Energy Politics

Recent Power Outages in Texas point to the need for improvement in the renewable Energy Sector

Towards the end of February, Texas was caught between a power outage hiccup that saw households go without electricity and heat for days. Texas electricity grid relies largely on natural gas and onshore wind. When an ice-storm struck, depositing chunks of ice on the turbines, the US state was thrown in a pool of cold and darkness. Critics have blamed renewable energy for Texas’ woes. Politicians inclined to fossil fuels dismissed renewable energy claiming that just like solar energy, wind energy requires planning for days when the wind is unreliable. They argued that wind energy is not a reliable source of electricity, especially in extreme weather, and states should not phase out fossil fuels completely before laying a good network of renewable energy.

However, reports by Texas Utility officials state otherwise. “The dangerous situations in Texas and Oklahoma underscore the urgency of the climate crisis and the need to make transformational investments in our country’s infrastructure, including the electricity grid,” said Lori Lodes, director of Climate Power, a policy powerhouse. In the future, federal governments might need to feature natural gas sources alongside wind, solar and nuclear energy. Experts have said the electricity supply might face similar predicaments if natural gas is phased out entirely. For example, in California, power outages last summer were attributed to the state’s hastened gas plants phase-out.

According to Wood Mackenzie, an energy research company, the Texas menace was attributed to the gas plants’ underperformance. “The crisis in Texas was not caused by the state’s renewable energy industry. The largest loss of generation came from gas-fired power plants, with the drop-off from wind farms a long way behind,” said Wood Mackenzie’s Ed Crooks. Wind power met its expected targets during the winter storm. According to officials, the power outages were prevalent in natural gas, coal, and nuclear sources-reliant regions. The three sources account for two-thirds of the total electricity generated during winter in Texas. According to the American Gas Association (AGA), states should re-evaluate how their electricity grids sustain them during cold days of the year and identify areas that need improvement.

“Coming days, weeks, and months should include how we utilize and value the role the system plays in the coldest days of the year and accounting for disruption and events of severe weather,” said AGA’s managing director of energy markets, analysis, and standards, Richard Meyer. The generation and transmission of renewable energy need to be reconsidered. “Distributed resources including storage and demand response will also have to play a greater role. Texas renewable capacity would need to increase more than 10-fold to provide the same amount of energy produced by the fossil fuel fleet on Monday, even at reduced levels,” said an analyst at Wood Mackenzie.

Michael Webber, an energy resources professor at the University of Texas, Austin, in a commentary, said states have to rethink the design of residential and commercial designs to accommodate both warm and extremely cold weather. “States that model their structures and facilities for hot weather will need to prepare for more severe cold spells, while cold-weather states may anticipate more heat waves.” As the current climatic conditions in Texas demonstrate, there is no time to waste in being more weather-ready,” Webber stated.


Details of the electric vehicle legislation that saw Jackie Toledo and Andrew Learned stand side by side during its unveiling

Jackie Toledo and Andrew Learned, Tampa Rep. and Brandon Rep., respectively, graced the unveiling of electric vehicles’ bipartisan legislation. The pair has been sponsoring HB 819 and HB 817 together with Rep. Rene Plasencia. The bill’s versions are also in the Senate courtesy of Jeff Brandes, the Senator of Pinellas County. Its focus is to see Florida register a massive expansion in the electric vehicle infrastructure. According to Toledo, the legislation would encourage municipalities and local governments in electric vehicle infrastructure’s adoption and investment.

It includes an initiative that would offer local authorities a grant for the development of electric vehicle infrastructure. During the application of a matching program, the funding needs should be into consideration. It should have a 30% match, 60% match, and 20 % match for technical assistance, level 2 charging stations, and direct current fast-charging stations, respectively. Toledo thinks that it would mean a lot to Florida residents to travel from one point to another without having to worry that the charge will die during the journey.

Regarding how fund to raise the necessary amount of money, the proposal also has a recommendation. Some of the revenue from the registration of electric vehicles should go towards installing more electric vehicle charging stations. According to Learned, what people should be doing is getting ready for electric vehicles because it will be the only option sooner or later. He added that taking such a move would see the installation of the development of charging stations all over the state commence and the adoption of the green technology happen soon. He also sees it as a long-term development since when electric vehicles stop being the future and become the present, Florida will already have the necessary transport infrastructure.

The proposal also proposes a few responsibilities to the Florida Department of Transport. For instance, it would have to review research on upcoming technology and policies in the electric vehicle standards and infrastructure. Upon the review, the FDOT should then go-ahead to publish the best ones. Learned feels like the electric car sector’s current situation is more of the story of the egg and the chicken.  For one, anyone who wants to invest heavily in the infrastructure is discouraged by the small number of cars. On the other hand, people who want to buy electric cars would increase the vehicle to a number that will encourage the investors to be discouraged by the few charging stations. However, he believes that HB 819 and HB 817 would end this unhealthy situation.


Space Force views itself as a startup seeking to get a new product off the ground

The United States Space Force‘s senior enlisted leader contrasted the service to the startup, which is striving to be “little more bit daring” than the existing military divisions.  Chief Master Sergeant Roger Towberman, talking at the online Air Force Association’s Aerospace Warfare Symposium on February 25, contrasted the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force to the “blue chip” companies and “awesome agencies,” while the Space Force is much more analogous to an unorthodox startup.

Towberman stated that all armed services share fundamental values as well as a “hunger to succeed.” He went on to say, “We want the stuff that everybody wants.” However, as a brand-new division, the Space Force is attempting to strike a balance between tradition and a willingness to evolve while doing things very differently. “People would take a little bit of risk,” he said, similar to a fresh startup business.

The Space Force’s primary tasks include acquiring and launching satellites, as well as preparing personnel to operate and defend these satellites. The Space Force needs to recruit people with digital capabilities and a technological mentality regardless of what it does. Towberman clarified that this necessitates a special approach to recruitment and hiring. “If they’ve not checked those boxes, we would like to find the person who can understand and is enthusiastic about serving,” he added. “We will identify diamonds in the rough this way. This is a term that excites me.”

Towberman warned, however, that becoming a new service does not imply leaving tradition entirely. In that context, he supported the Space Force’s decision to follow much of the Air Force’s levels for officers as well as enlisted personnel, which was revealed on January 29. “The more conventional rank system is the way to go,” he stated, citing input from soldiers, “but we’d like to be brave about how we use them.”

The debate about levels has been mischaracterized, according to General David Thompson, the Space Force’s vice chief in charge of space operations. At the AFA conference, Thompson claimed that the notion that ranks do have a “deep influence on culture” was “way overstated and not reflected in research.” “People are attracted to their service first. “A marine does not say they were a corporal or a captain; they simply say they were served as a marine,” he continued. “We communicate with our tasks and the work we do, and this involves all ranks.”


Xos to trade publicly on Nasdaq via the NextGen Acquisition Corporation merge

If you are keen on the market trends, you have concluded that electric vehicles are currently popular and in high demand. And unlike companies often merge to develop or sell the products. In the recent report, the Xos and NextGen Acquisition Corporation are forming a partnership. The former is a leading commercial electric vehicle equipment manufacturer in the $100 billion medium, while the latter is a heavy-duty retail electric vehicle market.

In a recent announcement, Xos and Nasdaq: NGAC announced their plan to work together. The dual has entered into a definitive business combination agreement whose. The primary role is to make Xos a publicly listed company. Via the Twitter account, the CEO, Dakota Semier, stated his excitement in the new venture. He went ahead to give a short history about how Xos came to be and the mission of Xos. The central role of the company’s creation was to decarbonize the transport industry through the design, innovation, and development of commercial vehicles.

Dakota talked about their association with different fleet operators when it comes o bringing their products to the market. He also stated the challenges that the company has faced since its birth in 2016. For information on the partnership, Dakota expressed how Xos takes this step as a milestone to help the company expand both the vehicle and battery manufacturing capability.

NextGen, George Mattson, talked about the environment and climate changes and how electric vehicles will help create a zero-emission country. He spoke about how the company went through over a hundred potential merger opportunities and power evaluation before settling for electric cars.

The two companies have a Pro-forma market capital that runs up to $2 billion. Xos vehicles have been in the market since 2019, whose customer base includes Loomis, UPS, Wiggins, and Lonestar. These customers order over 6000 units which include both contraction and optional orders. Experts expect Xos to deliver the total cost of ownership through the powertrain systems and purpose-built battery. Also, there is the integrated control vehicle software and OEM powertrain architect that is in the X-platform.

Xos also has a stable multi-year manufacturing partnership with Metalsa, the number one Tier 1 supplier and strategic investor. The main reason for this partnership is to build chassis components and frame rails. All the top officials from the two prominent companies will unite and create a new board of directors. Reliable sources claim that the transaction is likely to take place in the second quarter of the year. The combined companies will be listed on The Nasdaq Stock market with the symbol ”XOS.” This partnership is grand, and many are hoping to see its result. And how the end product will be for the two companies and the customers.


Chinese Space engineering firm currently testing its production capacity, production to commence in March

According to reports, the Space Engineering Development (SED), a subsidiary of China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC), has begun testing its satellite manufacturing infrastructure. The firm, established in 2018, is based in Wuhan, Hubei province.

The design and construction of the SED plant took approximately 14 months, according to the firm’s general manager, Zou Guangbao. Upon completion, the plant will be producing about 240 small satellites annually. The Chinese administration is on a mission to launch spacecraft to space to keep up with the pace set by other industry pioneers such as Russia, the US, and the EU.

The SED was established to enable the Chinese government to manufacture small communication satellites for the Hongyun project. The project seeks to launch around 150 small communication satellites in the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) for broadband internet access globally.

The Hongyun program was initiated in 2016, and two years down the line, the first Hongyun satellite was transported to space abode the Long March 11 carrier space vehicle. The successful launch was carried out at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Gobi Desert, Inner Mongolia. The Launch facility is also referred to as the Dongfeng Aerospace City.

The process of building a satellite is a long one and involves component installation, satellite assembly, electronic and mechanical tests, said SED’s project manager, Liu Feng. The ongoing construction will be manually operated, including all these steps. “By comparison, our plants use robots to perform major steps, which means we can improve the average manufacturing efficiency for satellites by more than 40 percent,” said Feng.

The Wuhan-based plant is a research and development center for creating satellites, taking a keen interest in satellites’ structure and thermal control. Apart from satellites, the plant will work on other space products in the future.

The Chinese government regards broadband connectivity highly and has invested a lot in satellite communication. Apart from the state-owned projects, the government also funds private developers to augment the government’s efforts. For instance, it funds Spacety, a satellite communication designer and manufacturer based in Changsha, Hunan Province. Both SED and Spacety are required to produce over 100 satellites each per year.

Satellite communication offers reliable signal strength for telecommunications, broadcasting, and data communication. China has strived to ramp up its satellite communication sector. In January this year, it launched the Tiantong 1-03 mobile telecommunication satellite into the LEO. The payload was carried by a Long March 3B carrier rocket from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center. China’s satellites will provide reliable connectivity for voice calls, messaging, and data connection across Asia, Middle East, Africa, and other underserved regions.


Components such as mirrors, brakes, and wheels used in electric vehicles could be different from those of traditional cars

When it comes to plans to do with automotive in years to come, a complete transition to electric vehicles seems inevitable. That’s why Swedish Volvo declared to make a 100% about since it has been making traditional vehicles for quite a long time. Later on, General Motors joined the camp, promising to be manufacturing electric cars exclusively by 2035. Stakeholders saw it as a good thing for the industry. After all, it would pressure the rest of the global carmakers and, in return, put more effort into their transition as well. On the other hand, the fossil fuel industry will be losing a considerable customer hence a need to make products compatible with electric vehicles.

Those are not the only areas that will soon have to shape in or ship out. Others include tire manufactures, garages, designers, and the ones making various car parts. The good thing about EVs is that other than being relatively expensive, almost everything else sounds positive. First of all, they are easy to maintain. They also run quietly and are one of the best ways of reducing the environmental pollution.

Equally important, the design will most likely be different from the current trucks and cars powered by diesel or gasoline. Under such circumstances, the structures of its components will also require some modifications. The recent physical and mechanical attention may also be useless with electric vehicles. Therefore, everybody from the automotive sector may have to relearn even the arts they had mastered over the years. From drivers, mechanics to manufacturers, electric vehicles will be different, and adapting to the change will be indispensable.

According to Ian Coke, Pirelli Tire’s chief technical officer, a pure electric vehicle is different from the traditional ones. However, there will be two categories of electric vehicles. Some will involve finding an existing platform and installing an electric powertrain in it. The other group will be electric vehicle models designed and manufactured from scratch. Distinguishing the two will be crucial in determining how one proceeds. Companies going for the second category include Tesla, Volvo, BIO, Volkswagen, and Lucid. Others include Audi, Rivian, Ford Motor Co., and General Motors.

According to Mark Dahncke, the Audi spokesman in America, the company develops its designs as pure electronics. He added that it is not easy since optimized efficiency is mandatory. Therefore, there is no room for even a previously minor mistake in tires, brakes, and wheels. Above all, despite the relatively strong suspension, strong axels, and strong brakes, the car must be of practical weight and should also withstand the extra weight.


Germany’s Workforce in Electric Vehicle Battery Engineering to increase courtesy of Valmet Automotive

When it comes to passengers’ vehicle manufacturers, Valmet Automotive is among the best globally. The same case applies to electric vehicle battery systems since the company is also a Tier 1 system supply. Interestingly, the company plans to expand the above by venturing even more into e-mobility engineering activities. The expansion will lead to creating jobs for professionals such as technicians and engineers in Germany. There will be more jobs for support staff as well.

For a while now, Valmet Automotive has been doing well in the battery systems manufacturing sector. At the moment, it has an ongoing battery factory that has been under construction since January 2020. Its location is Uusikaupunki, Finland, where the company has a car plant site. After its completion, Valmet Automotive will then have two battery factories. Equally important, it plans to commence its operation around mid-2021. It will be producing electric vehicles’ high-voltage systems. Interestingly, it already has a pair of customers for the proposed plant, and they are top-notch manufacturers in Europe for the record.

Its team in charge of battery systems engineering has a firm footing in Germany. That’s not something one would expect because Finland is the company’s stronghold. For instance, Finnish plants in Uusikaupunki usually produce the most battery systems. However, its engineering sites in Bad Friedrichshall are also in the process of upping their game through expansion. In the process, there will be the creation of a lot of jobs. The move comes at a time when the demand for electric vehicles and their accessories is increasing rapidly. One profession that the plans are looking for is engineering. The engineers will design, develop and test cell modules and battery systems. They will also look into the high-voltage sector area.

It is important to note that Valmet Automotive does almost everything in the engineering chain ranging from concept to development, not forgetting prototyping and testing. That’s a lot of tasks, no doubt. On top of that, the electric vehicles sector is proliferating, and that means demand will also increase since the two are directly proportional to each other. To ensure that the company is well-equipped for the rising demand, Valmet Automotive has decided to hire more professions, especially in the engineering sector.

According to Valmet Automotive Vice President Engineering EV Systems Mathias Wurges, all the various development areas are looking for additional staff members. They are also looking for employees who have what it takes to get the job done. Successful applicants will join the team and indulge in what it believes in, driving the ongoing e-mobility transition together.


Space Junk Map indicates the dangerously cluttered orbit

Astronauts have been working in the space exploration industry for many years with multiple attempts in space. However, the current space junk map is not that pleasing to the ear. It shows 26,000 objects that are hanging dangerously into space. These objects have an average size which equals that of a cell phone or a bit larger. These facts are from an aerospace engineer from the University of Texas. He alarms the planet about how dangerous space has become with the many junks cluttered into the Earth’s orbit in his report. There are multiple opinions on the matter.

Naturally, if you visit the coastal areas in many countries, you will notice one thing. The litterbugs, plastic floating in the water, and other garbage. From these sites, you can figure out that humans’ nature is a bit untidy, especially when dealing with public spaces. From the recent images, it is clear that we spread litter everywhere we go, even in space. And like normal humans, no one figures out a way to clean up the mess we create. Moriba Jah, an associate professor from the University of Texas, Austin, leads to talk about the matter.

These conclusions follow after his recent monitoring in the Earth’s orbit. He maps the human litter that is currently orbiting the Earth. He works with a team that uses the Multi-source, crowdsourced database to collect pictures all over the space. These statics ranges from the U.S Department of Defence to private satellites.

The Space Age started in 1957, October 4th, after the first launch of Sputnik 1. What followed have been over 5000 space ships which go into space leaving some of their parts and cargo. Later, astronauts added thousands of satellites. From his data, it is clear that the Earth’s orbit currently holds over 26,000 orbits with a big size that you can track. They range from the least size of a cell phone to that of a space station. In an interview with The Current, Jah spoke about the things in space and that only 3000 instruments are currently in use.

The rest of the things include nuts, bolts, gloves, and other things hanging in space. These things are from spacewalks, decommissioned satellites, rocket-ship parts, and the Tesla under Elon Musk 2018 launch. The European Space Agency also estimates about 166 million human-made objects that are cluttered in space, including things as small as one millimeter.

From the study, most of the garbage is in the low Earth orbit. Also, the garbage is moving at an abnormally high speed. And these facts pose the danger of space collision with other useful things. Jah talked about Susan Helms’s experience in space and its strange noises. Jah hopes that space entrepreneurs should work on ways to clean up space to prevent unimaginable disasters.


A partnership develops Chips for electric vehicles

If you are among the people who focus on market trends, you must conclude that electric vehicles are a hit this year. With the various Governments working on the Green project and a new phase for the energy industry, electric cars are on the impact. These facts have led to a massive share of the partnership to help in the transit process. The Compound Semiconductor Centre and Newport Water Fab have received a UK Government research partnership in recent times. Not to mention, this partnership will receive innovation funding to work on advanced components to assists in the electric vehicles venture.

The Compound Semiconductor Centre (CSC) is a joint venture including Cardiff University and the IQE Plc. This project is a team-up with Newport Water Fab (NWF) to create new production processes. The process aims to achieve high voltage semiconductor chip tech. It is a unique fabrication process that uses gallium nitride on silicon to leverage over thirty years of experience in the making of silicon chips.

When it comes to dealing with Silicon, Newport Facility is what we call home. It is the foundry of the planet’s first integrated silicon. This process is silicon on a compound semiconductor. Newport Facility aims to supply its products to the automotive industry globally. It is the most extensive semiconductor manufacturing plant in the United Kingdom, with 450 staff.

NWF, in this teamwork, will use the water processes whose credit goes to CSC in conjunction with its parent company IQE. Recently, CSC was on top of the world after receiving full accreditation thanks to its high-quality Internal Management System. This step will take the development world to a volume scale-up.

One of the biggest backers of this project is UKRI, which works hand in hand with the Automotive Transformation Fund. It is also a project whose key role is to help the UK government achieve the UK automotive sector zero emissions’ target. In a statement by NWFs via their Director, they clearly expressed the excitement regarding the new project.

The Director, Sam Evans, went ahead to explain how this move is a step forward to the Company’s goal of becoming the world’s primary manufacturer of semi-conductor-on-silicon products.

Rob Harper added the GaN program manager on the same and how this project aims to help steer the electric vehicle’s transit on the roads. Dr. Wyn Meredith, CSC Director, commented about the partnership claiming that it is a golden opportunity for the two companies. Meredith also stated on issues regarding the automotive industry and the changes taking place this year in the industry. This collaboration is a huge step to make the automotive sector friendlier to promising buyers.


Elon Musk blasts Bezos’ Amazon regarding the Starlink satellite internet

In recent times, the two richest men globally, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, are dealing with federal regulators regarding the massive internet programs that their companies are founding. Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, via his Twitter account, highlighted this upcoming project. His Company is currently working on persuading the Federal Communications Commission Officials to move some of the Starlink satellites. This move will help lower altitudes. However, this detail was not in the original plan.

One of the popular people who are against this move is Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos. His Company is against this move with allegations that this modification will interfere with other satellites. When answering these claims, Elon Musk expressed his thoughts where he explained that Starlink should not be suppressed by the Amazon Satellite system that will take years to bring to the operation.

SpaceX, in general, dismissed these claims because Amazon is trying to suppress competition. Amazon also went ahead to respond to these claims in a public statement to CNBC. An Amazon spokesman claiming to follow the facts explained that their Kuiper System design’s main goal was to avoid Starlink’s interference. However, SpaceX wants to make changes that do not follow the original plan, which may destroy their project.

Amazon’s spokesperson explained that the changes would make the environment more dangerous and likely cause a collision in space. Also, it will likely increase radio interference. The spokesman also accused SpaceX of hamstring competition among the satellite systems. And this move is not in the Public’s interest.

Starlink is one of the main projects that SpaceX is working on in this Space calendar. It is a plan that is working on building an interconnected internet network with over 12,000 satellites. The primary goal of the Starlink project is to deliver high-speed internet all over the planet. Currently, it holds over 1000 satellites in the Earth’s orbit. In October last year, SpaceX began a public beta program. The initial service costs $99 per month and an additional $499 to get a Starlink Kit.

Each Kit includes a Wi-Fi router and user terminal to connect to the satellites. Meanwhile, Amazon is also working on satellite internet, Project Kuiper. This project aims to release 3,236 internet satellites in the Earth’s orbit. Project Kuiper is a system that would compete with Starlink. Unlike SpaceX, Amazon is yet to start launching its satellites into the Earth’s orbit.

In July 2020, the FCC authorized Project Kuiper, where the Company plans on investing over $10 billion. There have been details about SpaceX’s intention to move their satellites to lower orbit in recent weeks. But Amazon opposes this move. The two giant technology companies hold different grounds on the matter, and time will tell the issue’s result.