US Judge Halts Government Effort To Monitor Crypto Mining Energy Use

A federal judge in Texas has granted a temporary order blocking the U.S. government from monitoring the energy usage of cryptocurrency mining operations, stating that the industry had shown it would suffer “irreparable injury” if it was made to comply. The Guardian reports: The US Department of Energy had launched an “eemergency” initiative last month aimed at surveying the energy use of mining operations, which typically use vast amounts of computing power to solve various mathematical puzzles to add new tokens to an online network known as a blockchain, allowing the mining of currency such as bitcoin. The growth of cryptocurrency, and the associated mining of it, has been blamed for a surge in electricity use as data centers have sprung up across the US, even reviving, in some cases, ailing coal plants to help power the mining. […]

“The massive energy consumption of cryptocurrency mining and its rapid growth in the United States threaten to undermine progress towards achieving climate goals, and threaten grids, communities and ratepayers,” said Mandy DeRoche, deputy managing attorney of the clean energy program at Earthjustice. Until now, a lack of publicly available information has only benefited an “industry that has thrived in the shadows,” DeRoche added.

The crypto mining industry, however, has claimed it is the victim of a “politically motivated campaign” by Joe Biden’s administration and has, for now, succeeded in averting a survey that it contends is unfairly onerous. “This is an attack against legitimate American businesses with the administration feigning an emergency to score political points,” said Lee Bratcher, president the Texas Blockchain Council, one of the groups that sued to stop the survey. “The White House has been clear that they desire to ‘to limit or eliminate’ bitcoin miners from operating in the United States. “Although bitcoin is resilient and cannot be banned, the administration is seeking to make the lives of bitcoin miners, their employees, and their communities too difficult to bear operating in the United States. This is deeply concerning.”

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Are Corporate Interests Holding Back US Electrical Grid Expansion?

Long-time Slashdot reader BishopBerkeley writes: Though it does not come as much of a surprise, a new study highlighted in IEEE Spectrum delves into how corporate profit motives are preventing the upgrading and the expansion of the U.S. electrical grid. The full report can be downloaded here from the source [the nonprofit economic research group NBER].

Besides opening up the market to competition, utilities don’t want to lose control over regional infrastructure, writes IEEE Spectrum. “[I]nterregional lines threaten utility companies’ dominance over the nation’s power supply. In the power industry, asset ownership provides control over rules that govern energy markets and transmission service and expansion. When upstart entities build power plants and transmission lines, they may be able to dilute utility companies’ control over power-industry rules and prevent utilities from dictating decisions about transmission expansion.”

The article begins by noting that “The United States is not building enough transmission lines to connect regional power networks. The deficit is driving up electricity prices, reducing grid reliability, and hobbling renewable-energy deployment. ”

Utilities can stall transmission expansion because out-of-date laws sanction these companies’ sweeping control over transmission development…
One of the main values of connecting regional networks is that it enablesâ”and is in fact critical forâ”incorporating renewable energy… Plus, adding interregional transmission for renewables can significantly reduce costs for consumers. Such connections allow excess wind and solar power to flow to neighboring regions when weather conditions are favorable and allow the import of energy from elsewhere when renewables are less productive.

Even without renewables, better integrated networks generally lower costs for consumers because they reduce the amount of generation capacity needed overall and decrease energy market prices. Interregional transmission also enhances reliability,particularly during extreme weather…

Addressing the transmission shortage is on the agenda in Washington, but utility companies are lobbying against reforms.

The article points out that now investors and entrepreneurs “are developing long-distance direct-current lines, which are more efficient at moving large amounts of energy over long distances, compared with AC,” and also “sidestep the utility-dominated transmission-expansion planning processes.”

They’re already in use in China, and are also becoming Europe’s preferred choice…

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A Huge Battery Has Replaced Hawaii’s Last Coal Plant

Julian Spector reports via Canary Media: Hawaii shut down its last coal plant on September 1, 2022, eliminating 180 megawatts of fossil-fueled baseload power from the grid on Oahu — a crucial step in the state’s first-in-the-nation commitment to cease burning fossil fuels for electricity by 2045. But the move posed a question that’s becoming increasingly urgent as clean energy surges across the United States: How do you maintain a reliable grid while switching from familiar fossil plants to a portfolio of small and large renewables that run off the vagaries of the weather? Now Hawaii has an answer: It’s a gigantic battery, unlike the gigantic batteries that have been built before.

The Kapolei Energy Storage system actually began commercial operations before Christmas on the industrial west side of Oahu, according to Plus Power, the Houston-based firm that developed and owns the project. Now, Kapolei’s 158 Tesla Megapacks are charging and discharging based on signals from utility Hawaiian Electric. The plant’s 185 megawatts of instantaneous discharge capacity match what the old coal plant could inject into the grid, though the batteries react far more quickly, with a 250-millisecond response time. Instead of generating power, they absorb it from the grid, ideally when it’s flush with renewable generation, and deliver that cheap, clean power back in the evening hours when it’s desperately needed.

The construction process had its setbacks, as did the broader effort to replace the coal plant with a roster of large-scale clean energy projects. The Kapolei battery was initially intended to come online before the coal plant retired. Covid disrupted deliveries for the grid battery industry across the board, and Kapolei’s remote location in the middle of the Pacific Ocean didn’t make things easier. By summer 2021, Plus Power was hoping to complete Kapolei by the end of 2022, but it ended up taking another year. Even then, it has joined the grid before several of the other large solar and battery projects slated to replace the coal plant’s production with clean power.

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Bill Gates Visits Planned Site of ‘Most Advanced Nuclear Facility in the World’

Friday Bill Gates visited Kemmerer, Wyoming (population: 2,656) — where a coal plant was shutting down after 50 years. But Gates was there “to celebrate the latest step in a project that’s been more than 15 years in the making: designing and building a next-generation nuclear power plant…”

The new plant will employ “between 200 and 250 people,” Gates writes in a blog post, “and those with experience in the coal plant will be able to do many of the jobs — such as operating a turbine and maintaining connections to the power grid — without much retraining.”

It’s called the Natrium plant, and it was designed by TerraPower, a company I started in 2008. When it opens (potentially in 2030), it will be the most advanced nuclear facility in the world, and it will be much safer and produce far less waste than conventional reactors.
All of this matters because the world needs to make a big bet on nuclear. As I wrote in my book How to Avoid a Climate Disaster , we need nuclear power if we’re going to meet the world’s growing need for energy while also eliminating carbon emissions. None of the other clean sources are as reliable, and none of the other reliable sources are as clean…

Another thing that sets TerraPower apart is its digital design process. Using supercomputers, they’ve digitally tested the Natrium design countless times, simulating every imaginable disaster, and it keeps holding up. TerraPower’s sophisticated work has drawn interest from around the globe, including an agreement to collaborate on nuclear power technology in Japan and investments from the South Korean conglomerate SK and the multinational steel company ArcelorMittal…

I’m excited about this project because of what it means for the future. It’s the kind of effort that will help America maintain its energy independence. And it will help our country remain a leader in energy innovation worldwide. The people of Kemmerer are at the forefront of the equitable transition to a clean, safe energy future, and it’s great to be partnering with them.

Gates writes that for safety the plant uses liquid sodium (instead of water) to absorb excess heat, and it even has an energy storage system “to control how much electricity it produces at any given time…”

“I’m convinced that the facility will be a win for the local economy, America’s energy independence, and the fight against climate change.

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Brit Fusion Magnets Set For US Gamma Ray Bombardment Test

UK fusion company Tokamak Energy claims to have made a breakthrough in fusion magnets, developing technology capable of withstanding the electromagnetic bombardment from a fusion reaction while holding the reaction in place. It plans to put its technology to the test at a U.S. gamma ray facility in the desert. The Register reports: At its Oxford headquarters, Tokamak Energy, which is collaborating with the UK government’s nuclear fusion program, has built a specialist gamma radiation cryostat system, designed around a vacuum device which insulates the magnets from fusion energy. The system is now set to be disassembled, shipped, and rebuilt at the Gamma Irradiation Facility based at the US Department of Energy’s Sandia Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Tokamak Energy said Sandia was one of the few places in the world capable of housing the system while exposing the company’s superconducting magnets to gamma radiation comparable with the expected emissions of a fusion power plant. Research and analysis on sets of individual magnets will run for six months at the New Mexico facility, which is so powerful it can do a 60-year lifetime test in just two weeks, Tokamak Energy said. The company recently signed an agreement with UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) to jointly develop technology, and share resources and equipment for the development of a Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP).

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Scientists Discover First ‘Neutron-Rich’ Isotope of Uranium Since 1979

An anonymous reader shared this report from LiveScience: Scientists have discovered and synthesized an entirely new isotope of the highly radioactive element uranium. But it might last only 40 minutes before decaying into other elements. The new isotope, uranium-241, has 92 protons (as all uranium isotopes do) and 149 neutrons, making it the first new neutron-rich isotope of uranium discovered since 1979. While atoms of a given element always have the same number of protons, different isotopes, or versions, of those elements may hold different numbers of neutrons in their nuclei. To be considered neutron-rich, an isotope must contain more neutrons than is common to that element…

“We measured the masses of 19 different actinide isotopes with a high precision of one part per million level, including the discovery and identification of the new uranium isotope,” Toshitaka Niwase, a researcher at the High-energy Accelerator Research Organization (KEK) Wako Nuclear Science Center (WNSC) in Japan, told Live Science in an email. “This is the first new discovery of a uranium isotope on the neutron-rich side in over 40 years.” Niwase is the lead author of a study on the new uranium isotope, which was published March 31 in the journal Physical Review Letters…

Niwase and colleagues created the uranium-241 by firing a sample of uranium-238 at platinum-198 nuclei at Japan’s RIKEN accelerator. The two isotopes then swapped neutrons and protons — a phenomenon called “multinucleon transfer.” The team then measured the mass of the created isotopes by observing the time it took the resulting nuclei to travel a certain distance through a medium. The experiment also generated 18 new isotopes, all of which contained between 143 and 150 neutrons.

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New York’s First Offshore Wind Farms To Launch This Year

New York will launch the nation’s first major offshore wind farms later this year off of Long Island. CBS News reports: Long Island winds, strong and consistent, will power New York’s first offshore wind farm, and its first power cable has made landfall. Snaking 60 miles, by year’s end it will connect 12 wind turbines being built 35 miles east of Montauk, ushering in clean energy to 70,000 homes. It’s the biggest dive into offshore wind in the nation — a first of many. It’s named South Fork. It will be the first of five wind farms in the works, with four to five more to come. […] New York’s first five wind farms will power 2.5 million homes within five years. Its goal is to produce all electricity with zero emissions by 2040.

“Right now, Long Island is powered about 80% by fossil fuels. And when we go to 2040 it will be 0% for New York. Off shore wind will probably provide 25% of the state’s electricity within the next 10 to 15 years. So it’s a massive, renewable clean source of energy at affordable prices. And it’s located right near where all the electricity demand is,” CEO of LIPA Tom Falcone said. “We need to transition downstate from fossil fuels to renewables. And that’s a great challenge for New York, because we can’t really build anything on the land because there isn’t land. So we have to share the ocean,” said Adrienne Esposito from Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

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The World Saw a Record 9.6% Growth In Renewables In 2022

By the end of 2022, global renewable generation capacity amounted to 3,372 gigawatts (GW), growing the stock of renewable power by 295 GW or 9.6%, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). Renewables produced an overwhelming 83% of all power capacity added last year. Electrek reports: Renewable Capacity Statistics 2023, released today by IRENA, shows that renewable energy continues to grow at record levels despite global uncertainties, confirming the downward trend of fossil fuels. While many countries increased their renewable capacity in 2022, the significant growth of renewables is concentrated in Asia, the US, and Europe. IRENA reports that almost half of all new capacity in 2022 was added in Asia, resulting in a total of 1.63 terawatts (TW) of renewable capacity by 2022. China was the largest contributor, adding 141 GW to Asia’s new capacity.

Renewables in Europe and North America grew by 57.3 GW and 29.1 GW, respectively. Africa saw an increase of 2.7 GW, slightly above 2021. Oceania continued its double-digit growth with an expansion of 5.2 GW, and South America had a capacity expansion of 18.2 GW. The Middle East recorded its highest increase in renewables on record, with 3.2 GW of new capacity added in 2022, an increase of 12.8%. Although hydropower accounted for the largest share of the global total renewable generation capacity with 1,250 GW, solar and wind continued to dominate new generating capacity. Together, both technologies contributed 90% to the share of all new renewable capacity in 2022. Solar led with a 22% (191 GW) increase, followed by wind, which increased its generating capacity by 9% (75 GW).

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PC Maker Acer Is Building a Fancy Electric Bike With Built-In AI

Computer component maker Acer built a lightweight electric bike called the Acer ebii. Electrek reports: This lightweight 35 lb. (16 kg) e-bike features a number of gadgets and gizmos we have yet to spot in the industry, such as built-in AI designed to predictively control the transmission and make use of collision detection sensors for a safer ride. There’s also proximity unlocking feature that the company says “automatically locks your bike when you leave and unlocks it again when you’re nearby.” My Gogoro electric scooter has a similar function, though that’s a highway-capable vehicle.

Tracking capabilities are built into the ebii to help keep tabs on it 24/7. If the bike is ever stolen, it can be locked remotely and tracked using its built-in GPS locator. But don’t think that you won’t find typical bike parts here either, as the Acer ebii still features high-end components like a belt drive instead of a chain drive, 160mm hydraulic disc brakes, and 360-degree LED lighting. Airless tires are designed to remove the chance of flats, and a lefty-style fork does double duty as a conversation piece and a fancy weight saver.

There’s also a 460 Wh electric bicycle battery that is said to offer a range of up to 68 miles (110 km) per charge. A top speed of 15 mph (25 km/h) and a 250W rear hub motor look to keep the bike within European and Asian power and speed limits. There’s no hand throttle, which means riders will have to rely on pedal assist that is activated when the rider spins the pedals. It appears that there’s some confusion about the 2.5-hour charger included with the bike, as some in the industry seem to think it can be used to charge phones and batteries as well. In fact, it’s actually the e-bike’s removable battery itself that can function as a portable power station to charge up your mobile devices. Pricing and availability are not yet available. But there is a launch video to build up excitement.

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