, Wildfire Threaten California’s Power Grid

Residents were asked to limit energy use as another heat dome baked the region

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#climate, #energy, #environment, #sustainability

BMW is finally producing its retro-futuristic CE 04 electric scooter, but at $12K will anyone buy it?

We’ve been hearing about BMW’s electric city scooters, not to be confused with electric kick scooters, for years. The German automaker came out with the BMW Motorrad Concept Link in 2017, a concept vehicle that imagines the future of expensive micromobility. After revealing the latest concept scooter, the CE 04, in November 2020, BMW is now actually going through with production.

On Wednesday, the company announced the new CE 04 will officially be a part of its 2022 lineup, with an expected global market launch of Q1. It’s a sweet-looking ride, with a decidedly retro-futuristic vibe, harkening back to what people in the 70s or 80s might have thought a “futuristic” vehicle would look like.

This is not the first electric scooter BMW has sold. Back in 2014, it came out with the C Evolution, which never really took off in the States. Maybe it was because it was ahead of its time. Maybe it’s because it cost $13,000.

The CE 04 starts at just around $12,000. Now, the whole point of the BMW Motorrad Concept Link is to provide “a vision of what will be important in the urban environment in the future,” so maybe BMW doesn’t care if it doesn’t crush it with sales. But until BMW produces something much cheaper than its gas equivalents (you can buy a new Vespa for under $5,000), the automaker’s new scooter is not guaranteed to take cities by storm.

With a 8.9 kWh battery pack, compared to the Evolution’s 12.7 kWh pack, BMW should be able to produce this vehicle and turn a profit for a lot less than it’s selling it for. Especially given the automaker’s access to higher quality technology and the cheaper price of batteries today when compared to five years ago.

A spokesperson for BMW Motorrad told TechCrunch the CE 04 is priced in the mid-range of the motorcycle market, and is still much less expensive than an electric car.

“This could be an entryway to electric mobility at a fraction of the cost for some people,” he said.

Of course, the fanboys will go for it, like the one BMW fictionalized in a strange press release we’re trying really hard not to make fun of. Here’s a snippet:

“It’s early in the morning. The city is awakening. On the way to my garage I breathe in the still cool air. I’m wear [sic] a casually cut parka that’s both fashionable and functional at the same time. The protectors are inconspicuous but give me a sense of security. I’m ready for the day to start.”

Wait, there’s more:

“The first birds are chirping, the urban jungle is awakening. The sounds of the city begin to swell. Everything is set in motion. People move – with each other and in parallel. Paths cross.

What will the new day bring? Tapas with friends at the little bar by the river? Or the exhibition at the modern art museum? First of all there are appointments at the office. Workshops, meetings, customer visits. This is what life feels like.

I pair my smartphone with the scooter, and with a flick of my wrist I activate the parka. Its LEDs light up. I’m quiet, but I want to be seen. It’s all so simple and smooth.

We’re off again at last. Even when I was having my breakfast, I couldn’t wait. Not even the birds notice me. I glide almost silently through my neighbourhood. I’m a part of the city again.”

One with the city

 

“The new BMW CE 04 is the logical and at the same time rethought continuation of BMW Motorrad’s electromobility strategy,” said Florian Römhild, project manager of the BMW CE 04, in a statement. “Urban areas are its element. This is where it sets a new benchmark – in terms of both technology and visual style.”

For the European and Asian markets, the CE 04 will be marketed as an urban vehicle, but in the U.S., where that category barely exists, the scooter will try to reach the urban commuter.

The CE 04 has a maximum output of 42 horsepower and a maximum speed of 75 miles per hour, meaning it can go on highways, the clogged arteries of America. It can ride for an estimated range of 80 miles and can be charged in under two hours using an at-home level 2 charger or any public charging station. Riders can choose ECO mode, Rain mode or Road mode to make driving efficient, and for those who want to kick it up a notch, there’s the Dynamic mode, part of the Premium package which costs an extra $1,650.

The avant-garde form follows function with the flat battery, which is placed in the middle of the vehicle, for smooth, low rides, as well as design freedom to include a storage compartment for the helmet and charging cable, which can be reached while sitting. The regenerative braking system helps feed energy back into the battery, which is likely to happen a lot if the rider is driving in the city.

As all modern vehicles should have, there’s a 10.25-inch color screen on the handlebars with integrated navigation and connectivity to the rider’s device, and there’s even a USB-C charging port.

The vehicle comes standard in “light white,” but to have the way more badass “Magellan grey metallic avant-garde” coloring, it’ll cost you an upgraded $225. Either way, both come with bright orange accents.

More to come?

“Our CEO said that because it’s an 04, there’s space under and over the 4, so I’d say there’s space for more electrified scooters in our future,” said the spokesperson.

BMW has no other specific models in the works, or timing on when they will be produced, but the CE 04 is part of BMW’s overall plan to have delivered about 2 million full-electric vehicles to customers by 2025 and 10 million by 2030.

“Things are moving so quickly we may see new additions to the CE range within a year or two,” said the spokesperson.

#automotive, #automotive-industry, #bmw, #bmw-ce-04-electric-scooter, #ceo, #energy, #scooter, #smartphone, #tc, #transportation

Hear top VCs Albert Wegner, Jenny Rooke, and Shilpi Kumar talk green bets at the Extreme Tech Challenge finals

This year, TechCrunch is proudly hosting the Extreme Tech Challenge Global Finals on July 22. The event is among the world’s largest purpose-driven startup competitions that are aiming to solve global challenges based on the United Nations’ 17 sustainability goals.

If you want to catch an array of innovative startups across a range of categories, all of them showcasing what they’re building, you won’t want to miss our must-see pitch-off competition.

You can also catch feature panels hosted by TechCrunch editors, including one of the most highly anticipated discussions of the event, a talk on “going green” with guest speakers Shilpi Kumar, Jenny Rooke, and Albert Wenger, all of whom are actively investing in climate startups that are targeting big opportunities

Shilpi Kumar is a partner with Urban Us, an investment platform focused on urban tech and climate solutions. She previously led go-to-market and early sales efforts at Filament, a startup focused on deploying secure wireless networks for connected physical assets. As an investor, Shilpi has also focused on hardware, mobility, energy, IoT, and robotics, having worked previously for VTF Capital, First Round Capital, and Village Global.

Jenny Rooke is the founder and managing director of Genoa Ventures, but Rooke has been deploying capital into innovative life sciences opportunities for years, including at Fidelity Biosciences and later the Gates Foundation, where she helped managed more than $250 million in funding, funneling some of that capital into genetic engineering, diagnostics, and synthetic biology startups. Rooke began independently investing under the brand 5 Prime Ventures, ultimately establishing among the largest life sciences syndicates on AngelList before launching Genoa.

Last but not least, Albert Wenger, has been a managing partner at Union Square Ventures for more than 13 years. Before joining USV, Albert was the president of del.icio.us through the company’s sale to Yahoo and an angel investor, including writing early checks to Etsy and Tumblr. He previously founded or co-founded several companies, including a management consulting firm and an early hosted data analytics company. Among his investments today is goTenna, a company trying to advance universal access to connectivity by building a scalable mobile mesh network.

Sustainability is the key to our planet’s future and our survival, but it’s also going to be incredibly lucrative and a major piece of our world economy. Hear from these seasoned investors about how VCs and startups alike are thinking about Greentech and how that will evolve in the coming years.

Join us on July 22 to find out how the most innovative startups are working to solve some of the world’s biggest problems. And best of all, tickets are free — book yours today!

#albert-wenger, #angel-investor, #angellist, #energy, #etsy, #fidelity-biosciences, #filament, #finance, #first-round-capital, #gates-foundation, #genetic-engineering, #gotenna, #investment, #managing-partner, #money, #president, #prime-ventures, #startup-company, #tc, #techcrunch, #tumblr, #union-square-ventures, #united-nations, #village-global, #yahoo

U.K. Will Stop Using Coal Power in Just Three Years

A decade ago, 40 percent of the country’s electricity was generated with coal

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#energy, #sustainability

New Jersey approves two 1 Gigawatt+ offshore wind projects

Image of massive concrete cones and cranes.

Enlarge / New Jersey hopes to be the home of scenes like this, where French workers are building the foundations for offshore wind turbines. (credit: Bloomberg/Getty Images)

By the end of the decade, New Jersey’s beaches are set to have a view of something other than crashing waves. The state is pushing for aggressive development of offshore wind, having already approved a 1.1 GW wind farm. Yesterday, the state more than doubled its planned projects, reaching agreements that will let two additional 1 GW+ wind farms go into the waters off the southern portion of the state.

Perhaps as significant in the long run, both projects include an agreement that will see critical components of the wind farm assembled in a New Jersey port that the state is promoting as a hub for future offshore wind developments.

A multinational effort

The earlier agreement New Jersey put into place was for a project called Ocean Wind, a joint project between the state’s major utility, PSE&G, and the Danish energy developer Ørsted, a major player in offshore wind. One of the projects approved yesterday is Ocean Wind II, which plans for another 1.1 GW of capacity supplied by using GE’s Halide X turbines. These projects will be sited to the east of Cape May, the southernmost part of the state.

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#energy, #green, #new-jersey, #offshore-wind, #renewable-energy, #science, #wind-power

Germany’s icon group VC bets $30M to back startups enabling traditional companies to pivot

Icon group is a new $30M VC fund being launched out of Germany’s iconmobile group, a WPP network agency. This means a reorganization of the company from a full-service innovation agency into also offering VC backing.

iconmobile has garnered a reputation as an innovative technology, design, and sustainability agency, but the turnaround means it will now, instead, back tech startups that enable traditional companies to “reinvent their business models and the way they reach their consumers.”

The icon ventures VC fund will be accompanied by new company arm: ‘icon impact’, the continuation of iconmobile’s well-established product and experience innovation arm.

Previous iconmobile properties now fall under the icon ventures umbrella include:

• D[AI]TA, a white label sustainable laundry system that filters microplastic fibers via smart washing machines, reduces chemical contaminants, and uses ‘smart grid’ washing to save energy. It also tracks what items have been washed, and worn, and sends that data to retailers.

• banbutsu, that does sustainable last-mile fulfillment

• icon incar a mobility experience company

Thomas Fellger, Founder of icon group said: “Whether it’s creating the first connected toothbrush for Oral-B or UX/UI design for the world’s leading automotive brands, icon group works to bring innovation from idea to scale…. Now, with the inclusion of a venture fund, we can create the things we believe in without waiting for permission or additional budget allocations by investing in opportunities where we have deep knowledge and proven impact, something that sets us apart from the big five firms.”

Speaking to me over a call he added: “We are more capable than most companies to convert our knowledge of R&D into a fast business opportunity. For example, we found an infrared sensor, which can be used to measure air quality in Egypt. Because we knew we needed that kind of quality of air data, we were able to create a whole new product. And that’s what we will be good at – connecting the dots of different products services across industries to create for that industry, a new way of looking at their business by changing the business model, or even extending the services which they couldn’t do before.”

#articles, #brand, #design, #economy, #egypt, #energy, #europe, #finance, #germany, #icon, #icon-ventures, #innovation, #product-management, #tc, #tech-startups, #venture-capital, #wpp

Hybrid Energy Production Gets A Serious Look

Engineers study solar and wind at the same power plant, nuclear reactors that also make hydrogen

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#climate, #energy, #environment, #sustainability

GM Bets Big on Electric Vehicles

The automaker will spend $35 billion through 2025 on batteries, cars, even trains

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#automotive, #energy, #sustainability, #tech

Nuclear waste recycling is a critical avenue of energy innovation

No single question bedevils American energy and environmental policy more than nuclear waste. No, not even a changing climate, which may be a wicked problem but nonetheless receives a great deal of counter-bedeviling attention.

It’s difficult to paint the picture with a straight face. Let’s start with three main elements of the story.

First, nuclear power plants in the United States generate about 2,000 metric tons of nuclear waste (or “spent fuel”) per year. Due to its inherent radioactivity, it is carefully stored at various sites around the country.

Second, the federal government is in charge of figuring out what to do with it. In fact, power plant operators have paid over $40 billion into the Nuclear Waste Fund so that the government can handle it. The idea was to bury it in the “deep geological repository” embodied by Yucca Mountain, Nevada, but this has proved politically impossible. Nevertheless, $15 billion was spent on the scoping.

Third, due to the Energy Department’s inability to manage this waste, it simply accumulates. According to that agency’s most recent data release, some 80,000 metric tons of spent fuel—hundreds of thousands of fuel assemblies containing millions of fuel rods—is waiting for a final destination.

And here’s the twist ending: those nuclear plant operators sued the government for breach of contract and, in 2013, they won. Several hundred million dollars is now paid out to them each year by the U.S. Treasury, as part of a series of settlements and judgments. The running total is over $8 billion.

I realize this story sounds a little crazy. Am I really saying that the U.S. government collected billions of dollars to manage nuclear waste, then spent billions of dollars on a feasibility study only to stick it on the shelf, and now is paying even more billions of dollars for this failure? Yes, I am.

Fortunately, all of the aggregated waste occupies a relatively small area and temporary storage exists. Without an urgent reason to act, policymakers generally will not.

While attempts to find long-term storage will continue, policymakers should look towards recycling some of this “waste” into usable fuel. This is actually an old idea. Only a small fraction of nuclear fuel is consumed to generate electricity.

Proponents of recycling envision reactors that use “reprocessed” spent fuel, extracting energy from the 90% of it leftover after burn-up. Even its critics admit that the underlying chemistry, physics, and engineering of recycling are technically feasible, and instead assail the disputable economics and perceived security risks.

So-called Generation IV reactors come in all shapes and sizes. The designs have been around for years—in some respects, all the way back to the dawn of nuclear energy—but light-water reactors have dominated the field for a variety of political, economic, and strategic reasons. For example, Southern Company’s twin conventional pressurized water reactors under construction in Georgia each boast a capacity of just over 1,000-megawatt (or 1 gigawatt), standard for Westinghouse’s AP 1000 design.

In contrast, next-generation plant designs are a fraction of the size and capacity, and also may use different cooling systems: Oregon-based NuScale Power’s 77-megawatt small modular reactor, San Diego-based General Atomics’ 50-megawatt helium-cooled fast modular reactor, Alameda-based Kairos Power’s 140-megawatt molten fluoride salt reactor, and so on all have different configurations that can fit different business and policy objectives.

Many Gen-IV designs can either explicitly recycle used fuel or be configured to do so. On June 3, TerraPower (backed by Bill Gates), GE Hitachi, and the State of Wyoming announced an agreement to build a demonstration of the 345-megawatt Natrium design, a sodium-cooled fast reactor.

Natrium is technically capable of recycling fuel for generation. California-based Oklo has already reached an agreement with Idaho National Laboratory to operate its 1.5-megawatt “microreactor” off of used-fuel supplies. In fact, the self-professed “preferred fuel” for New York-based Elysium Industries’ molten salt reactor design is spent nuclear fuel and Alabama-based Flibe Energy advertises the waste-burning capability of its thorium reactor design.

Whether advanced reactors rise or fall does not depend on resolving the nuclear waste deadlock. Though such reactors may be able to consume spent fuel, they don’t necessarily have to. Nonetheless, incentivizing waste recycling would improve their economics.

“Incentivize” here is code for “pay.” Policymakers should consider ways that Washington can make it more profitable for a power plant to recycle fuel than to import it—from Canada, Kazakhstan, Australia, Russia, and other countries.

Political support for advanced nuclear technology, including recycling, is deeper than might be expected. In 2019, the Senate confirmed Dr. Rita Baranwal as the Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy at the Department of Energy (DOE). A materials scientist by training, she emerged as a champion of recycling.

The new Biden administration has continued broadly bipartisan support for advanced nuclear reactors in proposing in its Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Request to increase funding for the DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy by nearly $350 million. The proposal includes specific funding increases for researching and developing reactor concepts (plus $32 million), fuel cycle R&D (plus $59 million), and advanced reactor demonstration (plus $120 million), and tripling funding for the Versatile Test Reactor (from $45 million to $145 million, year over year).

In May, the DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) announced a new $40 million program to support research in “optimizing” waste and disposal from advanced reactors, including through waste recycling. Importantly, the announcement explicitly states that the lack of a solution to nuclear waste today “poses a challenge” to the future of Gen-IV reactors.

The debate is a reminder that recycling in general is a very messy process. It is chemical-, machine-, and energy-intensive. Recycling of all kinds, from critical minerals to plastic bottles, produces new waste, too. Today, federal and state governments are quite active in recycling these other waste streams, and they should be equally involved in nuclear waste.

#column, #energy, #greentech, #opinion, #terrapower

What SOSV’s Climate Tech 100 tells founders about investors in the space

On Earth Day, April 22, SOSV published the SOSV Climate Tech 100, a list of the best startups that we’ve supported from their earliest stages to address climate change. There are always valuable insights embedded in a list like the 100. A TechCrunch story captured the investment perspective, and an SOSV post went deeper into the companies’ category breakdown and founder profiles.

But what can founders learn from the list about climate tech investors? In other words, who invested in the Climate Tech 100? We dug into the “who’s who” of the list, which had more than 500 investors, and here’s what we found.

An active but fragmented landscape

If you think 500 investors in 100 companies is a lot of investors, you’re right. There are clearly a lot of investors interested in climate tech, and most are generalists just testing the waters. For the Climate Tech 100, about 10% of investors put their money in more than one startup and only seven (less than 2%) wrote a check to four or more. These included Blue Horizon, CPT Capital, EF, Fifty Years, Hemisphere Ventures and Horizons Ventures.

That pattern tracks well with data from PwC, which found that 2,700 unique investors had backed 1,200 startups in its State of Climate Tech 2020 report covering the 2013-2019 period. The report found that only 10 firms out of 2,700 made four or more climate tech deals per year, on average, over the 2013-2019 period. The most active firms are listed in the table below.

Most active investors in SOSV Climate Tech 100

Image Credits: PwC, 2020; additional research by SOSV

Capital deployed in climate tech grew at five times the venture capital overall growth rate over the 2013-2019 period.

There is reason to believe that the fragmentation will diminish with the launch of more funds focused on climate tech. Four funds worth more than a billion dollars each have launched since 2020 that fit the description (see chart below).

It’s also encouraging to see that capital deployed in climate tech grew at five times the venture capital overall growth rate over the 2013-2019 period.

Even so, climate tech still only represented 6% of total venture capital deployed in 2019, so there is plenty of room to grow.

#column,