It's not often geology and national security wind up in the same sentence. Most people don't think about electrical power in connection to either the ground under their feet or solar flares overhead, but Dr. Adam Schultz of Oregon State University, and EarthScope Magnetotelluric Program Lead Scientist, says that connection presents a clear and present risk that power utilities need to consider. "A big induced current in power-transmission lines that takes down high-voltage transformers would be a major disaster," Schultz said. "EarthScope is materially helping the U.S. build resilience against space weather on critical infrastructure such as power grids." The EarthScope Magnetotelluric Transportable Array, part of the USArray, is an observatory of instruments that measures Earth's naturally occurring electric and magnetic fields. Space weather is the flow of electromagnetic radiation given off by the sun, including extreme events such as coronal mass ejections that can intersect … [Read more...] about Space weather, EarthScope, and protecting the national electrical grid
One of the hottest new approaches to generating electricity today is "solar thermal," a form of capturing sunlight in order to convert water into steam, which in turn drives a conventional electricity-producing turbine. Solar thermal, as a concept, has been around since the 19th century, but in recent years the technology has undergone a revolution, helped by new designs and materials. I visited last week with Ausra, one of the leaders in the solar thermal revival. Founded by an Australian inventor named David Mills, the company moved from Australia to Palo Alto, California a few years ago at the urging of legendary Silicon Valley financier Vinod Khosla who believed the company would thrive with more capital and the prospect of partnerships with American electric-utilities. Khosla's vision seems to be coming true. Ausra specializes in providing large-systems to electricity grids and last year the company struck a deal to build a solar thermal plant for PG&E. The PG&E plant … [Read more...] about Out of Africa: the Riddle of Solar Electricity
It’s been more than a century since Thomas Edison lost the great technological battle he waged against George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla, the now-famous “War of Currents.” The idea Edison hoped to defend was that the world should run off direct current (DC) electricity. But his position just couldn’t stand up to the pounding it took from the logic of Westinghouse and Tesla’s competing scheme, which was to produce and distribute alternating current (AC). With an AC system, the fledgling electricity industry would easily be able to shift voltages from one level to another, allowing power to be carried long distances at high voltages, which would minimize transmission losses. When the electricity arrived at its destination, it could then be converted to the low voltages appropriate for use in homes and businesses. Lacking that ability, Edison’s DC system would have required the installation of an electric generator in every neighborhood so that the … [Read more...] about DC Microgrids and the Virtues of Local Electricity
Electric grids worldwide are increasingly vulnerable to attack as new technologies like smart meters and analytical software are added to them, with mature systems like North America’s at particular risk, according to the World Energy Council. Pressure to make older equipment in utilities, transformers, and transmission lines compatible with newer, more efficient Internet-connected equipment at the lowest possible cost has too often made security an afterthought, according to a recent report from MIT’s Center for International Studies. That creates juicy targets for hackers. “For the sake of efficiencies … we have created tremendous risk for ourselves,” warns Joel Brenner, the principal author of the MIT report. Most utilities deal with two or three incidents a year that require investigation, but the probability of some kind of attack happening in a given year “is 100 percent,” says Leo Simonovich, … [Read more...] about Patching the Electric Grid
The U.S. government has announced a plan to create 48 national highways that are plentifully dotted with electric vehicle charging points. And boy, do we need them. The Obama administration has announced that it plans to turn four dozen interstates, totaling almost 25,000 miles of highway, into what it calls “national electric vehicle charging corridors.” That’ll mean that they’re regular roads, but with enough charging points along their length to stop drivers from panicking about getting stranded.In fact, there will be rather a lot of places to juice up your electric vehicle. “Drivers can expect either existing or planned charging stations within every 50 miles,” a statement released by the White House said. New standardized signs developed by the Federal Highway Administration will guide drivers towards their charge. A comprehensive charging network is vital to the success of electric cars. Without it, long journeys will remain inconvenient, … [Read more...] about Electric Superhighways Can’t Come Soon Enough
Apparently, some cars are just too good to die. After a tortured existence under General Motors and a short period of independence, Swedish car company Saab finally went under last December. Chinese company Youngman Lotus tried unsuccessfully to acquire Saab’s assets, but now a new electric car company is picking off where Youngman left off.National Electric Vehicle Sweden is trying to give Saab a last minute reprieve, and its timing could not be better. The company has only been registered with the Swedish government since earlier this week, but it is now the lead bidder for Saab’s assets. Since National Electric Vehicle Sweden is so new, it is hard to tell what its plans are. To add to the mystery, the company is backed by an Asian conglomerate; 245 of the 500 shares are owned by Sun Investments, an outfit from either Japan or China. “We don’t know if it’s a Chinese or a Japanese company behind this conglomerate,” TTELA, the newspaper of … [Read more...] about Electric car company tries to bail out Saab
The Obama administration has just announced comprehensive support for the shift to electric vehicles (EVs). This morning in a White House press release the administration committed to steps that will reduce the United States’ dependence on oil, increase access to clean energy, and fight climate change by supporting EV deployment and the necessary charging infrastructure.Together with states, cities and municipalities, utility companies, automotive industry companies, change agencies, and investment companies, the federal government has pledged to establish 48 national electric vehicle charging corridors on U.S. highways. The goal is to ensure U.S. electric vehicle drivers can access charging stations at home, at work, and when traveling.Several goals in support of the administration’s commitment were announced today.The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is designating the 48 charging corridors that cover almost 25,000 miles on 55 interstate highways in … [Read more...] about The White House plans 48 electric vehicle ‘charging corridors’ across the U.S.
National Electric Vehicles Sweden (NEVS) has finally hatched a plan to relaunch Saab.Hitting the reset button on a carmaker takes a tremendous amount of time and money, so don’t hold off on purchasing a new car in hopes of seeing Saab return to our shores in the next few months. The Swedish company’s revival won’t begin until it introduces a new, all-electric sedan in the summer of 2017. It will be based on the last generation of the 9-3, but NEVS promises that its engineers are keeping busy by thoroughly updating every single component including the chassis, the interior and the body work.The yet-unnamed model — Saab isn’t expect to retain the 9-3 nameplate — will be built in Trollhättan, Sweden, for the local market, and it will be assembled in a new factory located in Tianjin, China, for the Chinese market. The 9-3 most likely won’t return to our shores, and NEVS execs explain it’s more of a pilot program on … [Read more...] about Can a lineup of five all-electric models save Sweden’s Saab from burning out?
With growing risks to the nation's electrical grid from natural disasters and as a potential target for malicious attacks, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) should work closely with utility operators and other stakeholders to improve cyber and physical security and resilience, says a new congressionally mandated report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.The grid remains vulnerable to diverse threats that can potentially cause extensive damage and result in large-area, prolonged outages that could cost billions of dollars and cause loss of life, the report found. The committee that conducted the study and wrote the report recommended ways to make the grid more resilient through the development and demonstration of technologies and organizational strategies that minimize the likelihood that outages will happen, reduce the impacts and speed recovery if they do, all the while developing mechanisms for … [Read more...] about Enhancing the Resilience of the Nation’s Electricity System
The United States needs an overarching national authority to oversee cybersecurity efforts connected to the national power grid, an MIT study suggests.The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) have authority over the development of cybersecurity standards for the bulk power system and ensuring compliance with these standards. However, the report stated that there's no national regulatory oversight of cybersecurity standards for the distribution system, meaning the grid."We would welcome a single authority," Patrick Miller, president and CEO of the National Electric Sector Cybersecurity Organization (NESCO), told TechNewsWorld."We've seen a lot of confusion around who would have authority in the event of a cyber attack [on the power grid]," Miller added.NESCO is a public-private partnership in the electric center partly funded by the U.S. Department of Energy that pulls together efforts to enhance the cybersecurity of … [Read more...] about Study: Electric Grid Needs Full-Time Cyberguard