Gambit Energy Storage LLC, a Tesla subsidiary, is building a 100 megawatt energy storage project in Arlington, Texas, outside of Houston. The giant battery will plug into the Texas power grid, providing backup to a system that last month suffered a devastating failure when a severe winter storm knocked generation offline at the same time as demand soared.
Tesla introduced its Powerwall home batteries in 2016; the Gambit battery would store enough energy to power 20,000 homes during summer peak hours, and is expected to be operational on June 1st. Blackouts are becoming increasingly common as climate change exposes the energy grid's vulnerability to climate change, and battery-supported microgrids are increasingly seen as a critical backup for lifesaving systems.
As reported by NPR:
Like falling dominos, infrastructure around Texas, dependent on electricity, began failing in the extreme cold. In Austin, the Ullrich Water Treatment Plant shut down due to an electrical failure. That, combined with low water pressure from broken pipes, meant residents had to boil their water.
Blackouts are becoming increasingly common as extreme weather causes electricity demand to skyrocket, while simultaneously damaging the aging electric grid. Climate change-driven disasters, like more intense storms and hurricanes, only increase that risk.
So, some communities are looking for new ways to ensure that vulnerable people and infrastructure can withstand power outages. They're installing solar panels and large batteries to create tiny "microgrids" that continue working when the larger grid goes dark.
Some are being sited at crucial facilities, like water treatment plants, hospitals and emergency response centers. Smaller battery systems also aid people who rely on life-saving medical equipment at home. While electric utilities traditionally invest in keeping up the electric grid, disaster experts say they need to also explore newer solutions, adapted to extreme weather, for when the grid falters and can't be repaired fast.
"These natural disasters and disruptive events are going to continue," says Eliza Hotchkiss, senior resilience analyst at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. "We're seeing them, especially in hurricanes, happening more frequently with greater intensity. So we just can't bury our heads in the sand and ignore that this is a thing that's happening, because it will just continue to disrupt our lives."
For a deeper dive:
After a minor setback, a new era in space travel and tourism is set to launch this weekend.
On Wednesday, a SpaceX rocket launch carrying NASA astronauts was postponed 16 minutes before liftoff due to weather concerns.
"We had simply too much electricity," said Jim Bridenstine, NASA administrator, to BBC. "There was a concern that if we did launch, it could actually trigger lightning."
They will try again at 3:22 p.m. EDT on Saturday, May 30 and on Sunday, May 31 should the former also get scrapped.
The joint-mission, Demo-2, will make history as the first-ever manned commercial space flight and will take place in SpaceX's spacecraft "Crew Dragon."
When the SpaceX shuttle launches its private spacecraft, the Crew Dragon, with NASA astronauts in tow, it will mark the beginning of commercialized space exploration. SpaceX
The endeavor is actually a groundbreaking public-private partnership between NASA and SpaceX, who both hope the collaboration will further open up the universe of space exploration, literally.
In 2011, NASA retired its aging space shuttle program. Since then, the U.S. hasn't launched its own astronauts into space, booking them tickets instead to train on and launch from Russia's Soyuz spacecraft, reported CNN.
When the Crew Dragon launches, it will mark the return of America's ability to launch its own astronauts into space.
"When we launch from America with a rocket built in America by an American company who's only been flying vehicles for the last decade or so, that is a success story straight out of the movies," said Douglas Hurley, one of the two NASA astronauts manning the mission, reported NBC News. "The Russians have been great partners, but it's important for the United States to have its own launch capabilities."
NASA hopes that its partnership with SpaceX will also usher in a new commercial marketplace for low-Earth orbit transportation.
NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken will man the SpaceX Crew Dragon to the International Space Station. NASA
Rather than finance a replacement for the Space Shuttle, NASA has created the Commercial Crew Program to outsource "safe, reliable, and cost-effective transportation" of cargo and crew to and from the International Space Station (ISS) to the private sector. The underlying objective was to free up NASA's time and resources for deeper space exploration, reported CNN.
"NASA has an ability to be a customer in a very robust commercial marketplace in low-Earth orbit," Bridenstine told NBC News. The top NASA official also envisioned a future where that marketplace is "entirely commercialized," where NASA is "one customer of many customers," and where numerous providers continue to compete on cost, innovation and safety, reported BBC.
SpaceX senior advisor Garrett Reisman told Bloomberg that the "new venture" is a different model from what the space agency has used in the past. Private companies can now retain their intellectual property and own and operate the new technology, a huge upside for innovators.
"It's also the beginning of a whole new age, a whole golden age of commercial space flight," he continued, reported Bloomberg. "One of the things that is different is the fact that NASA doesn't own the Falcon 9 [rocket] and Dragon [spacecraft]; SpaceX does. So after this mission is over, we can use the same rocket, the same spacecraft to take ordinary citizens up into space. It's opening up all kinds of new possibilities."
The outsourcing has potentially saved taxpayers $20-30 billion dollars, Reisman estimated, reported Bloomberg. While seats on the Soyuz cost NASA up to $86 million each, Crew Dragon seats cost the agency roughly $55 million each for this mission, CNN found. According to CEO Elon Musk, filling all seven seats in the SpaceX capsule will lower costs to $20 million per astronaut, reported ABC News.
With the successful completion of this last test mission, which is also SpaceX's first flight with humans aboard ever, the company will have the green light to ferry crew to the ISS regularly starting in August or September, reported ABC News.
"This is a huge milestone for NASA, for the country, and for SpaceX, but there will be other milestones after this," Reisman told Bloomberg. He said it is "extremely realistic" that the Crew Dragon will be used to fly private citizens into space in 2021.
"This era of commercial space travel and space tourism is literally right around the corner," he added, reported Bloomberg.
Musk will continue to seek out potential new clients for his budding space transport business, perhaps space tourists looking for a quick getaway to the Moon or Mars, reported Bloomberg.
The news report also found that SpaceX's success has catalyzed the competition, with Boeing also gearing up to carry astronauts to orbit under the same NASA Commercial Crew Program. New market entrants like Blue Origin, financed by Amazon.com Inc. founder Jeff Bezos, are trying to cut costs using reusable rockets, a strategy Musk is also exploring.
"We're standing at the threshold of all of this commercial activity in space," said Wayne Hale, who led NASA's space shuttle program, reported Bloomberg. "One of the whole points of this exercise is to build a commercial business that can go on and do things in space that are not funded by the taxpayer, that actually create wealth and jobs."
After launch, Hurley and Robert Behnken, the other NASA astronaut, will spend roughly 19 hours aboard the Crew Dragon before arriving at the ISS, CNN reported. They will stay in space to staff the ISS for anywhere from 30 to 110 days, according to NASA. Then, the SpaceX Crew Dragon will return on its second manned mission with fresh crew and to bring the veteran astronauts back to Earth, CNN reported.
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Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
By Fiona E. McNeill
The Michigan community of Flint has become a byword for lead poisoning. Elon Musk recently entered the fray. He tweeted a promise to pay to fix the water in any house in Flint that had water contamination above acceptable levels set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
On Twitter and elsewhere, people argued whether this offer was a big deal or not. Some said his follow-up tweets that most houses in Flint had safe water were wrong. Some said the issue had already been fixed so he was doing nothing.
@DylanSheaMusic Please consider this a commitment that I will fund fixing the water in any house in Flint that has… https://t.co/UT3wmEE0m8— Elon Musk (@Elon Musk)1531342347.0
Others argued that his clarification that he would pay to fit water filters in the small number of houses with high lead levels ("outliers," as he called them) meant he was backtracking.
Even as controversy swirls this week around Musk's financial contribution to a Republican fundraising committee and his comments about a British cave rescuer in Thailand, I argue the Tesla founder has made an important offer regarding Flint. What's more, he's clearly explored the issues surrounding lead in the town's drinking water.
I have studied lead exposure for 30 years. I develop biomedical devices to measure long-term exposure. I recently showed that long-term exposure to lead in Canada has been reduced by half since the early 1990s.
I know that removing lead from drinking water is important because lead is such a toxic metal. It lowers children's IQs, and my colleagues and I showed that lead-exposed children have higher blood pressure late in life. We also found that women exposed to lead undergo menopause earlier than non-exposed women.
In Flint, controls of lead levels in drinking water failed, and an increased number of children were exposed to high lead levels for months. These children will suffer long-term consequences to their health and quality of life.
The children were lead poisoned in Flint because of poor management, complacency and intransigence.
Like many municipalities in North America, a proportion of the water lines in Flint are made of lead. Water running through lead pipes picks up small amounts of the metal, but more lead dissolves when the water is warm and/or acidic.
In April 2014, the city switched the source of water to the Flint River. This water was corrosive, and they failed to add corrosion control. More lead dissolved into the water and children drinking tap water were poisoned. The switch in water supply increased the number of children with blood lead levels above the U.S. action level of 5 µg/dL by 50 percent.
Government Officials Prolonged Crisis
It took months for the problem to be acknowledged and some state officials "stubbornly worked to discredit and dismiss others' attempts to bring the issues of unsafe water… to light" and "prolonged the Flint water crisis." The source of water was finally switched back, and slowly lead levels in drinking water and the number of children with blood levels above the action level fell.
As of 2018, the state of Michigan's sampling data of high-risk areas in Flint shows that four per cent of water samples in Flint over a six-month period had lead level levels above the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulatory level of 15 parts per billion.
As Musk noted, most of the tap water in Flint (more than 90 percent) is indeed safe by the EPA standard. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder announced the withdrawal of supplies of bottled water in April 2018, arguing that tap-water testing met federal guidelines and declaring the crisis over.
But that doesn't mean that lead has been completely eliminated. There are still properties in the city in 2018 with tested levels that exceed the EPA standard. While ongoing work to replace pipes, some the result of lawsuits, should mean lower levels of lead in the community's tap water in the future, it can cause spikes in lead water levels as particular pipes are cut apart and replaced.
Musk went further in his Tweets than a commitment to water levels below the EPA standard. He committed to fixing the water in any house that exceeded Food and Drug Administration (FDA) levels.
In the U.S., bottled water and tap water are regulated at different levels. The FDA (bottled) water level is three times lower than the EPA limit at five parts per billion. The state data from high-risk areas in Flint from January to July 2018 shows that 50 to 100 per cent more samples fail at this level.
And so by using the FDA standard, Musk is committing to paying to add filters to the water supply in potentially twice the number of homes in high-risk areas.
Lead can be removed from water by filtration. Some filters work better than others, but even low-cost filters can work well, so Musk's pledge to add filtration to house water supplies could work as an interim measure. Free water filters and replacement cartridges are available at City Hall, but as Musk noted in his Tweets, some local people distrust the state agency information and the filters. Who can blame them?
@elonmusk Hey Elon! Sean Hollister here with CNET. Can you confirm this is 100% real... and any comment on reports… https://t.co/uDuhPH6niW— Sean Hollister (@Sean Hollister)1531343892.0
The official report of the Flint Water Advisory Task Force notes that state officials tried to discredit the issue of unsafe water. Why would people in Flint accept on faith an offer of help from government, when governments have failed them?
Elon Musk may have an important role to play, not as an engineer and an installer of filters, but as an arm's-length third party whose help can be believed. The mayor of Flint, Karen Weaver, has said her conversation with Musk's team gave her hope that Musk could help with improving local confidence in water quality.
If Musk can help achieve safe drinking water more quickly for every home in Flint, then he should be lauded. Water is life. Giving all of the residents of Flint confidence in the safety of the tap water in their homes helps restore their lives and dignity.
Reposted with permission from our media associate The Conversation.
The $800 million (US $634 million) project—struck in February by Tesla CEO Elon Musk and former South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill—involves installing solar panels and batteries on 50,000 homes to function as an interconnected power plant.
But the plan was nearly scrapped under the new state government headed by Liberal leader Steven Marshall, who was elected in March. Marshall's government had their own plan to offer discounts on battery storage for 40,000 homes.
In a happy twist, Energy Minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan announced at the Australian Energy Conference this week the newly elected government would proceed with both plans.
"It's very important to be clear about this—we are honoring the existing commitments around the Tesla virtual power plant (VPP)," he said, as quoted by Australia's ABC News.
Van Holst Pellekaan, who met with Tesla soon after he was sworn in, added that he wants South Australia to become a world leader in home battery installation.
By doubling down, the state will eventually emerge with some 100,000 household batteries, or more than one in ten homes, Renew Economy noted.
"We'll show the world how the mass adoption of home batteries can and will work," he said. "This is a complicated task—I don't think that anyone has attempted to do what we're about to do at this scale relative to population and market size."
The virtual power plant involves installing a 5-kilowatt solar system and a Powerwall 2 battery on roughly 50,000 low-income and social housing units across the state over the next four years. The setup would be installed at no charge to the households and financed through the sale of electricity. Participants would save an estimated 30 percent on their power bills.
"My government has already delivered the world's biggest battery, now we will deliver the world's largest virtual power plant," Weatherill said then. "We will use people's homes as a way to generate energy for the South Australian grid, with participating households benefiting with significant savings in their energy bills.
Tesla told AFP that the virtual power plant would have 250 megawatts of solar energy and 650 megawatt hours of battery storage.
"At key moments, the virtual power plant could provide as much capacity as a large gas turbine or coal power plant," the company added.
Van Holst Pellekaan also said at the Australian Energy Conference that the trial phase, which starts with installing home energy systems on 1,100 public housing properties, is currently proceeding.
Tesla's Giant Australian Battery Saved Consumers $35 Million in Four Months https://t.co/0sgrLy8vaF @Tesla… https://t.co/1XIeb68OZp— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1526309066.0
The venture, called Nissan Energy Solar, allows homeowners to generate, store and charge EVs with their own renewable energy, which can reduce household energy bills by an estimated 66 percent, the company touts.
"It enables UK homeowners to make significant savings on their household electricity bills, and become champions of sustainability and green technology," said Gareth Dunsmore, the electric vehicle director of Nissan Europe, in a statement.
"More than 880,000 people in the UK already use solar panels and this fully integrated solution brings a fresh opportunity to grow this number exponentially over the coming years."
#Nissan has announced the retail launch of its integrated home energy solution for U.K. customers. Nissan Energy So… https://t.co/0fmgwu7cim— Nissan Motor (@Nissan Motor)1526538661.0
The Japanese automaker's new offering allows UK customers to choose between a fully integrated solar and storage package or just the components alone. System prices start at around £3,800 (about $5,100). Notably, customers can pick between a storage system made of new batteries or old ones from Nissan electric vehicles.
This is a great move to give a "second life" to batteries that have degraded to a point where they are no longer suitable for the road but are useful for other purposes. Nissan and its affiliate 4R Energy Corporation recently showed how these lithium-ion batteries still have usable capacity by creating the Reborn Light, a solar-powered street lamp that uses recycled Leaf batteries to store excess energy.
Nissan enters a space dominated by Elon Musk's Tesla, which allows customers to buy solar panels, home battery storage systems and electric cars under one roof. After acquiring SolarCity, Musk noted that the purchase of the solar energy company was in the "pursuit of the same overarching goal of sustainable energy."
Although this is a nascent industry, it's important to have another player like Nissan aiding the decarbonization of the home and transportation sector, which is a major source of global climate-warming pollution. Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz, tried its own hand at residential batteries in 2016 but the program soon dissolved.
Impressively, Nissan is driving into the home energy market without backing from a traditional utility, the Telegraph reported.
"What you see today is something that is only powered by Nissan—it is the first time we are stepping into the energy space without an energy utility behind us," Francisco Carranza, the managing director of Nissan's energy services arm, explained.
The Drive reported that sales are limited to the UK, but Nissan said it may expand to other European countries.
Why Transportation Is Now the Top Source of U.S. Pollution https://t.co/uxE3GZWznN @cleanaircouncil @CeresNews— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1512442504.0
Since switching on in December, Tesla's massive battery in South Australia has already drastically lowered prices in the region's frequency and ancillary services market (FCAS) and has taken a major share of that market, Renew Economy reported.
During Australian Energy Week, McKinsey and Co. partner Godart van Gendt boasted about the stunning efficiency of the 100-megawatt Powerpack system, which is connected to Neoen's Hornsdale wind farm.
"In the first four months of operations of the Hornsdale Power Reserve, the frequency ancillary services prices went down by 90 percent, so that's 9-0 per cent," van Gendt said Thursday, as quoted by Renew Economy.
"And the 100 megawatt battery has achieved over 55 percent of the FCAS revenues in South Australia. So it's 2 percent of the capacity in South Australia achieving 55 percent of the revenues in South Australia."
The Australian Energy Market Operator calls upon the FCAS to provide back-up energy whenever generators fail or fall short. This service has typically relied upon costly gas generators and steam turbines, with electricity rates up to $14,000 per megawatt during these outages.
But Tesla's big battery, which was designed to feed South Australia's unstable power grid, has changed the game. Whenever it has needed to discharge its power to the grid, costs have hovered as low as $270 per megawatt, as The Guardian noted.
As Renew Economy noted, "various estimates have put the cost savings to consumers from the FCAS market alone at around $35 million, just in the first four months of its operation."
What's more, the Powerpack system has responded much quicker to power outages (within milliseconds), with the benefit of no greenhouse gas emissions.
Battery Storage Revolution Could 'Sound the Death Knell for Fossil Fuels' https://t.co/HXbegsfUqn @Tesla @elonmusk… https://t.co/7d7APPuBUd— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1516303748.0
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When Angad Daryani was a child in Mumbai, he used to suffer from the air pollution there. "Growing up, I had asthma," he told CNN in a profile Wednesday. "I used to have a lot of breathing problems growing up in India."
Now, at the ripe old age of 19, he is working on an invention that could filter pollutants from the air of city skies and help other children breathe easier.
According to World Health Organization (WHO) data reported in The Huffington Post in 2016, air pollution kills 3 million people yearly, and 22 of the world's most polluted cities are in India. Further data from the WHO and the International Energy Agency (IEA), published in Business Insider in 2017, shows that India has the ninth most particulate matter in its air of any country in the world, and has the eighth most deaths from air pollution.
Daryani, an inventing prodigy who spent his teen years working with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab, told CNN that he was motivated to tackle air pollution after giving a public presentation alongside someone working on air filters. Excited, he'd approached his co-speaker after the event to talk about how the technology could be applied in India, but the other speaker brushed him off.
"That really upset me," Daryani told CNN, "so I said, 'OK, I'm going to take this up myself and solve this problem on my own.'"
Daryani closed the startups he'd begun in India to attend the Georgia Institute of Technology and develop his idea.
He told CNN he envisioned a 20 foot tower that would suck air from the city and filter it in a five-step process, removing both carcinogenic carbon particles and larger particulate matter that causes asthma. The device would then store the two kinds of pollutants in tanks that would need to be emptied once or twice a week.
Daryani said he thought that if his current model worked, he could deploy thousands in actual cities within five or six years.
"I want things like this (tower) to be implemented on a scale until the time developing countries like India, China and (countries in) Africa actually reach an all-electric method of transportation," Daryani told CNN.
"My eventual dream is to build companies that solve problems like this. That's what I tried to do before, and that's what I hope to do after school," he said.
His record indicates he is well on his way. Already, he has invented an impressive array of problem-solving devices, from an inexpensive EKG to an "eye-pad" that translates written French and English into Braille.
In the CNN article, he mentioned Elon Musk as an inspiration; in another ten or fifteen years, a young inventor will probably name-check Angad Daryani.
Air Pollution Kills 9 Million, Costs $5 Trillion Per Year https://t.co/tnehcjNhiK @greenpeaceusa @Sierra_Magazine— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1508544052.0
In the event of World War III, the only way for humanity to survive is to colonize Mars or the moon, according to Elon Musk.
"I'm not predicting that we're about to enter the dark ages, but there's some probability that we will, particularly if there's a third world war," the SpaceX and Tesla founder said during a question and answer session at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference in Austin on Sunday ahead of President Donald Trump's possible nuclear talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
"We want to make sure there's enough of a seed of human civilization somewhere else to bring civilization back and, perhaps, shorten the length of the dark ages," Musk continued during his chat with Jonathan Nolan, the co-creator of HBO's Westworld.
"It's important to get a self-sustaining base ideally on Mars, because Mars is far enough away from Earth that [if there's a war on Earth] the Mars base is more likely to survive than a moon base," he said. "But I think a moon base and a Mars base that could perhaps regenerate life back here on Earth would be really important."
Musk's remarks—which you can watch below—are similar to comments made by theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, who also thinks that humanity needs to colonize Mars, the moon or other planets in order survive threats such as climate change.
Elon Musk wants a self-sustaining base for human civilization, ideally on Mars, in case WWIII on Earth #tictocnews https://t.co/lEwBrwE0I9— Bloomberg Quicktake (@Bloomberg Quicktake)1520792894.0
Musk said it will not be easy for the first people living in space.
"The moon and Mars are often thought of as some escape hatch for rich people, but it won't be that at all," he said. "Really it kind of reads like Shackleton's ad for Antarctic explorers ... difficult, dangerous, good chance you'll die, excitement for those who would survive."
Once the space settlers are established, the billionaire visionary envisions a "direct democracy" for Martian colonies, "where people vote directly on issues instead of going through a representative government."
Musk suggested that SpaceX will be ready to fly a rocket to Mars in 2019.
"I think we'll be able to do short flights, sort of up-and-down flights, probably some time in the first half of next year," he said.
However, he admitted this interplanetary project, like many of his other grand plans, could be a little too ambitious.
"People have told me that my timelines historically have been optimistic, and so I'm trying to recalibrate to some degree here."
Elsewhere in his wide-ranging interview at SXSW, Musk spoke about the threat of climate change and why there must be a price on carbon.
"Anything that pushes carbon into the atmosphere … has to have a price," Musk said.
Musk, whose many companies build electric vehicles, batteries and solar panels, has spoken frequently about his vision of a cleaner, more sustainable future.
"In the absence of a price, we sort of pretend that digging up trillions of tons of fossil fuels and putting in the atmosphere … won't have a bad outcome," he said. "It's up to people and [their] governments to put a price on carbon."
Tesla Installing World's Largest Solar Rooftop on Nevada Gigafactory https://t.co/HG8WuegadG @solarfeeds @cleantechnica— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1520289309.0
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Once finished, the 70-megawatt system will be the largest in the world by far; the current record-holder is the comparatively shrimpy 11.5-megawatt array in India that can power 8,000 homes.
Building Tesla has posted satellite images of the GF1 construction site, showing solar panels installed on the north side of the factory.
The Gigafactory is part of Tesla CEO Elon Musk's vision to fast-track a cleaner, more sustainable future. He previously announced intentions to power the Nevada building without fossil fuels, relying instead on renewable energy and batteries.
Should mention that Gigafactory will be fully powered by clean energy when complete & include battery recycling— Elon Musk (@Elon Musk)1469639997.0
"GF1 is an all-electric factory with no fossil fuels (natural gas or petroleum) directly consumed," Tesla said then.
"We will be using 100 percent sustainable energy through a combination of a 70 megawatt solar rooftop array and solar ground installations. The solar rooftop array is ~7x larger than the largest rooftop solar system installed today."
The Gigafactory 1 is being built in phases so Tesla and its partners can manufacture products while the building continues to expand. It officially kicked off the mass production of lithium-ion battery cells in January 2017.
The building is expected for completion sometime this year, at which point the Gigafactory stands to claim the title of world's largest building by footprint.
Impressively, Tesla touts that its current structure already has a footprint of 1.9 million square feet, which houses 4.9 million square feet of operational space across several floors.
"And we are still less than 30 percent done," the firm boasted.
Once fully built, the Gigafactory will produce 35 GWh/year of lithium-ion battery cells annually, which is "nearly as much as the rest of the entire world's battery production combined."
3 More Gigafactories Coming Soon to 'Change the Way the World Uses Energy' https://t.co/ReNoVNymiW @LeoDiCaprio @elonmusk @TeslaMotors @350— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1487882097.0
Kimbal Musk's nonprofit organization, The Kitchen Community, is expanding into a new, national nonprofit called Big Green, to build hundreds of outdoor Learning Garden classrooms across America.
Learning Gardens teach children an understanding of food, healthy eating and garden skills through experiential learning and garden-based education that tie into existing school curriculum, such as math, science and literacy.
The Kitchen Community has built Learning Garden classrooms in hundreds of underserved schools in six U.S. cities, reaching more than 100,000 students every day.
"Our big vision to change food in America to impact all kids, and particularly the most underserved with healthy, vibrant futures, is becoming a reality," said Musk.
Coinciding with the launch of Big Green, Musk is announcing the program's expansion into its seventh city, Detroit, and his commitment to building outdoor Learning Garden classrooms in 100 schools across the Motor City. Teachers and principals across Detroit can now start applying for a Learning Garden at their school, with construction beginning later this year.
"We are also eyeing Colorado Springs, Colorado, Louisville, Kentucky, Long Beach, California, and San Antonio, Texas for expansion to build 100 Learning Gardens in each of those cities," said Musk.
Big Green's entrance into new cities across America will help stimulate new, local jobs and a growing network of teachers, parents, and communities passionate about growing and eating real food. Their nutrition curriculum, Garden Bites, developed in partnership with nonprofit Common Threads, is accompanied with teacher training to further support teachers and students in using Learning Gardens cooperatively and respectfully.
With more than 100,000 schools across America, Musk is prioritizing the schools and communities in greatest need of food and gardening literacy programs.
"I am focusing, first, on impacting high-need and underserved students because sadly, these communities bear the brunt of obesity-related diseases. Eventually, we will reach every kid in all 100,000 schools in America because every child deserves to thrive in healthy environments that connect them to real food," affirmed Musk.
This ambitious goal will require a collaborative culture of corporate, government and community members, as well as a significant investment of resources and funding. Musk is calling on business executives, governors, superintendents, parents and teachers across the nation to support real food education.
"Reaching 100,000 schools in our lifetime is not something I can do by myself," said Musk. "We must all try to make a Big Green effort to be part of the real food solution."
The system—the largest of its kind on planet Earth—was tested twice just this month. According to CleanTechnica, on Dec. 14, the Loy Yang coal power plant in the neighboring state of Victoria suddenly went offline. Remarkably, the Hornsdale Power Reserve battery system (the Tesla system's official name) kicked in within 140 milliseconds and injected 100 megawatts of power into the grid.
Two weeks later, another unit of the Loy Yang plant unexpectedly went offline. Tesla battery's also responded within milliseconds to send 16 megawatts to the grid.
“That's a record and the national operators were shocked at how quickly and efficiently the battery was able to deliver this type of energy into the market," State energy minister Tom Koutsantonis commented after the Dec. 14 outage. “Until now, if we got a call to turn on our emergency generators it would take us 10 to 15 minutes to get them fired up and operating which is a record time compared to other generators."
The 100-megawatt Powerpack system, which charges using renewable energy from Neoen's Hornsdale wind farm near Jamestown, is designed to hold enough power for 8,000 homes for 24 hours, or more than 30,000 houses for an hour during a blackout.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk famously made, and won, a bet that his company could build the battery within "100 days from contract signature or it is free." The giant battery officially switched on in early December.
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This was a year of tug-of-war for the environment. With Donald Trump becoming president of the U.S. at a time when wildfires, hurricanes, and floods were devastating the country, it was challenging for scientists, activists and concerned citizens to get their voices heard. But several stood out as global leaders on climate and helped give rise to those who were silenced. Below are 14 of the most notable influencers of 2017 and how they fought for a cleaner, safer environment for all.
1. Emmanuel Macron
After his inauguration as president of France, just a few months after U.S. President Donald Trump, Emmanuel Macron made immediate waves. He started off by addressing Trump's withdrawal from the Paris agreement with a "Make Earth Great Again" slogan and welcoming American climate scientists to France to continue their research. He forged on, offering multi-year grants totaling $70 million. Macron also hosted the One Planet Summit where 20 international companies announced they would phase out coal. With his continued criticism of Trump's decisions regarding the planet, Macron has proven himself a global leader on climate change and has set the stage for progress in 2018.
2. Elon Musk
Elon Musk, entrepreneur and founder of several companies including SpaceX, Tesla and SolarCity, began 2017 with a seat on President Trump's economic advisory council. Musk made multiple attempts to reverse Trump's stance on climate change, but after Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement, Musk left the council on June 1, causing a huge media storm. Then in October, when Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico and left the islands without power, Musk swooped in and began building a solar grid. He started with restoring a children's hospital in San Juan and has continued delivering and installing Tesla battery systems since. Musk has also made huge strides in green technology with his push for electric vehicles and renewable energy in the U.S., despite the Trump administration's favoritism towards the fossil fuel industry.
3. Angela Merkel
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has stepped up to the plate as one of 2017's female leaders on climate in a multitude of ways. Nicknamed the "Climate Chancellor," Merkel has outwardly expressed her differences with Trump, calling his stance on climate change "regrettable." She reassured the UN that Germany would uphold its targets for the Paris agreement, despite the U.S. change of heart. She has also made significant progress in ensuring sustainable growth in Germany with the G20 Hamburg Climate and Energy Action Plan for Growth. Then, in November at the COP23 in Bonn, Germany, Merkel sent a strong message to all global leaders, saying "we will not be able to adhere to the 2°C or 1.5°C target with the current national commitments. That is why each and every contribution is incredibly important."
4. Bernie Sanders
Senator Bernie Sanders didn't let his loss in the 2016 presidential race stop him from speaking out on climate. In 2017, Sanders relentlessly criticized Trump's rejection of the Paris agreement and his outright denial of climate science. He is one of the few politicians who has spoke out about the Energy and Natural Resources Act of 2017, which aims to expand the fossil fuel industry. He also introduced a $146 billion recovery package for Puerto Rico, after Hurricane Maria hit and Trump neglected to provide relief. The package would rebuild Puerto Rico's infrastructure with sustainable resources. He also helped to introduce the 100 by 50 Act, which would support workers in the fossil fuel industry while simultaneously phasing out fossil fuels by 2050.
5. Pope Francis
Pope Francis has openly condemned climate change deniers for years, but 2017 might have been the most radical year yet for the sovereign. In February, the Pope spoke up for indigenous peoples and their right to consent when it comes to government activities on their sacred lands. The strong words came shortly after President Trump signed two executive orders calling for the approval of the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines in January, though the Vatican said the timing was coincidental. On World Food Day in October, the Pope urged governments to mitigate climate change, as it is a lead driver of the increase in world hunger. And in November at COP23, he outlined four "perverse attitudes" that are preventing climate action. To top it off, he also acquired an electric car.
6. Michelle Rodriguez
Actress and climate activist Michelle Rodriguez is one of the newer voices of the climate movement. In March, Rodriguez joined an all-woman survey team known as Operation Ice Watch on an expedition to the Gulf of St. Lawrence in Canada where the seal population is under siege by hunting and ice loss caused by climate change. Led by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and Animal Justice, the crew surveyed the ice, or lack thereof, while filming a documentary to raise awareness about the "ecological catastrophe." Rodriguez also partnered with Operation Taino Spirit Promise and Sea Shepherd to provide relief to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria struck and start a campaign for a sustainable rebuild.
7. Michael Bloomberg
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was also a notable influencer of 2017, representing the U.S. at COP23 where he, alongside Governors Jerry Brown of California and Jay Inslee of Washington introduced the We Are Still In coalition, a network of U.S. politicians who support climate action despite Trump's withdrawal from the Paris agreement. In October, Bloomberg also announced that his charity would donate $64 million to the retirement of U.S. coal plants, greatly impeding Trump's efforts to revive the American coal industry.
8. Patricia Espinosa
Mexican politician and current executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Patricia Espinosa made significant progress on shifting the dialogue surrounding climate action in 2017. In February, she said getting fossil fuel companies "on board" is a critical factor in combating climate change. She also used her position to direct the climate conversation away from technology and toward security, arguing that security officials "understand that our current crisis pales in comparison to what is coming if climate change is left unchecked." She also spoke about women's involvement at COP23 and introduced the Gender Action Plan to promote meaningful participation by women in the climate movement.
9. Al Gore
Former vice president and environment activist Al Gore is known for his stance on climate change. But in 2017, with the release of his newest documentary "An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power," Gore found another big spotlight. In July, he boldly predicted that the U.S. would still meet the targets of the Paris agreement, despite Trump's about-face in June. On Dec. 4-5, Gore also hosted the Climate Reality Project's "24 Hours of Reality," where he highlighted citizens taking action all across the globe to inspire others to do the same. The program reached more than half a billion viewers on TV and 32 million online, making it the world's largest social broadcast on climate to date.
10. Jerry Brown
At almost every turn for the past 365 days, California Governor Jerry Brown has undermined President Trump. In June, almost immediately after Trump's withdrawal from the Paris agreement, Brown partnered with Chinese President Xi Jinping to continue expanding green technology and trade. In July, Brown extended California's climate legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. And as wildfires have raged through the state and region, Brown said he was "linking with other similar-minded people all over the world" and "pushing forward even as Trump blusters."
11. Noam Chomsky
Well known linguist and scientist Noam Chomsky spoke out numerous times in 2017 for the sake of the environment. In an interview with Truthout in March, Chomsky called out the Trump administration for cutting federal spending to the U.S Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy, stating that his actions are an "attack against future generations." In May he spoke out again, telling BBC Newsnight that the Republican Party's denial of climate change has made them the most dangerous organization "in human history." Chomsky's criticisms opened up an intellectual dialogue for conservative voters and encouraged the scientific community to weigh in.
12. Leonardo DiCaprio
Actor and philanthropist Leonardo DiCaprio made impressive strides on climate action in 2017, including investing in the entirely plant-based food company Beyond Meat and a farm-raised seafood company LoveTheWild. In June, DiCaprio also partnered with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto to conserve the Gulf of California for the vaquita porpoise, classified as the most endangered marine mammal in the world. Most recently, at the Yale Climate Change Conference in September, DiCaprio announced that his foundation will be awarding $20 million in grants to more than 100 environmental organizations.
13. Stephen Hawking
World-renowned theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking represented the majority of the scientific community in 2017 on several occasions, urging Trump to stop denying evidence of climate change. In June, Hawking had a few choice words about the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris agreement, warning that "we are close to the tipping point where global warming becomes irreversible." And in November, Hawking once again pushed Trump to stop denying climate change and take action. Hawking nearly gave up on Earth altogether, telling WIRED UK that "our Earth is becoming too small for us, global population is increasing at an alarming rate and we are in danger of self-destructing."
14. David Attenborough
English documentary filmmaker and naturalist David Attenborough, whose series Blue Planet II began in October, spoke out several times on plastic pollution in 2017. In September, Attenborough told Greenpeace of the "heartbreaking" footage he recorded of mother birds feeding their babies plastic, an iconic moment for him that pushed him to speak up about plastic pollution in oceans., and tell Trump to reconsider his withdrawal from the Paris agreement. He emphasized that "never before have we been so aware of what we are doing to our planet—and never before have we had such power to do something about it."