Can Elon Musk singlehandedly destroy the utility industry?

October 27, 2017 by  
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The Tesla CEO doesn’t have to bring power to Puerto Rico to spark revolutionary thinking.

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Can Elon Musk singlehandedly destroy the utility industry?

Tiny Montana company signs $300M contract to help restore power in Puerto Rico

October 24, 2017 by  
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The majority of Puerto Rico ‘s 3.4 million residents still lack electricity in the wake of Hurricane Maria . Now, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) is looking to a two-year-old Montana -based company, Whitefish Energy , to help them switch the power back on. But some people are wondering why PREPA would sign the $300 million contract, the largest issued yet, with a company that only had two full-time employees when Hurricane Maria hit the island. Whitefish Energy has been tasked with repairing and reconstructing electrical infrastructure in Puerto Rico. The company said this week they have 280 workers laboring now, and that they’re close to finishing work that will provide power to key industrial facilities that will help get the local economy going again. Related: Germany company steps in to help Puerto Rico with microgrid installations PREPA signed the contract with Whitefish instead of activating mutual aid agreements – which have aided United States utilities in recovering after natural disasters – with other utilities. As Puerto Rico is bankrupt, many people are wondering why they’d hire a company instead of turning to the mutual aid network. Former Energy Department senior official Susan Tierney told The Washington Post, “The fact that there are so many utilities with experience in this and a huge track record of helping each other out, it is at least odd why [the utility] would go to Whitefish. I’m scratching my head wondering how it all adds up.” PREPA executive director Ricardo Ramos told reporters Whitefish was the first firm “available to arrive and they were the ones that first accepted terms and conditions for PREPA.” Whitefish is based in Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s hometown, but Zinke’s office said he didn’t play a role in the Puerto Rico contract. Whitefish had landed a $1.3 million federal contract just before Hurricane Maria to replace and upgrade parts of an Arizona transmission line 4.8 miles long in 11 months. There are 2,400 miles of transmission lines in Puerto Rico, where an estimated 80 percent of the grid has been harmed. Puerto Rico governor Ricardo Rosselló recently said 95 percent of power would be on by Christmas. Whitefish CEO Andy Techmanski seems to disagree, saying, “I don’t know where he got that and what information he was using. Without doing a full assessment countrywide, I couldn’t fathom how many months, if it’s going to be two months, three months, five months.” Via The Washington Post Images via Whitefish Energy on Twitter ( 1 , 2 )

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Tiny Montana company signs $300M contract to help restore power in Puerto Rico

Magnetic particles may be the future of data storage

October 24, 2017 by  
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Recently discovered magnetic behavior may have enormous potential to power the next generation of data storage technology , according to new research reported this week in the journal  Nature Nanotechnology.  The promise of data storage based on “skyrmions,” minuscule disturbances in magnetic orientation, offers a potential path to overcome fundamental limitations in computing technology that otherwise may have heralded the end of Moore’s Law, which holds that computing power doubles in strength roughly every two years. Skyrmions, the phenomenon on which this new data technology would be based, were only discovered in 2016 by a team led by MIT associate professor of materials science and engineering Geoffrey Beach. These magnetic particles occur between two thin metallic films from two different kinds of metal and can be wielded using electric fields, allowing long-term data storage without the need of additional energy. While the locations of these skyrmions were originally random, Beach and collaborators at MIT and in Germany  have since demonstrated an ability to purposefully create and harness these magnetic particles, opening the door to new technological possibilities. Related: Scientists turn eggshells into eco-friendly data-storage devices Because skyrmions are very stable in contrast to traditional magnetic storage devices , data could potentially be stored on a magnetic surface perhaps only a few atoms across. This feature is what allows the theoretical skyrmions-based storage devices overcome the physical limitations of traditional magnetic storage devices and continue the computing power expansion under Moore’s Law. The next step is to figure out an efficient way to read the data that has been written into the skyrmions. One solution is to add an additional layer of a different metal to the skyrmion sandwich and then use differences in the layer’s electrical resistance based on the presence of skyrmions to determine the encoded data. “There’s no question it would work,” said MIT postdoc and study co-author Felix Buettner, but further research and development is needed to determine how best to implement the idea. Via Futurism/MIT News Images via Moritz Eisebitt/MIT News and Depositphotos

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Magnetic particles may be the future of data storage

How climate resilience officers face ‘the new normal’

October 17, 2017 by  
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What makes a climate resilience officer? According to Kit Batten, climate resilience officer at the Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) company, she must assess the risks a company faces from climate impacts, as well as protect the communities the company serves. PG&E covers roughly two-thirds of California, she said, and it must prepare for six climate change drivers throughout the state: Sea level rise; flooding from stronger storms; drought; decreasing ground elevation due to drought; increasing wildfires and heatwaves. 

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How climate resilience officers face ‘the new normal’

Puerto Rico electricity crisis sparks interest in renewable energy

September 29, 2017 by  
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Hurricane Maria has left swaths of Puerto Rico without power – and millions of people could have to go without electricity for months . The storm’s devastation has stirred new interest in obtaining more energy from clean sources like solar or wind . Energy experts say increasing renewables and transitioning from centralized grids to microgrids could boost resilience as Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands weather storms. CARICOM, a Caribbean nation consortium, already hoped to hit 47 percent renewable energy by 2027. The recent hurricanes could act as a motivation to work for that goal. Caribbean countries in the past have relied mostly on imported fossil fuels , which are expensive both for the islands and for the environment . And storms can cripple power lines. Related: Puerto Rico could be without electricity for months due to Hurricane Maria There is an alternative, according to The Washington Post. Renewable sources, coupled with battery storage , powering small grids could offer more resiliency. Fossil fuels would offer backup—at least initially until battery storage becomes more affordable. The microgrids could be connected to a main grid but could also be isolated. With this new setup, the Caribbean could benefit from trade winds and solar panels. According to renewable energy expert Tom Rogers, who works at Britain’s Coventry University, solar systems in the tropics can “generate over one and a half times more than exactly the same PV system” installed in a location with a higher latitude like Europe. Rogers told The Washington Post, “You look at islands like Dominica, Anguilla, and other islands affected by the recent hurricanes, I’ve spoken to a couple of the utilities, and they say they would prefer to rebuild using distributed generation with storage, and just trying to reduce the amount of transmission lines. Because that’s where their energy systems fail. It’s having these overhead cables.” Via The Washington Post Images via Sgt. Jose Ahiram Diaz-Ramos/Puerto Rico National Guard and NOAA Satellites Twitter

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Puerto Rico electricity crisis sparks interest in renewable energy

Utilities grapple with the rooftop solar revolution

September 21, 2017 by  
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The complex truth behind painting utilities as the “bad guys” stopping the transition to clean energy.

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Utilities grapple with the rooftop solar revolution

100 percent clean energy is a team sport

August 8, 2017 by  
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Hawaii is leading the U.S. in becoming the first state to legally mandate using 100 percent renewable energy in the electric sector by 2045. Like any great goal, it will take team thinking and consideration of customer’s changing needs. 

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100 percent clean energy is a team sport

The rise and fall of an American utility

August 5, 2017 by  
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A utility CEO faces the crisis of his life: transform a 33-year-old electric utility and succeed in the fast-changing U.S. energy landscape.

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The rise and fall of an American utility

Utility coalition invests in EV charging firm Greenlots

July 25, 2017 by  
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It’s another indicator of how critical electric vehicles could become to grid demand management.

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Utility coalition invests in EV charging firm Greenlots

A microgrid grows in Brooklyn — is this the future of energy?

July 11, 2017 by  
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A closely watched prototype from startup L03 Energy has transformed a local neighborhood into a test hub for trading power locally.

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A microgrid grows in Brooklyn — is this the future of energy?

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