October 30th, 2014 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Environment & Energy | Comments Off

Solar getting cheaper, will dominate

Windkrafträder und Solarmodule in einem Rapsfeld

It takes just 9 seconds of sunlight to provide the equivalent energy generated by burning all the oil, coal and gas we destroy every 24 hours. And solar is getting cheaper, so cheap it will dominate future electricity generation. A clear trajectory toward solar is emerging. A Deutsche Bank report published this week says that solar will be as cheap or cheaper than other forms of electricity generation in 47 states by 2016, in 36 states even if current tax credits were reduced. Even today solar is at grid parity in 10 states. The International Energy Agency now predicts that solar will be the world’s biggest source of electricity by 2050. This is a difficult challenge for the currently centralized model of electricity generation.

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October 28th, 2014 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Art & Society, Health, Science & Tech | Comments Off

Wearable Tech to Access the Net – Infographic

Over the next decade more of us will access more of the Internet more often using more wearable tech devices. They will be related mostly to convenience, notices of things we need to attend to, and personal health monitoring applications. Web site operators will need to begin to plan how they will optimize their sites for wearable devices.

How Wearable Technology Will Change The Internet

How Wearable Technology Will Change The Internet [Infographic] by the team at Quality Nonsense Ltd

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October 24th, 2014 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Business & Economy, Environment & Energy | Comments Off

Solar energy growing too fast?

iStock_000016699748XSmallInteresting that conversation is beginning to focus on whether solar energy and other renewables are growing too fast for the current electricity generating and grid system to cope with. The basic problem is that current generating capacity cannot be ramped up and down swiftly enough to accept huge amounts of renewable energy, and we still lack storage capacity for excess power generation. Predicted to be a bigger problem in the next 5 years or so, than in 15 years when there is more renewable energy and the system has adjusted.

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October 24th, 2014 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Business & Economy, Science & Tech, Transportation | Comments Off

Autonomous Trucks on the Horizon

Autonomous vehicles will be the focus of the next MIT Enterprise Forum, Northwest Chapter, here in Seattle on October 29, 2014. You can register here. This is a subject that is racing (pun intended) toward transportation planners, trucking companies and shippers, auto manufacturers and auto owners. The idea of driverless cars, or autonomous trucks, is one that even most futurists believed was a decade or more away. But as we have written about here and here, the prospects for at least limited applications for autonomous cars and trucks for highway driving may be just around the corner.

For the shipping industry, two fundamental issues plague their future planning: safety especially related to driver fatigue, and the availability of truck drivers. Is it possible that autonomous trucks will begin to solve both of those issues? It appears so.

Mercedes recently tested their concept truck that is able to drive autonomously on open roads, using a combination of radar, sensors, GPS, and computing. As you can see in the accompanying videos, the driver is able to set the truck on auto-pilot, and the truck handles driving down the highway just fine, even with traffic and emergency vehicles in the vicinity. Mercedes labels this truck their concept 2025 vehicle, but it is quite easy to imagine that with the technology essentially ready now, we might see limited adoption in the next five years or so. The Mercedes spokesperson points out that the truck could be driven legally, in auto-pilot, in several U.S. states already.

Currently the idea is that a driver would be in the vehicle, and do other things or rest while the truck is self driving. That makes sense for now, but it is also possible to imagine a future where autonomous trucks operate completely driver free while on the highway, and pull into a driver pick-up station when they near a city, where a driver comes on board. This is not unlike the way the local pilots board in-bound ships to guide them into and out of port. Imagine a future where truck drivers are mostly local experts, and don’t have to waste time driving endless miles cross country.

When I addressed the American Trucking Association technology conference late in 2013 I recommended that fleet operators move up their timeline for autonomous trucks. But even a year ago it was not clear that things could move ahead this quickly.

For some technical details of the Mercedes 2025 Truck check this video.

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