Solar Power Could Boom in 2022, Depending on Supply Chains

Shipping delays and rising a equipment costs could hamper installations

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#environment, #renewable-energy

Possible Demise of Build Back Better Act Threatens U.S. Climate Commitments

Without legislation, the Biden administration will have to rely on executive action to slash carbon emissions

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#climate-change, #environment, #renewable-energy

CA Law Aims to Turn Food Waste into Renewable Energy

The program will be the nation’s largest attempt to reduce methane emissions from rotting food in landfills

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#environment, #renewable-energy

Chip Shortage Threatens Biden’s Electric Vehicle Plans, Commerce Secretary Says

The administration hopes to gain support for a bill to domestic semiconductor manufacturing

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#environment, #renewable-energy, #transportation

U.S. Looks to Extract Lithium for Batteries from Geothermal Waste

The global demand for the element could grow tenfold by 2030

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#environment, #renewable-energy

Build Back Better’s Big Challenge: Human Behavior

Household energy programs will need to influence how people use energy

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#environment, #renewable-energy

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

Congress Eyes $235 Billion in Clean Energy Subsidies

Incentives cover established sectors such as wind and solar as well as emerging technology, such as green hydrogen

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#environment, #renewable-energy

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

World Waits for Specifics on U.S. Climate Plan

In the run-up to major international climate negotiations, the fate of the Biden administration’s climate plans is uncertain

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#climate-change, #environment, #renewable-energy

How to Build an Offshore Wind Farm

These huge construction projects can feature turbines taller than some skyscrapers

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#environment, #renewable-energy

New Digital Tool Tracks Impacts of Offshore Wind on Marine Life

An environmental non-profit hopes to support development of wind power while protecting whales and fish

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#conservation, #environment, #renewable-energy

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

EnerVenue raises $100M to accelerate clean energy using nickel-hydrogen batteries

In order to support a buildout of renewable energy, which tends to over-generate electricity at certain times of day and under-generate at others, the grid is going to need a lot of batteries. While lithium-ion works fine for consumer electronics and even electric vehicles, battery startup EnerVenue says it developed a breakthrough technology to revolutionize stationary energy storage.

The technology itself – nickel-hydrogen batteries – isn’t actually new. In fact, it’s been used for decades in aerospace applications, to power everything from satellites to the International Space Station and the Hubble Telescope. Nickel-hydrogen had been too expensive to scale for terrestrial applications, until Stanford University professor (and now EnerVenue chairman) Yi Cui determined a way to adapt the materials and bring the costs way, way down.

Nickel-hydrogen has a number of key benefits over lithium-ion, according to EnerVenue: it can withstand super-high and super-low temperatures (so no need for air conditioners or thermal management systems); it requires very little to no maintenance; and it has a far longer lifespan.

The technology has caught the eye of two giants in the oil and gas industry, energy infrastructure company Schlumberger and Saudi Aramco’s VC arm, who together with Stanford University have raised $100 million in Series A funding. The investment comes around a year after EnerVenue raised a $12 million seed. The company is planning on using the funds to scale its nickel-hydrogen battery production, including a Gigafactory in the U.S., and has entered a manufacturing and distribution agreement with Schlumberger for international markets.

“I spent almost three and a half years prior to EnerVenue looking for a battery storage technology that I thought could compete with lithium-ion,” CEO Jorg Heinemann told TechCrunch in a recent interview. “I had essentially given up.” Then he met with Cui, who had managed through his research to bring the cost down from around $20,000 per kilowatt hour to $100 per kilowatt hour within line of sight – a jaw-dropping decrease that puts it on-par with existing energy storage technology today.

EnerVenue CEO Jorg Heinemann Image Credits: EnerVenue (opens in a new window)

Think of a nickel-hydrogen battery as a kind of battery-fuel cell hybrid. It charges by building up hydrogen inside a pressure vessel, and when it discharges, that hydrogen gets reabsorbed in water, Heinemann explained. One of the key differences between the batteries in space and the one’s EnerVenue is developing on Earth is the materials. The nickel-hydrogen batteries in orbit use a platinum electrode, which Heinemann said accounts for as much as 70% of the cost of the battery. The legacy technology also uses a ceramic separator, another high cost. EnerVenue’s key innovation is finding new, low-cost and Earth-abundant materials (though the exact materials they aren’t sharing).

Heinemann also hinted that an advanced team within the company is working on a separate technology breakthrough that could bring the cost down even further, to the range of around $30 per kilowatt hour or less.

Those aren’t the only benefits. EnerVenue’s batteries can charge and discharge at different speeds depending on a customer’s needs. It can go from a 10-minute charge or discharge to as slow as a 10-20 hour charge-discharge cycle, though the company is optimizing for a roughly 2 hour charge and 4-8 hour discharge. EnerVenue’s batteries are also designed for 30,000 cycles without experiencing a decline in performance.

“As renewables get cheaper and cheaper, there’s lots of time of the day where you’ve got, say, a 1-4-hour window of close to free power that can be used to charge something, and then it has to be dispatched fast or slow depending on when the grid needs it,” he said. “And our battery does that really well.”

It’s notable that this round was funded by two companies that loom large in the oil and gas industry. “I think it’s nearly 100% of the oil and gas industry is now pivoting to renewables in a huge way,” Heinemann added. “They all see the future as, the energy mix is shifting. We’re going to be 75% renewable by mid-century, most think it’s going to happen quicker, and those are based on studies that the oil and gas industry did. They see that and they know they need a new play.”

Image Credits: EnerVenue

Don’t expect nickel-hydrogen to start appearing in your iPhone anytime soon. The technology is big and heavy – even scaled down as much as possible, a nickel-hydrogen battery is still around the size of a two-liter water flask, so lithium-ion will definitely still play a major role in the future.

Stationary energy storage may have a different future. EnerVenue is currently in “late-stage” discussions on the site and partner for a United States factory to produce up to one gigawatt-hour of batteries annually, with the goal of eventually scaling even beyond that. Heinemann estimates that the tooling cap-ex per megawatt hour should be just 20% that of lithium ion. Under the partnership with Schlumberger, the infrastructure company will also be separately manufacturing batteries and selling them in Europe and the Middle East.

“It’s a technology that works today,” Heinemann said. “We’re not waiting on a technology breakthrough, there’s no science project in our future that we have to go achieve in order to prove out something. We know it works.”

#batteries, #cleantech, #energy-storage, #enervenue, #funding, #greentech, #recent-funding, #renewable-energy, #startups, #storage, #tc

Contest Challenges Inventors to Harness Wave Power to Desalinate Seawater

The Department of Energy wants devices that could be deployed to disaster areas that have lost electricity

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#environment, #oceans, #renewable-energy

Kevala raises $21M to improve tools for managing energy grid infrastructure

Kevala, the startup that collects and analyzes energy grid infrastructure data for utility companies, renewable energy providers, EV charging companies, regulators and other energy industry stakeholders, has raised $21 million in a Series A round.

The company says it will use the funds to grow its team from 60 employees to around 100 by the end of 2021 and increase the deployment of its grid analytics tools. 

Kevala’s Assessor Platform, its interactive cloud-based grid analytics toolbox, allows a range of energy industry stakeholders to leverage massive quantities of data the company has collected from public sources, as well as from its clients, in order to predict and plan for things like “extreme weather events, renewable energy adoption and increasing demand from vehicle, building and industry electrification,” according to a statement released by the company. 

Today, there is a greater range of energy sources and receptors than ever before. There’s also more extreme weather conditions, with the latest power outages in New Orleans due to Hurricane Ida being a prime example of ways the current grid system falls short. Visualization software that uses AI to cross reference not only demand on the grid but also other relevant information, like demographics of a specific location, maps of electrical wires and locations of solar panels, is going to be essential for managing it all. Google’s moonshot arm, X, is starting to move into this space via a recent partnership with AES, an electricity distributor. The two will work together to simulate and virtualize AES’s distribution grids in Indiana and Ohio. While Google has big business muscle behind it, Kevala has been working in this space since 2014 and is potentially poised to become an industry leader. 

“Kevala has first mover advantage in providing comprehensive big data analytics on grid infrastructure,” said Zulfe Ali, managing partner at C5 Capital, in a statement. C5 Capital’s fund focused on data-driven technologies transforming critical infrastructure, C5 Impact Partners LP, led the Series A round alongside Thin Line Capital. Senior energy sector executives Tom Werner, current chairman and former CEO of SunPower Corp., and Mark Ferron, former California Public Utilities Commissioner, also participated in the round.

“We’re incredibly excited to partner with the company as it expands into new markets such as cybersecurity and national security, as well as new geographies outside of the United States,” continued Ali. 

Kevala already has nearly the entire country mapped in terms of above-ground distribution infrastructure, and is working on expanding its coverage internationally. The company’s data set, which Kevala founder and CEO Aram Shumavon says is in the terabytes range, is largely sourced from publicly available data. That can mean data that’s observable from satellite imagery or found in building permits that allow the company to see things like where wind turbines are located or where rooftop photovoltaic (PV), or solar powered, systems are. 

“We can take all the houses in a localized area, check it against the weather, and see what the energy consumption will be, what do we think the PV production would be for all of the PVs on those rooftops, and you can start to see how investments in different technologies will affect the overall loading and utilization of the grid and begin to better understand how resources could be utilized to drive cost savings, or alternatively, might increase the cost of that infrastructure as a whole,” Shumavon told TechCrunch.

During a walkthrough of Kevala’s dashboard, Shumavon explained how energy industry stakeholders might be able to, say, predict which neighborhood might see an increase in EV ownership based on household income and other demographics data. From there, visualizing the ratio of electricity to rooftop PVs to other renewable energy is helpful in predicting power usage, but Shumavon took it a step further by playing out a scenario of placing a battery in that location. 

“Could I reduce the cost of the grid in this area by limiting the need for building out new infrastructure in the form of wires, and instead shifting that load to another period of time?” said Shumavon. “And that savings can be also calculated for any investment that might be able to provide a similar service, whether it’s a battery or an investment in an energy efficiency measure, or potentially a rooftop PV system or a demand response program where you agree to not charge your car during peak hours.”

That’s just one example of the types of analyses Kevala is performing everyday. The startup also hopes to increase its cybersecurity services to help protect grid infrastructure. Shumavon said one area Kevala is particularly interested in is third-party devices that have the ability to be compromised and potentially used to destabilize the grid. For example, someone with malicious intent might hack into thousands of IoT-connected washing machines and suddenly turn on all of the heating coils in the machine, creating a drastically increased load that can affect both the supply and demand of electricity.

Monitoring a situation like this is usually outside the control of traditional utility control systems, but Shumavon says through overseeing energy use data, Kevala is able to observe anomalies and mitigate them when they happen, as well as plan for attacks on the horizon so stakeholders are ready with an appropriate response. Kevala is also focusing on data privacy.

“We’re seeing increasingly large amounts of information about end-use customers become potentially available when they use electricity and how advanced metering infrastructure, like smart meters, can contain very detailed information about when people consume electricity and how much,” said Shumavon. “Being able to make sure if those data need to be used by third parties that they’re not revealing information that would be considered personally identifiable is another area where we provide service, which is a strong corollary to cybersecurity work. We really see cybersecurity and privacy as two sides of the same coin.”

#c5-impact-partners, #ev-charging, #funding, #kevala, #recent-funding, #renewable-energy, #startups, #thin-line-capital, #transportation

Hydropower Withers in Drought, Boosting Fossil-Fuel Generation

The irony reveals the need for a greater mix of renewable energy sources

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#environment, #fossil-fuels, #renewable-energy

Bedrock modernizes seafloor mapping with autonomous sub and cloud-based data

The push for renewable energy has brought offshore wind power to the forefront of many an energy company’s agenda, and that means taking a very close look at the ocean floor where the installations are to go. Fortunately Bedrock is here to drag that mapping process into the 21st century with its autonomous underwater vehicle and modern cloud-based data service.

The company aims to replace the standard “big ship with a big sonar” approach with a faster, smarter, more modern service, letting companies spin up regular super-accurate seafloor imagery as easily as they might spin up a few servers to host their website.

“We believe we’re the first cloud-native platform for seafloor data,” said Anthony DiMare, CEO and cofounder (with CTO Charlie Chiau) of Bedrock. “This is a big data problem — how would you design the systems to support that solution? We make it a modern data service, instead of like a huge marine operation — you’re not tied to this massive piece of infrastructure floating in the water. Everything from the way we move sonars around the ocean to the way we deliver the data to engineers has been rethought.”

The product Bedrock provides customers is high-resolution maps of the seafloor, made available via Mosaic, a familiar web service that does all the analysis and hosting for you — a big step forward for an industry where “data migration” still means “shipping a box of hard drives.”

Normally, DiMare explained, this data was collected, processed, and stored on the ships themselves. Since they were designed to do everything from harbor inspections to deep sea surveys, they couldn’t count on having a decent internet connection, and the data is useless in its raw form. Like any other bulky data, it needs to be visualized and put in context.

Example of data in the Mosaic system from Bedrock, showing a map and trails of data points.

Image Credits: Bedrock

“These datasets are extremely large, tens of terabytes in size,” said DiMare. “Typical cloud systems aren’t the best way to manage 20,000 sonar files.”

The current market is more focused on detailed, near-shore data than the deep sea, since there’s a crush to take part in the growing wind energy market. This means that data is collected much closer to ordinary internet infrastructure and can be handed off for cloud-based processing and storage more easily than before. That in turn means the data can be processed and provided faster, just in time for demand to take off.

As DiMare explained, while there may have been a seafloor survey done in the last couple decades of a potential installation site, that’s only the first step. An initial mapping pass might have be made to confirm the years-old maps and add detail, then another for permitting, for environmental assessments, engineering, construction, and regular inspections. If this could be done with a turnkey automated process that produced even better results than crewed ships for less money, it’s a huge win for customers relying on old methods. And if the industry grows as expected to require more active monitoring of the seafloor along every U.S. coast, it’s a win for Bedrock as well, naturally.

CG render of the AUV.

Image Credits: Bedrock

To make this all happen, of course, you need a craft that can collect the data in the first place. “The AUV is a piece of technology we built solely to enable a data product,” said DiMare, but noted that, originally, “we didn’t want to do this.”

“We started to spec out what it looked like to use an off the shelf system,” he explained. “But if you want to build a hyper-scalable, very efficient system to get the best cost per square meter, you need a very specific set of features, certain sonars, the compute stack… by the time we listed all those we basically had a self-designed system. It’s faster, it’s more operationally flexible, you get better data quality, and you can do it more reliably.”

And amazingly, it doesn’t even need a boat — you can grab it from the back of a van and launch it from a pier or beach.

“From the very beginning one of the restrictions we put on ourselves was ‘no boats.’ And we need to be able to fly with this thing. That totally changed our approach,” said DiMare.

View of the AUV on a beach

Image Credits: Bedrock

The AUV packs a lot into a small package, and while the sensor loadout is variable depending on the job, one aspect that defines the craft is its high-frequency sonar.

Sonars operate in a wide range of frequencies, from the hundreds to the hundreds of thousands of hertz. Unfortunately that means that ocean-dwelling creatures, many of which can hear in that range, are inundated with background noise, sometimes to the point where it’s harmful or deters them from entering an area. Sonar operating about 200 kHz is safe for animals, but the high frequency means the signal attenuates more quickly, reducing the range to 50-75 meters.

That’s obviously worthless for a ship floating on the surface — much of what it needs to map is more than 75 meters deep. But if you could make a craft that always stayed within 50 meters of the seabed, it’s full of benefits. And that’s exactly what Bedrock’s AUV is designed to do.

The increased frequency of the sonar also means increased detail, so the picture its instruments paint is better than what you’d get with a larger wave. And because it’s safe to use around animals, you can skip the (very necessary but time-consuming) red tape at wildlife authorities. Better, faster, cheaper, and safer is a hell of a pitch.

Today marks the official launch of Mosaic, and to promote adoption Bedrock is offering 50 gigs of free storage — of any kind of compatible map data, since the platform is format-agnostic.

There’s a ton of data out there that’s technically “public” but is nevertheless very difficult to find and use. It may be a low-detail survey from two decades ago, or a hyper-specific scan of an area investigated by a research group, but if it were all in one place it would probably be a lot more useful, DiMare said.

“Ultimately we want to get where we can do the whole ocean on a yearly basis,” he concluded. “So we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

#autonomous-vehicles, #bedrock, #drones, #funding, #fundings-exits, #gadgets, #hardware, #ocean, #renewable-energy, #robotics, #robots, #startups, #submarines, #submersibles, #tc, #underwater-drone

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

IKEA will sell clean energy to Swedish homes

IKEA won’t just sell you smart lights — it’ll soon sell you the electricity to power those lights, provided you live in the right country. Electrek notes that IKEA has revealed plans to sell clean energy to Swedish homes through a Strömma subscription service. Pay the (as yet unmentioned) fee and you’ll get certified solar- or wind-generated electricity with usage you can track through a mobile app.

The home furnishings giant didn’t say whether it would expand the clean energy sales to other countries, although it hoped to let people “use and generate” renewable energy in “all our Ingka Group markets” by 2025. The company already sells solar panels.

The retailer is no stranger to eco-friendly efforts. It stopped selling non-LED lights and will soon drop non-rechargeable alkaline batteries. It’s even planning to turn a Swedish city into a sustainable community. And there’s little doubt this will help burnish IKEA’s public image. It can address concerns about the chain’s environmental impact by serving as a clean energy source.

It’s still a significant move, though, and we wouldn’t be surprised if other larger stores followed suit. It’s not just a feel-good effort that could reduce emissions — sales of excess clean energy could recoup costs and boost profits.

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

#column, #green-energy, #ikea, #renewable-energy, #solar-power, #tc, #tceng, #wind-power

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

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

Supercritical launches carbon removal offset marketplace for tech firms reach NetZero

It’s a little known fact that the carbon footprint of the technology sector is great than the entire aviation industry (Aalto University and LUT University). At the same time, tech companies (like many others) are generally attracted to carbon offsetting schemes which don’t actually remove carbon from the environment and are often riddled with flaws.

Only carbon removal offsets contribute towards net-zero because they actively take carbon out of the sky. And yet, so far there are very few schemes making carbon removal a focus, largely because only the biggest companies are able to play in this space, partly due to cost and the nascent nature of the technology.

This is where new startup Supercritical comes in.

The startup says its platform can help businesses get to net-zero by measuring their climate impact and selling high-impact carbon removal offsets.

It’s now raised a £2m / $2.7m in a pre-seed funding led by London’s LocalGlobe venture firm. The raise is also significant because the team was that which took Songkick to exit.

Supercritical says its platform assesses a company’s carbon impact, creates an actionable plan for reducing their emissions, and recommends a portfolio of high-quality carbon removal offsets for companies to purchase. It will effectively be building a marketplace of carbon removal projects such as enhanced weathering, bio-oil sequestration, and direct air capture.

Right now these technologies tend to be costly as many are so early in development, but the opportunity is for Supercritical to become a market-maker for these emerging solutions, aggregating demand to help them scale and innovate faster.

The startup already has clients including accuRx, Tide and what3words are already customers. Supercritical is also a member of the TechZero task force, a group of UK tech companies claiming to work toward NetZero Carbon impact.

Supercritical CEO and co-founder, Michelle You, said: “Businesses are rightly suspicious of traditional carbon offsetting options, which do nothing at best and at worst are outright fraud, but most companies lack the time and the expertise to find an adequate alternative. Our mission is to make it possible for any business to start the journey to net zero. Climate action can’t just be the reserve of the world’s biggest companies, and this is a crisis that can’t wait.”

Remus Brett, who led the investment from LocalGlobe, said: “Supercritical is providing a service that is as timely as it is essential. With COP26 approaching, the question of how businesses can meaningfully address their climate impact is a critical CEO issue. We are excited to be backing the exceptional team at Supercritical as they scale the only platform that helps companies focus their efforts on carbon removal rather than offsets.”

The startup is pushing at an open door. To keep warming below 1.5°C – one of the key goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement – at least 8 billion tonnes – of carbon needs to be removed from the atmosphere every year, so the voluntary carbon offset market is set to be worth at least $100bn by 2030, and that’s inside nine years.

#air-pollution, #articles, #carbon-dioxide, #carbon-footprint, #carbon-offset, #europe, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #greenhouse-gases, #london, #renewable-energy, #songkick, #tc, #united-kingdom

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

Infrastructure Deal Whittles Down Climate Spending

The bipartisan legislation includes less funding for public transit and electric vehicles

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#climate-change, #environment, #renewable-energy

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

The case for funding fusion

Digital technologies have disrupted the structure of markets with unprecedented breadth and scale. Today, there is yet another wave of innovation emerging, and that is the decarbonization of the global economy.

While governments still lack the conviction necessary to truly fight the climate crisis, the overall direction is clear. The carbon price in Europe rose from below $10 to over $50 per ton. Shell was handed a resounding defeat by a Dutch court. The major blackout in Texas at the beginning of the year revealed the fragility of the existing energy supply even in a highly industrialized country. We must urgently invest more into developing and deploying reliable, clean electricity generation technologies to make decarbonization a reality.

Forward-thinking investors understand this. Global investment in low-carbon technologies climbed to $500 billion in 2020, according to Bloomberg. Renewable energy accounted for around $300 billion of that, followed by electrification of transport ($140 billion) and heating ($50 billion).

However, we remain far from the finish line. According to the International Energy Agency, global emissions of CO2 this year are set to jump 1.5 billion tons over 2020 levels. And more than 80% of global energy consumption is still made up of coal, oil and gas.

Fusion, the process that powers the stars, could be the cleanest energy source for humanity.

That’s why we need to continue backing new technologies with breakthrough potential. Of particular promise is nuclear fusion. Fusion, the process that powers the stars, could be the cleanest energy source for humanity. We are already indirectly harvesting the power of fusion through solar energy. Being able to build fusion reactors would give us an “always on” version, independent of weather conditions.

But why fund fusion at all, given that we don’t yet know how to do it? First, this isn’t an either-or proposition. We can afford to build out renewable energy and investigate new forms of energy production at the same time because the latter — at least at this early stage of development — will require a comparatively trivial amount of money. The U.S. government’s latest plan is to spend $174 billion over 10 years on the electrification of car transport alone, so to invest $2 billion to create a fusion power plant seems doable.

Second, we are about to need a lot more electricity than we ever have. The global demand for carbon-free energy sources is set to triple by 2050, driven by increasing urbanization, the electrification of industrial processes, the loss of biodiversity and the increase in energy consumption in emerging markets.

Third, there’s been tremendous progress in the necessary supporting technologies. Superconducting magnets for the magnetic-confinement approach to fusion have become much cheaper, lasers for inertial confinement fusion have become much more powerful, and breakthroughs in material science have made nanostructured targets available, which enable the use of completely new approaches to fusion, such as the low-neutronic fuel pB11.

Thankfully, there is a growing number of entrepreneurial efforts from world-class teams to try and build fusion. At least 25 startups around the world are targeting fusion right now, approaching the problem with a wide range of technologies. The amount invested in private fusion companies across the world increased tenfold to almost $1 billion in 2020, according to Crunchbase.

The upside of successful fusion is nearly unlimited. The clean energy generation market represents a trillion-dollar opportunity. An estimated 26 TW of primary energy capacity needs to be built globally from 2030 to 2050 to serve the rising global energy needs, according to Materials Research Society. Just 1 TW of capacity will generate $300 billion in revenue, and a 15% market share from 2030 to 2050 would yield more than $1 trillion in annual revenue.

We need many shots on goal here, which is why Susan Danziger and I have personally invested in three different fusion startups already (Zap Energy and Avalanche in the United States and Marvel Fusion in Germany).

But it is not primarily the potential for financial upside that motivates us: There is an opportunity to make an indelible difference in the trajectory of human history. If even a small fraction of the large wealth accumulated by entrepreneurs and investors in the last couple of decades is invested here, the likelihood of successful fusion rises dramatically. That, in turn, will unlock much more investment from both venture funds and governments.

Now is the time to go all-in on decarbonization. Funding fusion with its breakthrough potential must be part of that effort.

#column, #energy-consumption, #europe, #fusion-power, #greentech, #opinion, #renewable-energy, #sustainable-energy, #tc

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.

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

After raising $10M, Ryte launches ‘Carbon KPI’ to measure the CO2 footprint of web sites

As we become more and more aware of the kind of impact we are having on this planet we call our home, just about everything is having its CO2 impact measured. Who knew, until recently, that streaming Netflix might have a measurable impact on the environment, for instance. But given vast swathes of the internet are populated by websites, as well as streaming services, then they, too, must have some sort of impact.

It transpires that a new service has identified how to gauge that, and now it’s raised venture capital to scale.

Ryte raised €8.5 million ($10 million) in a previously undisclosed round led by Bayern Kapital out of Munich and Octopus Investments out of London earlier this year for its Website User Experience Platform.

It has now launched the ‘Ryte Website Carbon KPI’, which claims to be able to help make 5% of all websites carbon neutral by 2023.

Ryte says it worked with data scientists and environmental experts to develop the ability to accurately measure the carbon impact of clients’ websites. According to carbon transition think tank, the Shift Project, the carbon footprint of our gadgets, the internet, and the systems supporting them account for about 3.7% of global greenhouse emissions. And this trend is rising rapidly as the world digitizes itself, especially post-pandemic.

Ryte has now engaged its data scientist, Katharina Meraner, who has a PhD in climate science and global warming, and input from Climate Partner, to launch this new service.

“There are currently 189 million active websites,” Ryte CEO Andy Bruckschloegl said. “Our goal is to make 5% of all active websites, or 9.5 million websites, climate neutral by the end of 2023 with the help of our platform, strong partners, social media activities, and much more. Time is ticking and making websites carbon neutral is really easy compared to other industries and processes.”

Ryte says it is also collaborating with a reforestation project in San Jose, Nicaragua, to allow its customers to offset their remaining emissions through the purchase of climate certificates.

Using a proprietary algorithm, Ryte says it measures the code of the entire website, average page size, as well as monthly traffic by channel then produces a calculation of the amount of CO2 it uses up.

Admittedly there are similar services, but these are ad-hoc and not connected to a platform. A simple Google search will bring us sites like Websitecarbon, Ecosistant, and academic papers. But as far as I can tell, a startup like this hasn’t put this kind of service into their platform yet.

“Teaming up with Ryte will help raise awareness on how information technology contributes to climate change – while at the same time providing tools to make a difference. Ryte’s industry-leading carbon calculator enables thousands of website owners to understand their carbon footprint, to offset unavoidable carbon emissions and thus lay a basis for a comprehensive climate action strategy,” commented Tristan A. Foerster, Co-CEO ClimatePartner.

 

#carbon-dioxide, #carbon-footprint, #ceo, #chemistry, #co-ceo, #data-scientist, #europe, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #information-technology, #london, #munich, #netflix, #octopus-investments, #renewable-energy, #san-jose, #streaming-services, #tc

Here’s what’s on tap today at TC Sessions: Mobility 2021

It’s game day for mobility tech mavens around the world. Well, at least for the ones who made the savvy decision to attend TC Sessions: Mobility 2021. Are you ready for a day packed with potential, overflowing with opportunity and focused on the future of transportation? Yeah, you are, and so are we!

No FOMO zone: Did you wait until the last minute? We don’t judge — simply purchase a pass at the virtual door.

Let’s take a look at just some of the speakers, presentations and breakout sessions on tap today. We’re talking about leading visionaries, founders and makers of mobility tech. They just might have info you need to know, amirite? The times listed below are EDT, but the event agenda will automatically reflect your time zone,

Throughout the course of the day: Be sure to make time to meet, greet and network with the 28 early-stage startups exhibiting in our virtual expo area (seriously, they’re an impressive bunch). The platform lets exhibitors present live demos, host Q&As about their products or hold private 1:1 meetings. Go mining for opportunities!

2:05 pm – 2:15 pm

EV Founders in Focus: We sit down with Ben Schippers, co-founder and CEO of TezLab, an app that operates like a Fitbit for Tesla vehicles (and soon other EVs) and allows drivers to go deep into their driving data. The app also breaks down the exact types and percentages of fossil fuels and renewable energy coming from charging locations.

2:40 pm – 3:10 pm

Equity, Accessibility and Cities: Can mobility be accessible, equitable and remain profitable? We have brought together community organizer, transportation consultant and lawyer Tamika L. Butler; Remix by Via co-founder and CEO Tiffany Chu and Revel co-founder and CEO Frank Reig to discuss how (and if) shared mobility can provide equity in cities, while still remaining a viable and even profitable business. The trio will also dig into the challenges facing cities and how policy may affect startups.

3:10 pm – 3:40 pm

The Rise of Robotaxis in China: Silicon Valley has long been viewed as a hub for autonomous vehicle development. But another country is also leading the charge. Executives from three leading Chinese robotaxi companies (WeRide, AutoX and Momenta) — that also have operations in Europe or the U.S. — will join us to provide insight into the unique challenges of developing and deploying the technology in China and how it compares to other countries.

That’s just a tiny taste of what today has in store for you. Choosing which of the 20 presentations and breakout sessions to attend could be tough. The good news is that you can catch anything you missed — or want to review again — with video-on-demand.

TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 kicks off today — go drive this opportunity-packed day like you stole it.

#articles, #automation, #ben-schippers, #china, #europe, #fitbit, #frank-reig, #judge, #mining, #momenta, #renewable-energy, #robotaxi, #robotics, #science-and-technology, #tamika-l-butler, #tc, #tc-sessions-mobility-2021, #technology, #tezlab, #tiffany-chu, #united-states

Aurora Solar aims to power the growing solar industry with a $250M round C

Aurora Solar had one of those pitches that seemed obvious in retrospect. Instead of going to a house and measuring its roof manually for a solar panel installation, why not use aerial scans and imagery of the whole region? That smart play earned them a $20M A round, a $50M B round, and now only six months later a massive $250M C as they aim to become the software platform on which the coming solar power expansion will be run.

The idea is simple enough to explain, but difficult to pull off. There’s lots of data out there about the topography, physical and infrastructural, of most cities. Satellite imagery, aerial lidar scans, light and power lines and usage data, and of course where and how the sun hits a given location — this information is readily available. Aurora’s innovation wasn’t just using it, but assembling it into a cohesive system that’s simple and effective enough to be used widely by solar installers.

“Aurora’s core value proposition is the fact that you can do things remotely much faster and more accurately than could if you traveled to the site,” explained co-founder and CRO Sam Adeyemo.

Having developed algorithms that ingest the aforementioned data, the service they offer is a very quick turnaround on the tricky question of whether a solar installation makes sense for a potential customer, and if so what it might cost and look like, down to the size and angle of the panels.

An interface showing a solar roof design and power savings.

Image Credits: Aurora Solar

“It’s not uncommon for the acquisition cost for a customer to be thousands of dollars,” said Adeyemo’s co-founder, CEO Chris Hopper. That’s partly because every installation is custom. He estimated that half the price tag of any setup is “soft cost” — that is, over and above the actual price of the hardware.

“If the quote is for $30K, what actually goes on your roof might be $15K, the rest is overhead, design, acquisition cost, yada yada yada,” he explained. “That’s the next frontier to make solar cost-competitive, and that’s where Aurora comes in. Every time we shave a few dollars off the price of an installation, it opens it up for new consumers.”

The company doesn’t do its own lidar flights or solar installations, so the $250M in funding may strike some as rather high for a company making software. Though I did my best to tease out any secret skunkworks projects under way at Aurora, Adeyemo and Hopper patiently explained that enterprise-scale software isn’t cheap, and the funding is proportional to their ambitions.

“The amount we raised speaks to the opportunity ahead of us,” said Hopper. “There’s a lot more solar to put on roofs.”

Aurora has been used for evaluating about 5 million solar projects so far, about a fifth of which end up being built, Adeyemo estimated. And that’s just a fraction of a fraction. Solar makes up about two percent of the U.S.’s power infrastructure, right now, but that’s on track to increase by an order of magnitude in the next 20 years.

The new administration has thrown fuel on the fire of the industry’s optimism, and whether or not something like the Green New Deal comes to fruition, the fundamentally different approach to environmental and energy policy mean there are more eyeballs directed at clean energy and consequently a lot of checks being written.

Aurora Solar co-founders Samuel Adeyemo (left) and Chris Hopper (right).

Image Credits: Aurora Solar

“It counts for a lot. With heightened awareness about climate change there will be more interest in ways to mitigate it,” said Adeyemo. He gave the example of Texas, which after the recent storms and blackouts had more inquiries per capita than anywhere else in the country. Renewables may be a charged issue in some ways, but solar power is bipartisan and broadly popular across the political spectrum.

The $250M round, led by Coatue and with participation from previous investors ICONIQ, Energize Ventures, and Fifth Wall, allows the company to go both broad and deep with their product.

“Historically we’ve been more of a design solution; the next phase is to broaden that into a platform that covers more of the process of going solar,” said Hopper. “We don’t believe this is going to be a niche market — going from 2 to 20 percent and beyond, that’s a huge endeavor.”

The co-founders would not be more specific than that scaling a SaaS company requires significant cash up front, and during the push to come they can’t be worried about whether or when they’ll need to get more capital.

“The first five years of the company were quasi-bootstrapped… we’d raised like a million bucks. So we know what it’s like to grow a company from that perspective, and now we know what it’s like to really need the capital to scale the business,” said Adeyemo. “If you want to be the platform for a significant percentage of the energy capacity of the country… you gotta tool up.”

What exactly tooling up comprises we will soon find out — the company is planning to announce more news at its upcoming summit in June.

#aurora-solar, #funding, #fundings-exits, #greentech, #recent-funding, #renewable-energy, #solar, #solar-power, #startups, #tc

All fossil fuel exploration needs to end this year, IEA says

Silhouette Oil Pumps On Field Against Cloudy Sky During Sunset

Enlarge (credit: Jose Luis Stephens | Getty Images)

To limit global warming to 1.5˚C by the end of the century, the world has to deploy clean technologies en masse while slashing investment in new oil, gas, and coal supplies, according to a new report by the International Energy Agency.

Getting to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 will require a historic deployment of widespread renewable power, electric vehicles, and new technologies, many of which are only now in the prototype stage. To get a jump-start, we’ll need to double our investments in clean technologies to $4 trillion by the end of the decade.

“The pathway to net zero by 2050 is narrow but still achievable if governments act now,” IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said in a tweet. Most of the reductions in CO2 emissions through 2030 come from technologies already on the market. But in 2050, almost half come from technologies that, while known, are still in development now.

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#climate-change, #energy-transition, #fossil-fuels, #iea, #policy, #renewable-energy, #science

Crypto and blockchain must accept they have a problem, then lead in sustainability

As the price of bitcoin hits record highs and cryptocurrencies become increasingly mainstream, the industry’s expanding carbon footprint becomes harder to ignore.

Just last week, Elon Musk announced that Tesla is suspending vehicle purchases using bitcoin due to the environmental impact of fossil fuels used in bitcoin mining. We applaud this decision, and it brings to light the severity of the situation — the industry needs to address crypto sustainability now or risk hindering crypto innovation and progress.

The market cap of bitcoin today is a whopping $1 trillion. As companies like PayPal, Visa and Square collectively invest billions in crypto, market participants need to lead in dramatically reducing the industry’s collective environmental impact.

As the price of bitcoin hits record highs and cryptocurrencies become increasingly mainstream, the industry’s expanding carbon footprint becomes harder to ignore.

The increasing demand for crypto means intensifying competition and higher energy use among mining operators. For example, during the second half of February, we saw the electricity consumption of BTC increase by more than 163% — from 265 TWh to 433 TWh — as the price skyrocketed.

Sustainability has become a topic of concern on the agendas of global and local leaders. The Biden administration rejoining the Paris climate accord was the first indication of this, and recently we’ve seen several federal and state agencies make statements that show how much of a priority it will be to address the global climate crisis.

A proposed New York bill aims to prohibit crypto mining centers from operating until the state can assess their full environmental impact. Earlier this year, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission put out a call for public comment on climate disclosures as shareholders increasingly want information on what companies are doing in this regard, while Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned that the amount of energy consumed in processing bitcoin is “staggering.” The United Kingdom announced plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 68% by 2030, and the prime minister launched an ambitious plan last year for a green industrial revolution.

Crypto is here to stay — this point is no longer up for debate. It is creating real-world benefits for businesses and consumers alike — benefits like faster, more reliable and cheaper transactions with greater transparency than ever before. But as the industry matures, sustainability must be at the center. It’s easier to build a more sustainable ecosystem now than to “reverse engineer” it at a later growth stage. Those in the cryptocurrency markets should consider the auto industry a canary: Carmakers are now retrofitting lower-carbon and carbon-neutral solutions at great cost and inconvenience.

Market participants need to actively work together to realize a low-emissions future powered by clean, renewable energy. Last month, the Crypto Climate Accord (CCA) launched with over 40 supporters — including Ripple, World Economic Forum, Energy Web Foundation, Rocky Mountain Institute and ConsenSys — and the goal to enable all of the world’s blockchains to be powered by 100% renewables by 2025.

Some industry participants are exploring renewable energy solutions, but the larger industry still has a long way to go. While 76% of hashers claim they are using renewable energy to power their activities, only 39% of hashing’s total energy consumption comes from renewables.

To make a meaningful impact, the industry needs to come up with a standard that’s open and transparent to measure the use of renewables and make renewable energy accessible and cheap for miners. The CCA is already working on such a standard. In addition, companies can pay for high-quality carbon offsets for remaining emissions — and perhaps even historical ones.

While the industry works to become more sustainable long term, there are green choices that can be made now, and some industry players are jumping on board. Fintechs like Stripe have created carbon renewal programs to encourage its customers and partners to be more sustainable.

Companies can partner with organizations, like Energy Web Foundation and the Renewable Energy Business Alliance, to decarbonize any blockchain. There are resources for those who want to access renewable energy sources and high-quality carbon offsets. Other options include using inherently low-carbon technologies, like the XRP Ledger, that don’t rely on proof-of-work (which involves mining) to help significantly reduce emissions for blockchains and cryptofinance.

The XRP Ledger is carbon-neutral and uses a validation and security algorithm called Federated Consensus that is approximately 120,000 times more energy-efficient than proof-of-work. Ethereum, the second-largest blockchain, is transitioning off proof-of-work to a much less energy-intensive validation mechanism called proof-of-stake. Proof-of-work systems are inefficient by design and, as such, will always require more energy to maintain forward progress.

The devastating impact of climate change is moving at an alarming speed. Making aspirational commitments to sustainability — or worse, denying the problem — isn’t enough. As with the Paris agreement, the industry needs real targets, collective action, innovation and shared accountability.

The good news? Solutions can be practical, market-driven and create value and growth for all. Together with climate advocates, clean tech industry leaders and global finance decision-makers, crypto can unite to position blockchain as the most sustainable path forward in creating a green, digital financial future.

#bitcoin, #blockchain, #column, #cryptocurrency, #elon-musk, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #greentech, #opinion, #renewable-energy, #tc, #tesla

Sylvera grabs seed backing from Index to help close the accountability gap around carbon offsetting

UK-based startup Sylvera is using satellite, radar and lidar data-fuelled machine learning to bolster transparency around carbon offsetting projects in a bid to boost accountability and credibility — applying independent ratings to carbon offsetting projects.

The ratings are based on proprietary data sets it’s developed in conjunction with scientists from research organisations including UCLA, the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and University College London.

It’s just grabbed $5.8M in seed funding led by VC firm Index Ventures. All its existing institutional investors also participated — namely: Seedcamp, Speedinvest and Revent. It also has backing from leading angels, including the existing and former CEOs of NYSE, Thomson Reuters, Citibank and IHS Markit. (It confirms it has committed not to receive any investment from traditional carbon-intensive companies when as ask.) And it’s just snagged a $2M research contract from Innovate UK.

The problem it’s targeting is that the carbon offsetting market suffers from a lack of transparency.

This fuels concerns that many offsetting projects aren’t living up to their claims of a net reduction in carbon emissions — and that ‘creative’ carbon accountancy is rather being used to generate a lot of hot air: In the form of positive sounding PR which sums to meaningless greenwashing and more pollution as polluters get to keep on pumping out climate changing emissions.

Nonetheless the carbon offset markets are poised for huge growth — of at least 15x by 2030 — as large corporates accelerate their net zero commitments. And Sylvera’s bet is that that will drive demand for reliable, independent data — to stand up the claimed impact.

How exactly is Sylvera benchmarking carbon offsets? Co-founder Sam Gill says its technology platform draws on multiple layers of satellite data to capture project performance data at scale and at a high frequency.

It applies machine learning to analyze and visualize the data, while also conducting what it bills as “deep analytical work to assess the underlying project quality”. Via that process it creates a standardised rating for a project, so that market participants are able to transact according to their preferences.

It makes its ratings and analysis data available to its customers via a web application and an API (for which it charges a subscription).

“We assess two critical areas of a project — its carbon performance, and its ‘quality’,” Gill tells TechCrunch. “We score a project against these criteria, and give them ratings — much like a Moody’s rating on a bond.”

Carbon performance is assessed by gathering “multi-layered data” from multiple sources to understand what is going on on the ground of these projects — such as via multiple satellite sources such as multispectral image, Radar, and Lidar data.

“We collate this data over time, ingest it into our proprietary machine learning algorithms, and analyse how the project has performed against its stated aims,” Gill explains.

Quality is assessed by considering the technical aspects of the project. This includes what Gill calls “additionality”; aka “does the project have a strong claim to delivering a better outcome than would have occurred but for the existence of the offset revenue?”.

There is a known problem with some carbon offsets claimed against forests where the landowner had no intention of logging, for example. So if there wasn’t going to be any deforestation the carbon credit is essentially bogus.

He also says it looks at factors like permanence (“how long will the project’s impacts last?”); co-benefits (“how well has the project incorporated the UN’s Sustainability Development Goals?); and risks (“how well is the project mitigating risks, in particular those from humans and those from natural causes?”).

Clearly it’s not an exact science — and Gill acknowledges risks, for example, are often interlinked.

“It is critical to assess these performance and quality in tandem,” he tells TechCrunch. “It’s not enough to simply say a project is achieving the carbon goals set out in its plan.

“If the additionality of a project is low (e.g. it was actually unlikely the project would have been deforested without the project) then the achievement of the carbon goals set out in the project does not generate the anticipated carbon goals, and the underlying offsets are therefore weaker than appreciated.”

Commenting on the seed funding in a statement, Carlos Gonzalez-Cadenas, partner at Index Ventures, said: “This is a phenomenally strong team with the vision to build the first carbon offset rating benchmark, providing comprehensive insights around the quality of offsets, enabling purchase decisions as well as post-purchase monitoring and reporting. Sylvera is  putting in place the building blocks that will be required to address climate change.”

#carbon-offset, #carlos-gonzalez-cadenas, #citibank, #europe, #fundings-exits, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #greentech, #index-ventures, #machine-learning, #renewable-energy, #sylvera, #ucla

After many delays, Massachusetts’ Vineyard Wind is finally approved

Image of a row of wind turbines in the ocean.

Enlarge / An offshore wind farm in the UK. (credit: Dave Hughes)

After years of delays, the federal government has approved what will be the third offshore wind project in the US—and the largest by far. Vineyard Wind, situated off the coast of Massachusetts, will have a generating capacity of 800 Megawatts, dwarfing Block Island Wind’s 30 MW and the output from two test turbines installed in Virginia.

Vineyard Wind has been approved a number of times but continued to experience delays during the Trump administration, which was openly hostile to renewable energy. But the Biden administration wrapped up an environmental review shortly before announcing a major push to accelerate offshore wind development.

The final hurdle, passed late Monday, was getting the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to issue an approval for Vineyard Wind’s construction and operating plan. With that complete, the Departments of Commerce and Interior announced what they term the “final federal approval” to install 84 offshore turbines. Vineyard Wind will still have to submit paperwork showing that its construction and operation will be consistent with the approved plan; assuming that the operators can manage that, construction can begin.

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#energy, #green, #offshore-wind, #renewable-energy, #science, #vineyard-wind, #wind-power

Just 72 hours left to save $100 on passes to TC Sessions: Mobility 2021

So much can happen in 72 hours, and it’s easy to get distracted — especially when you’re building a startup in the fast lane that is mobility tech. But listen up: you have just 72 hours left to save $100 on your pass to TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 on June 9.

Don’t let “busy” distract you. Buy your pass to Mobility 2021 before the price increase goes into effect on Thursday, May 6 at 11:59 pm (PT).

Why should you attend TC Sessions: Mobility 2021? It’s where you can tap into the latest trends, regulatory concerns, technical and ethical challenges surrounding the technologies that will forever change how we move people and material goods across towns, cities, states, countries — and space.

Or, as Jens Lehmann, technical lead and product manager at SAP, told us:

“TC Sessions Mobility is definitely worth your time, especially if you’re an early-stage founder. You get to connect to people in your field and learn from founders who are literally a year into your same journey. Plus, you can meet and talk to the movers and shakers — the people who are making it happen.”

Take a gander at just some of the fascinating people and topics waiting for you and see the event agenda here.

  • Supercharging Self-Driving Super Vision: Few startups were as prescient as Scale AI when it came to anticipating the need for massive sets of tagged data for use in AI. Co-founder and CEO Alex Wang also made a great bet on addressing the needs of lidar sensing companies early on, which has made the company instrumental in deploying AV networks. We’ll hear about what it takes to make sense of sensor data in driverless cars and look at where the industry is headed.
  • EV Founders in Focus: We sit down with the founders poised to take advantage of the rise in electric vehicle sales. We’ll chat with Ben Schippers, co-founder and CEO of TezLab, an app that operates like a Fitbit for Tesla vehicles (and soon other EVs) and allows drivers to go deep into their driving data. The app also breaks down the exact types and percentages of fossil fuels and renewable energy coming from charging locations.
  • The Future of Flight: Joby Aviation founder JoeBen Bevirt spent more than a decade quietly developing an all-electric, vertical take-off and landing passenger aircraft. Now he is preparing for a new phase of growth as Joby Aviation merges with the special purpose acquisition company formed by famed investor and Linked co-founder Reid Hoffman. Bevirt and Hoffman will come to our virtual stage to talk about how to build a startup (and keep it secret while raising funds), the future of flight and, of course, SPACs.

Pro tip: Between the live stream and video on demand, you can keep your work schedule on track without missing out.

TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 takes place on June 9, but you have only 72 short hours left to save $100 on all the info and opportunity that TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 offers. Kick distractions to the curb. Buy your pass before the early bird price disappears on Thursday, May 6 at 11:59 pm (PT).

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at TC Sessions: Mobility 2021? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

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Geothermal technology has enormous potential to power the planet and Fervo wants to tap it

Tapping the geothermal energy stored beneath the Earth’s surface as a way to generate renewable power is one of the new visions for the future that’s captured the attention of environmentalists and oil and gas engineers alike.

That’s because it’s not only a way to generate power that doesn’t rely on greenhouse gas emitting hydrocarbons, but because it uses the same skillsets and expertise that the oil and gas industry has been honing and refining for years.

At least that’s what drew former the former completion engineer (it’s not what it sounds like) Tim Latimer to the industry and to launch Fervo Energy, the Houston-based geothermal tech developer that’s picked up funding from none other than Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures (that fund… is so busy) and former eBay executive, Jeff Skoll’s Capricorn Investment Group.

With the new $28 million cash in hand Fervo’s planning on ramping up its projects which Latimer said would “bring on hundreds of megawatts of power in the next few years.”

Latimer got his first exposure to the environmental impact of power generation as a kid growing up in a small town outside of Waco, Texas near the Sandy Creek coal power plant, one of the last coal-powered plants to be built in the U.S.

Like many Texas kids, Latimer came from an oil family and got his first jobs in the oil and gas industry before realizing that the world was going to be switching to renewables and the oil industry — along with the friends and family he knew — could be left high and dry.

It’s one reason why he started working on Fervo, the entrepreneur said.

“What’s most important, from my perspective, since I started my career in the oil and gas industry is providing folks that are part of the energy transition on the fossil fuel side to work in the clean energy future,” Latimer said. “I’ve been able to go in and hire contractors and support folks that have been out of work or challenged because of the oil price crash… And I put them to work on our rigs.”

Fervo Energy chief executive, Tim Latimer, pictured in a hardhat at one fo the company’s development sites. Image Credit: Fervo Energy

When the Biden administration talks about finding jobs for employees in the hydrocarbon industry as part of the energy transition, this is exactly what they’re talking about.

And geothermal power is no longer as constrained by geography, so there’s a lot of abundant resources to tap and the potential for high paying jobs in areas that are already dependent on geological services work, Latimer said (late last year, Vox published a good overview of the history and opportunity presented by the technology).

“A large percentage of the world’s population actually lives next to good geothermal resources,” Latimer said. “25 countries today that have geothermal installed and producing and another 25 where geothermal is going to grow.” 

Geothermal power production actually has a long history in the Western U.S. and in parts of Africa where naturally occurring geysers and steam jets pouring from the earth have been obvious indicators of good geothermal resources, Latimer said.

Fervo’s technology unlocks a new class of geothermal resource that is ready for large-scale deployment. Fervo’s geothermal systems use novel techniques, including horizontal drilling, distributed fiber optic sensing, and advanced computational modelling, to deliver more repeatable and cost effective geothermal electricity,” Latimer wrote in an email. “Fervo’s technology combines with the latest advancements in Organic Rankine Cycle generation systems to deliver flexible, 24/7 carbon-free electricity.”

Initially developed with a grant from the TomKat Center at Stanford University and a fellowship funded by Activate.org at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab’s Cyclotron Road division, Fervo has gone on to score funding from the DOE’s Geothermal Technology Office and ARPA-E to continue work with partners like Schlumberger, Rice University and the Berkeley Lab.

The combination of new and old technology is opening vast geographies to the company to potentially develop new projects.

Other companies are also looking to tap geothermal power to drive a renewable power generation development business. Those are startups like Eavor, which has the backing of energy majors like bp Ventures, Chevron Technology Ventures, Temasek, BDC Capital, Eversource and Vickers Venture Partners; and other players including GreenFire Energy, and Sage Geosystems.

Demand for geothermal projects is skyrocketing, opening up big markets for startups that can nail the cost issue for geothermal development. As Latimer noted, from 2016 to 2019 there was only one major geothermal contract, but in 2020 there were ten new major power purchase agreements signed by the industry. 

For all of these projects, cost remains a factor. Contracts that are being signed for geothermal that are in the $65 to $75 per megawatt range, according to Latimer. By comparison, solar plants are now coming in somewhere between $35 and $55 per megawatt, as The Verge reported last year

But Latimer said the stability and predictability of geothermal power made the cost differential palatable for utilities and businesses that need the assurance of uninterruptible power supplies. As a current Houston resident, the issue is something that Latimer has an intimate experience with from this year’s winter freeze, which left him without power for five days.

Indeed, geothermal’s ability to provide always-on clean power makes it an incredibly attractive option. In a recent Department of Energy study, geothermal could meet as much as 16% of the U.S. electricity demand, and other estimates put geothermal’s contribution at nearly 20% of a fully decarbonized grid.

“We’ve long been believers in geothermal energy but have waited until we’ve seen the right technology and team to drive innovation in the sector,” said Ion Yadigaroglu of Capricorn Investment Group, in a statement.  “Fervo’s technology capabilities and the partnerships they’ve created with leading research organizations make them the clear leader in the new wave of geothermal.”

Fervo Energy drilling site. Image Credit: Fervo Energy

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Boasting a pedigree in business intelligence, Sweep launches a new carbon accounting and offset tool

If businesses are going to meet their increasingly aggressive targets for reducing the greenhouse gas emissions associated with their operations, they’re going to have an accurate picture of just what those emissions look like. To get that picture, companies are increasingly turning to businesses like Sweep, which announced its commercial launch today.

The Parisian company boasts a founding team with an impeccable pedigree in enterprise software. Co-founders Rachel Delacourt and Nicolas Raspal, were the co-founders of BIME Analytics, which was acquired by Zendesk. And together with Zendesk colleagues Raphael Gueller and Yannick Chaze, and the founder of the Net Zero Initiative, Renaud Bettin, they’ve created a software toolkit that gives companies a visually elegant view into not just a company’s own carbon emissions, but those of their suppliers as well.

It’s the background of the team that first attracted investors like Pia d’Iribarne, co-founder and managing partner, New Wave, which made their first climate-focused investment into the software developer. 

We decided to invest before we even closed the fund,” d’Iribarne said of the investment in Sweep. “We officially invested in December or January.”

New Wave wasn’t the only investor wowed by the company’s prospects. The new European climate-focused investment firm 2050, and La Famiglia, a fund with strong ties to big European industrial companies also participated alongside several undisclosed angel investors from the Bay Area. In all Sweep raked in $5 million for its product before it had even launched a beta.

Sweep offers users the ability to visualize each location of a company’s business by brand, location, product, or division and see how those different granular operations contribute to a company’s overall carbon footprint. Users can also link those nodes to external suppliers and distributors t share carbon data. 

The effects of climate change are increasing, and companies across industries are motivated to do their part. But today’s carbon reduction efforts are being stalled by complex tools and resources that can’t match the urgency of the threat. By putting automation, connectivity and collaboration at the heart of the platform, Sweep is the first to offer companies an efficient mechanism to tackle their indirect Scope 3 emissions, and turn net zero from a buzzword into a reality. 

Like the other companies that have come on the market with carbon monitoring and management solutions, Sweep also offers the ability to finance offset projects directly from its platform. And, like those other companies, Sweep’s offsets are primarily in the forestry space.   

“Around the world, companies are under pressure from customers, investors and regulators to take action to reduce their emissions,” said Pia d’Iribarne, co-founder and managing partner, New Wave, in a statement. “As a result, we’re seeing unprecedented growth in the climate technology market and we expect it to continue to explode. What used to be an issue confined to a company’s sustainability team is now a front-and-center business objective that has the commitment of the CEO. We invested in Sweep because of their world-class expertise in sustainability and their success in developing state-of-the-art, end-to-end SaaS platforms. It’s the right team and the right product at the right time.”

 

#articles, #bime-analytics, #carbon-footprint, #ceo, #enterprise-software, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #new-wave, #pia-diribarne, #renewable-energy, #tc, #zendesk

Solar roof-tile and energy startup SunRoof closes €4.5M led by Inovo Venture Partners

SunRoof is a European startup that has come up with a clever idea. It has its own roof-tile technology which generates solar power. It then links up those houses, creating a sort of virtual power plant, allowing homeowners to sell surplus energy back to the grid.

It’s now closed a €4.5 million round (Seed extension) led by Inovo Venture Partners, with participation from SMOK Ventures (€2m of which came in the form of convertible notes). Other investors include LT Capital, EIT InnoEnergy, FD Growth Capital and KnowledgeHub. 

Sweden-based SunRoof’s approach is reminiscent of Tesla Energy, with its solar roof tiles, but whereas Tesla runs a closed energy ecosystem, SunRoof plans to work with multiple energy partners.

To achieve this virtual power company, SunRoof CEO and serial entrepreneur Lech Kaniuk (formerly of Delivery Hero, PizzaPortal, and iTaxi), acquired the renewable energy system, Redlogger, in 2020.

SunRoof’s platform consists of 2-in-1 solar roofs and façades that generate electricity without needing traditional photovoltaic modules. Instead, they use monocrystalline solar cells sandwiched between two large sheets of glass which measure 1.7 sq meters. Because the surface area is large and the connections fewer, the roofs are cheaper and faster to build. 

SunRoof give homeowners an energy app to manage the solar, based on Redlogger’s infrastructure

Tesla’s Autobidder is a trading platform that manages the energy from roofs but is a closed ecosystem. SunRoof, by contrast, works with multiple partners.

Kaniuk said: “SunRoof was founded to make the move to renewable energy not only easy, but highly cost-effective without ever having to sacrifice on features or design. We’ve already grown more than 500% year-on-year and will use the latest funding to double down on growth.” 

Michal Rokosz, Partner at Inovo Venture Partners, commented: “The market of solar energy is booming, estimated to reach $334 billion by 2026. Technology of integrated solar roofs is past the inflection point. It is an economical no-brainer for consumers to build new homes using solar solutions. With a more elegant and efficient substitute to a traditional hybrid of rooftops and solar panels, SunRoof clearly stands out and has a chance to be the brand for solar roofs, making clean-tech more appealing to a wider customer-base.”

The team includes co-founder Marek Zmysłowski (ex-(Jumia Travel and HotelOnline.co), former Google executive, Rafal Plutecki, and former Tesla Channel Sales Manager, Robert Bruchner.

There are rollout plans for Sweden, Germany, Poland, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, and the US.

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As ExxonMobil asks for handouts, startups get to work on carbon capture and sequestration

Earlier this week, ExxonMobil, a company among the largest producers of greenhouse gas emissions and a longtime leader in the corporate fight against climate change regulations, called for a massive $100 billion project (backed in part by the government) to sequester hundreds of millions of metric tons of carbon dioxide in geologic formations off the Gulf of Mexico.

The gall of Exxon’s flag-planting request is matched only by the grit from startup companies that are already working on carbon capture and storage or carbon utilization projects and announced significant milestones along their own path to commercialization even as Exxon was asking for handouts.

These are companies like Charm Industrial, which just completed the first pilot test of its technology through a contract with Stripe. That pilot project saw the company remove 416 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent from the atmosphere. That’s a small fraction of the hundred million tons Exxon thinks could be captured in its hypothetical sequestration project located off the Gulf Coast, but the difference between Exxon’s proposal and Charm’s sequestration project is that Charm has actually managed to already sequester the carbon.

The company’s technology, verified by outside observers like Shopify, Microsoft, CarbonPlan, CarbonDirect and others, converts biomass into an oil-like substance and then injects that goop underground — permanently sequestering the carbon dioxide, the company said.

Eventually, Charm would use its bio-based oil equivalent to produce “green hydrogen” and replace pumped or fracked hydrocarbons in industries that may still require combustible fuel for their operations.

While Charm is converting biomass into an oil-equivalent and pumping it back underground, other companies like CarbonCure, Blue Planet, Solidia, Forterra, CarbiCrete and Brimstone Energy are capturing carbon dioxide and fixing it in building materials. 

“The easy way to think about CarbonCure we have a mission to reduce 500 million tons per year by 2030. On the innovation side of things we really pioneered this area of science using CO2 in a value-added, hyper low-cost way in the value chain,” said CarbonCure founder and chief executive Rob Niven. “We look at CO2 as a value added input into making concrete production. It has to raise profits.”

Niven stresses that CarbonCure, which recently won one half of the $20 million carbon capture XPrize alongside CarbonBuilt, is not a hypothetical solution for carbon dioxide removal. The company already has 330 plants operating around the world capturing carbon dioxide emissions and sequestering them in building materials.

Applications for carbon utilization are important to reduce the emissions footprints of industry, but for nations to achieve their climate objectives, the world needs to move to dramatically reduce its reliance on emissions spewing energy sources and simultaneously permanently draw down massive amounts of greenhouse gases that are already in the atmosphere.

It’s why the ExxonMobil call for a massive project to explore the permanent sequestration of carbon dioxide isn’t wrong, necessarily, just questionable coming from the source.

The U.S. Department of Energy does think that the Gulf Coast has geological formations that can store 500 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide (which the company says is more than 130 years of the country’s total industrial and power generation emissions). But in ExxonMobil’s calculation that’s a reason to continue with business-as-usual (actually with more government subsidies for its business).

Here’s how the company’s top executives explained it in the pages of The Wall Street Journal:

The Houston CCS Innovation Zone concept would require the “whole of government” approach to the climate challenge that President Biden has championed. Based on our experience with projects of this scale, we estimate the approach could generate tens of thousands of new jobs needed to make and install the equipment to capture the CO2 and transport it via a pipeline for storage. Such a project would also protect thousands of existing jobs in industries seeking to reduce emissions. In short, large-scale CCS would reduce emissions while protecting the economy.

These oil industry executives are playing into a false narrative that the switch to renewable energy and a greener economy will cost the U.S. jobs. It’s a fact that oil industry jobs will be erased, but those jobs will be replaced by other opportunities, according to research published in Scientific American.

“With the more aggressive $60 carbon tax, U.S. employment would still exceed the reference-case forecast, but the increase would be less than that of the $25 tax,” write authors Marilyn Brown and Majid Ahmadi. “The higher tax causes much larger supply-side job losses, but they are still smaller than the gains in energy-efficiency jobs motivated by higher energy prices. Overall, 35 million job years would be created between 2020 and 2050, with net job increases in almost all regions.”

ExxonMobil and the other oil majors definitely have a role to play in the new energy economy that’s being built worldwide, but the leading American oil companies are not going to be able to rest on their laurels or continue operating with a business-as-usual mindset. These companies run the risk of going the way of big coal — slowly sliding into obsolescence and potentially taking thousands of jobs and local economies down with them.

To avoid that, carbon sequestration is a part of the solution, but it’s one of many arrows in the quiver that oil companies need to deploy if they’re going to continue operating and adding value to shareholders. In other words, it’s not the last 130 years of emissions that ExxonMobil should be focused on, it’s the next 130 years that aim to be increasingly zero-emission.

#articles, #biden, #carbon-sequestration, #co2, #exxon, #exxonmobil, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #gulf-coast, #gulf-of-mexico, #leader, #microsoft, #nature, #oil, #president, #renewable-energy, #shopify, #tc, #the-wall-street-journal, #u-s-department-of-energy, #united-states, #wall-street-journal