Category Archives: Nature

Updates from GE

Leading The Charge: As Battery Storage Sweeps The World, GE Finds Its Place In The Sun
By Tomas Kellner – The “duck curve” has two distinct peaks — one in the morning and the other after sunset — connected by a sagging belly pulled down by the deluge of renewable energy generated by the millions of solar panels sprinkled across California’s roofs and fields.

On a sunny Sunday, this glut of input could even lead to oversupply, a situation where wholesale energy prices drop so much that producers pay utilities to take their energy.

The problem reverses when the sun sinks into the Pacific. Power producers must quickly crank up their plants – many of them burning gas or coal – to replace those missing solar electrons with 11,000 megawatts to keep the state’s homes and businesses humming.

“The peak for solar power generation is at noon,” says Eric Gebhardt, vice president of strategic technology for GE Power. “What if you could store this energy and release it six hours later when the sun goes down and people come home, start cooking dinner and watch TV?” Gebhardt asks.

That’s precisely the point of GE’s Reservoir, a new grid-scale energy storage system the company unveiled today. The grid has to be perfectly balanced, meaning that power supply and demand match, to prevent it from crashing.

The Reservoir will allow producers to “decouple when energy is produced and when it is consumed,” Gebhardt says. “Without it, if you have too much solar during the day, the only option you have is to curtail production.”

The rise of the electric car unleashed innovation in the battery space, and the spread of solar power has brought costs down 50 percent over the last four years, says Keith Longtin, product breakout leader at GE Global Research in Niskayuna, New York. “You are now getting to a point where energy storage starts to make sense,” he says. more>


Updates from Adobe

Head for the Hills with Kopernikk

By Charles Purdy – A love of the outdoors is plainly evident in Kopernikk’s photography, and he comes by it naturally, having grown up on a farm near the Czech city of Pardubice, which he still calls home—that is, when he’s not on the road for a photography expedition. In fact, it was a 2014 trip to the Czech Republic’s Giant Mountains that set Kopernikk firmly on a path to making his living as a photographer.

He remembers, “In November 2014, my friend Jirka invited me to Špindlerův Mlýn in our Giant Mountains. The weather was so magical—I was like Alice in Wonderland, and I made hundreds and hundreds of photos on my mobile phone…. This day changed everything, and I knew then what I wanted to do with my life. It’s also the reason I have Sitka, my Czechoslovakian Wolfdog—I’ve always loved wolves, and when I started traveling I decided I wanted to have my own ‘wolf’ as a travel buddy.” more>



Updates from GE

Industrial Medicine: Cell Therapy Scales Up
By Maggie Sieger – Cell therapy is a new way to treat serious diseases like cancer by extracting living cells from a donor or a patient, changing them so they can recognize and attack diseased cells or deliver treatment, and returning them to the patient’s body. But manufacturing the cells is a costly and time-consuming endeavor. A single dose can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to make.

That’s because in the more than 900 ongoing regenerative medicine trials worldwide — a 19 percent jump since 2016 — researchers generally manufacture each patient’s dose of bio-engineered cells by hand. The individualized nature of cell therapy makes it not only prohibitively pricey, but also difficult to scale into commercial production.

That hasn’t been a problem while cell therapy was still confined to research labs. But as medical science advances and regulators approve a growing numbers of modified cell therapies for general use, handcrafting doses won’t be enough. “It’s relatively easy to do 15 or 20 doses by hand, but it’s nearly impossible to efficiently make thousands,” says GE Healthcare’s Aaron Dulgar-Tulloch, director of cell therapy research and development at the Centre for Advanced Therapeutic Cell Technologies (CATCT) in Toronto.

One way to speed the process is GE Healthcare’s FlexFactory for cell therapy. Cellular Biomedicine Group Inc. (CBMG) will be the first company to install this closed, semi-automated system for manufacturing bio-engineered cells in its Shanghai plant and use it to create cell therapies to treat various blood and solid tumor cancers. more>


Updates from GE

Making Waves: GE Unveils Plans To Build An Offshore Wind Turbine The Size Of A Skyscraper, The World’s Most Powerful
By Tomas Kellner – These turbines come with a 12-megawatt generator sitting 150 meters above the waves. Each will be capable of powering 16,000 homes and producing 67 gigawatt-hours per year, based on wind conditions on a typical German North Sea site — that’s 45 percent more energy than any other offshore wind turbine available today.

“We asked ourselves ‘What is the biggest rotor we would still feel comfortable with?’ and then we pushed ourselves some more,” Vincent Schellings recalls. “From a technology perspective, it seems like a stretch. But we know it’s doable. The beauty of the turbine is that it gives an edge over the competition. There’s nothing like this. Not even close.”

The size matters. The huge rotor allows the engineers to catch a lot more wind and ramp up what the industry calls “capacity factor.” This number describes the amount of power the turbine can produce per year at a given site, versus the energy it could have generated had it run full power all the time.

GE’s Haliade-X clocks in at 63 percent, “five to seven points higher than the competition,” Schellings says. “Basically, every point of capacity factor is worth $7 million per 100 megawatts for our customers. That’s a nice upside.” more>


Updates from Georgia Tech

Robot Monitors Chicken Houses and Retrieves Eggs
By John Toon – “Today’s challenge is to teach a robot how to move in environments that have dynamic, unpredictable obstacles, such as chickens,” said Colin Usher, a research scientist in GTRI’s Food Processing Technology Division.

“When busy farmers must spend time in chicken houses, they are losing money and opportunities elsewhere on the farm. In addition, there is a labor shortage when it comes to finding workers to carry out manual tasks such as picking up floor eggs and simply monitoring the flocks. If a robot could successfully operate autonomously in a chicken house 24 hours a day and seven days a week, it could then pick up floor eggs, monitor machinery, and check on birds, among other things. By assigning one robot to each chicken house, we could also greatly reduce the potential for introductions of disease or cross-contamination from one house to other houses.”

The autonomous robot is outfitted with an ultrasonic localization system similar to GPS but more suited to an indoor environment where GPS might not be available. This system uses low-cost, ultrasonic beacons indicating the robot’s orientation and its location in a chicken house. The robot also carries a commercially available time-of-flight camera, which provides three-dimensional (3D) depth data by emitting light signals and then measuring how long they take to return. The localization and 3D data together allow the robot’s software to devise navigation plans around chickens to perform tasks. more>



How Hunter-Gatherers May Hold the Key to our Economic Future

We need to rethink our relationships with the workplace.
By James Suzman – What happened on the Omaheke farms echoes broader trends transforming workplaces across the globe.

The same question also irked John Maynard Keynes when in the winter of 1929 he was contemplating the ruins of his personal fortune. Global stock markets had imploded and the Great Depression was slowly throttling the life out of the Euro-American economy.

To remind himself of the ephemeral nature of the crisis, he penned an optimistic essay entitled “The Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren”. In it he argued that within a century technical innovation and increases in productivity would usher in a golden era of leisure that would liberate us from the tyranny of the clock, and enable us to thrive on the basis of working no more than fifteen hours per week.

Besides war, natural disasters and acts of God the only significant obstacle he saw to this Utopia being achieved was what he believed was our instinct to strive for more, to work and to create new wealth.

So he took the view that, save a few “purposeful money makers”, we would recognize the economic Utopia for what it was , slow down and “be able to enjoy the abundance when it comes.”

Keynes was right about improved productivity and technological innovation. According to Keynes’s reasoning, on the basis of labor productivity improvements alone we should not be working more than 11 hours a week now.

But, despite having the means to work much less, many of us now work as long and hard as we did before. With the industrial revolution now having merged into the digital revolution there is a good case to be made to suggest that we have reached an inflexion point in the history of work as important as the agricultural revolution. more>


Stop Saying ‘Smart Cities’

Digital stardust won’t magically make future cities more affordable or resilient.
By Bruce Sterling – The term “smart city” is interesting yet not important, because nobody defines it. “Smart” is a snazzy political label used by a modern alliance of leftist urbanites and tech industrialists.

Smart-city devotees all over this world will agree that London is particularly smart. Why? London is a huge, ungainly beast whose cartwheeling urban life is in cranky, irrational disarray. London is a god-awful urban mess, but London does have some of the best international smart-city conferences.

The digital techniques that smart-city fans adore are flimsy and flashy—and some are even actively pernicious—but they absolutely will be used in cities. They already have an urban heritage. When you bury fiber-optic under the curbs around the town, then you get internet. When you have towers and smartphones, then you get portable ubiquity. When you break up a smartphone into its separate sensors, switches, and little radios, then you get the internet of things.

However, the cities of the future won’t be “smart,” or well-engineered, cleverly designed, just, clean, fair, green, sustainable, safe, healthy, affordable, or resilient. They won’t have any particularly higher ethical values of liberty, equality, or fraternity, either. The future smart city will be the internet, the mobile cloud, and a lot of weird paste-on gadgetry, deployed by City Hall, mostly for the sake of making towns more attractive to capital.

“Smart cities” merely want to be perceived as smart, when what they actually need is quite different. more>


The Two-Degree Delusion

By Ted Nordhaus – Forty years after it was first proposed, the two-degree target continues to maintain a talismanic hold over global efforts to address climate change, despite the fact that virtually all sober analyses conclude that the target is now unobtainable.

But it is worth considering the consequences of continuing to pursue a goal that is no longer obtainable. Some significant level of future climate impact is probably unavoidable. Sustaining the fiction that the two-degree target remains viable risks leaving the world ill prepared to mitigate or manage the consequences.

In reality, most of the climate risks that we understand reasonably well are linear, meaning that lower emissions bring a lower global temperature increase, which in turn brings lower risk.

There are a range of potential nonlinear tipping points that could also bring catastrophic climate impacts. Many climate scientists and advocates argue that the risks associated with triggering these impacts are so great that it is better to take a strict precautionary approach to dramatically cut emissions. But there are enormous uncertainties about where those tipping points actually are.

The precautionary principle holds equally well at one degree of warming, a threshold that we have already surpassed; one and a half degrees, which we will soon surpass; or, for that matter, three degrees. more>


Development, self-interest, and the countries left behind

By Sarah Bermeo – The self-interest of developed countries affected policy on foreign aid, trade agreements, and even climate finance, as I argue in my new book, Targeted Development.

Targeting foreign aid to areas where potential spillovers to the donor are high is not only the practice of great powers.

Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, and Switzerland have all favored more proximate countries in the post-2001 period—when you control for measures of need such as income, disasters, and civil war.

For Australia, Austria, Denmark, France, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, and Sweden, aid is also associated with bilateral migrant flows.

The more a donor imports from a developing country, the higher aid flows are to that country; this is especially true for Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Japan, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

For states not targeted, however, the picture is bleak.

Where migration—and hence remittances—is low, foreign aid will also be low. When foreign aid is low, the chances of being granted preferential access to wealthy country markets is lower too.

Where geographic distance is great, economic engagement will lag behind. more>


Post-Davos Depression

By Joseph E. Stiglitz – I’ve been attending the World Economic Forum’s annual conference in Davos, Switzerland – where the so-called global elite convenes to discuss the world’s problems – since 1995. Never have I come away more dispirited than I have this year.

The world is plagued by almost intractable problems. Inequality is surging, especially in the advanced economies. The digital revolution, despite its potential, also carries serious risks for privacy, security, jobs, and democracy – challenges that are compounded by the rising monopoly power of a few American and Chinese data giants, including Facebook and Google. Climate change amounts to an existential threat to the entire global economy as we know it.

Perhaps more disheartening than such problems, however, are the responses.

But, by the end of their speeches this year, any remaining illusion about the values motivating Davos CEOs was shattered. The risk that these CEOs seemed most concerned about is the populist backlash against the kind of globalization that they have shaped – and from which they have benefited immensely.

They may lack the candor of Michael Douglas’s character in the 1987 movie Wall Street, but the message hasn’t changed: “Greed is good.” What depresses me is that, though the message is obviously false, so many in power believe it to be true. more>