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News Source Slashdot:Hardware

California's Grid Survives Heat Wave Thanks to Massive Battery Storage
Longtime Slashdot reader Uncle_Meataxe shares a report from the Sacramento Bee: California's power grid handled a nearly three week long record-setting heat wave with few issues. The heat wave was the hottest 20-day period on record around Sacramento and set an all-time temperature record of 124 degrees in Palm Springs. Emergency alerts and calls for voluntary conservation were avoided this time around. Officials credit years of investment in renewable energy, especially battery storage that store solar power for use when the sun stops shining. CAISO last issued calls for voluntary conservation two years ago, during a 2022 bout of extreme heat. Since then, roughly 11,600 megawatts of new renewable energy sources have come onto California's electricity grid. That includes 10,000 megawatts of battery power, enough to power 10 million homes for a few hours. California is now home to the most grid batteries in the world outside of China, [said Elliot Mainzer, president and CEO of California Independent System Operator (CAISO)]. "Batteries performed very well in this event, they were charged and ready at the right times for optimization on the grid," he added. "That made a big, big difference." [...] Apart from battery storage, Mainzer also credited that success to less extreme temperatures in Southern California as well as noticeable slightly lower electricity consumption in the peak demand hours, from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.

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84% of PC Users Unwilling To Pay Extra For AI-enhanced Hardware, Survey Says
An anonymous reader shares a report: A recent poll on TechPowerUp revealed that an overwhelming majority of PC users are not interested in paying extra for hardware with AI capabilities. According to the survey, 84% of respondents would not spend more for AI features, while only 7% said they would, and 9% were unsure. The poll data was already contributed by over 26K responders. This indicates that despite the PC market's shift toward integrating AI, most enthusiasts remain skeptical of its value. This suggests that hardware companies should pay attention to the preferences of their core user base. Currently, enthusiasts, who no doubt represent the majority of users on TechPowerUP, show little interest in AI features.

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UK Nears 1 Million EV Chargers
According to lobby group ChargeUK, there were 930,000 electric car chargers in the UK at the end of June, with the majority residing in homes and at businesses. Only about 65,000 public chargers are available. The Guardian reports: The ChargeUK analysis showed that a new public charger was installed every 25 minutes in the spring quarter as companies raced to keep up with demand. Companies installed 5,100 public chargers during the second quarter of 2024, according to the data company Zapmap. [...] There are 1.1 million electric vehicles on UK roads, including 167,000 cars sold in the first half of this year, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders lobby group. That is a 9% increase compared with the previous year, although the share of electric sales only increased marginally to 16.6%, as relatively higher upfront prices and rising interest rates deterred some buyers. ChargeUK's analysis, which was carried out by the thinktank New AutoMotive, suggested that the private sector was confident it could meet a target set by the previous Conservative government of 300,000 public charge points by 2030. "In little more than a decade, the UK's charging sector has grown to become a major player in the green economy, providing the infrastructure that more than a million EV drivers rely on today and scaling fast to deliver the charging needed through to 2030 and beyond," said Vicky Read, the chief executive of ChargeUK.

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Cutting-Edge Technology Could Massively Reduce the Amount of Energy Used For Air Conditioning
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Wired, written by Chris Baraniuk: The buses struggling in China's muggy weather gave [Matt Jore, CEO of Montana Technologies] and his colleagues an idea. If they could make dehumidification more efficient somehow, then they could make air conditioning as a whole much more efficient, too. They headed back to the US wondering how to make this happen. [...] "I have here 50-gallon barrels of this stuff. It comes in a special powder," says Jore, referring to the moisture-loving material that coats components inside his firm's novel dehumidifier system, AirJoule. This is the result of years of research and development that followed his team's trip to China. The coating is a type of highly porous material called a metal-organic framework, and the pores are sized so that they fit around water molecules extremely well. It makes for a powerful desiccant, or drying device. "Just one kilogram can take up half or more than half -- in our case 55 percent -- of its own weight in water vapor," says Jore. The AirJoule system consists of two chambers, each one containing surfaces coated with this special material. They take turns at dehumidifying a flow of air. One chamber is always drying air that is pushed through the system while the other gradually releases the moisture it previously collected. A little heat from the drying chamber gets applied to the moisture-saturated coating in the other, since that helps to encourage the water to drip away for removal. These two cavities swap roles every 10 minutes or so, says Jore. This process doesn't cool the air, but it does make it possible to feed dry air to a more traditional air conditioning device, drastically cutting how much energy that secondary device will use. And Jore claims that AirJoule consumes less than 100 watt-hours per liter of water vapor removed -- potentially cutting the energy required for dehumidification by as much as 90 percent compared to a traditional dehumidifier. Montana Technologies wants to sell the components for its AirJoule system to established HVAC firms rather than attempt to build its own consumer products and compete with those firms directly -- it calls the approach AirJoule Inside. The firm is also working on a system for the US military, based on the same technology, that can harvest drinkable water from the air. Handy for troops stationed in the desert, one imagines. However, AirJoule is still at the prototype and testing stages. "We're building several of these pilot preproduction units for potential customers and partners," says Jore. "Think rooftops on big-box retailers." Montana Technologies isn't the only firm using cutting-edge technology to make air conditioning units more efficient. Rival firm Blue Frontier has developed a desiccant-based dehumidifying system using a liquid salt solution, with installations in various U.S. locations, that links to a secondary air-conditioning process and regenerates desiccant during off-peak hours to reduce peak electricity demand. Then there's Nostromo Energy's IceBrick system, installed in California hotels, which freezes water capsules during off-peak hours and uses the stored coolth during peak times. This system can reduce cooling costs by up to 30 percent and emissions by up to 80 percent, according to Wired.

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Italy Reconsiders Nuclear Energy 35 Years After Shutting Down Last Reactor
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni plans to revive Italy's nuclear energy sector, focusing on small modular reactors to be operational within a decade. He said that nuclear energy could constitute at least 11% of the country's electricity mix by 2050. Semafor reports: Italy's energy minister told the Financial Times that the government would introduce legislation to support investment in small modular reactors, which could be operational within 10 years. [...] In Italy, concerns about energy security since Russia's invasion of Ukraine have pushed the government to reconsider nuclear power, Bloomberg wrote. Energy minister Pichetto Fratin told the Financial Times he was confident that Italians' historic "aversion" could be overcome, as nuclear technology now has "different levels of safety and benefits families and businesses." In Italy, safety is also top of mind: The Chernobyl tragedy of 1986 was the trigger for it to cease nuclear production in the first place, and the 2011 Fukushima disaster reignited those concerns. As of April, only 51% of Italians approved of nuclear power, according to polls shared by Il Sole 24 Ore. The plan to introduce small modular reactors in Italy could add to the country's history of failure in nuclear energy, a former Italian lawmaker and researcher argued in Italian outlet Il Fatto Quotidiano, writing that these reactors are expensive and produce too little energy to justify an investment in them.They could also become obsolete within the next decade, the timeline for the government to introduce them, Italian outlet Domani added, and be overtaken by nuclear fusion reactors, which are more efficient and have "virtually no environmental impact." Italy's main oil company, Eni, has signed a deal with MIT spinout Commonwealth Fusion System, with the goal of providing the first operational nuclear fusion plant by 2030.

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Virgin Galactic Flies 3D Printer Into Space. Its Next Mission: Bioprinting on the ISS
"In a significant advancement for space technology, a team of UC Berkeley researchers, led by doctoral student Taylor Waddell, successfully launched a 3D printer into space," reports the university's student newspaper:As part of the Virgin Galactic 07 mission, the team sent a 3D printer named SpaceCAL to space to explore the potential of Computed Axial Lithography, or CAL, and additive manufacturing in space... During its 140-second flight in suborbital space, the SpaceCAL printer autonomously detected microgravity and printed four test parts: two space shuttles and two Benchies, or 3D-printed boats created to check the printer's accuracy, according to Sean Chu, a member of the team who worked on designing structures and mechanisms. Within the 140 seconds, the process involved multiple steps such as printing, post-washing, flushing with water and post-curing with light to fully solidify the parts. But that's just the beginning, says the university's engineering department:To date, CAL has shown that it can successfully print with more than 60 different materials on Earth, such as silicones, glass composites and biomaterials. According to Waddell, this versatility could come in handy for both the cabin and the crew... "CAL is also capable of repairing the crew. We can print dental replacements, skin grafts or lenses, or things personalized in emergency medicine for astronauts, which is very important in these missions, too." Someday, CAL may be used to print even more sophisticated parts, such as human organs. Lawrence Livermore National Lab has received a grant from NASA to test this technology on the International Space Station. "They're going to basically do bioprinting on the Space Station," said Waddell. "And the long, long-term goal is to print organs up in space with CAL, then bring them back down to Earth." Next, Waddell and his colleagues hope to begin work with NASA on developing and validating a single object that could support crew health and wellness, like a dental crown for an astronaut or a surgical wound closure tool... This project was made possible through a $1.4 million grant and engineering support provided by NASA. In addition, Virgin Galactic played a pivotal role in taking this project to the next level.

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Battery Maker SK On Declares 'Emergency' As EV Sales Disappoint
"A leading South Korean producer of electric vehicle batteries has declared itself in crisis," reports the Financial Times, "as its customers struggle with disappointing EV sales in Europe and the US."SK On, the world's fourth-largest EV battery maker behind Chinese giants CATL and BYD and South Korean rival LG Energy Solution, has recorded losses for 10 consecutive quarters since being spun off by its parent company in 2021. Its net debt has increased more than fivefold, from Won2.9tn ($2.1bn) to Won15.6tn over the same period, as western EV sales have fallen far short of its expectations. With losses snowballing, chief executive Lee Seok-hee announced a series of cost-cutting and working practice measures last Monday, describing them as a state of "emergency management". "We have our back against the wall," Lee wrote in a letter to employees. "We should all pull together." [...] Tim Bush, a Seoul-based battery analyst at UBS, said the South Korean battery makers had been "badly let down" by US car manufacturers, which he said had failed to produce EVs sufficiently attractive to mass market consumers to meet their own bullish sales projections. He noted that until as recently as last year, General Motors was forecasting it would sell 1 million EVs in 2025. It sold just 21,930 in the second quarter of this year. Bush tells the Financial Times that "the automakers didn't invest enough in producing high-quality affordable EVs." But he also tells the newspaper that a transition to EVs is still "inevitable". "As long as the wider SK Group continues to see SK On as a trophy asset and gives it the support it needs to weather the present storm, then its long-term future is likely to be assured." Thanks to long-time Slashdot reader schwit1 for sharing the article.

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Admiral Grace Hopper's Landmark Lecture Is Found, But the NSA Won't Release It
MuckRock is a U.S.-based 501(c)(3) non-profit collaborative news site to "request, analyze and share government documents," according to its web site. And long-time Slashdot reader schwit1 shared their report about a lecture by Admiral Grace Hopper:In a vault at the National Security Agency lies a historical treasure: two AMPEX 1-inch open reel tapes containing a landmark lecture by Admiral Grace Hopper, a giant in the field of computer science. Titled 'Future Possibilities: Data, Hardware, Software, and People,' this lecture, recorded on August 19, 1982, at the NSA's Fort Meade headquarters, and stored in the video archives of the National Cryptographic School, offers a rare glimpse into the mind of a pioneer who shaped the very fabric of technology. Yet this invaluable artifact remains inaccessible, trapped in an obsolete format that the NSA will not release, stating that the agency is unable to play it back. "NSA is not required to find or obtain new technology (outdated or current) in order to process a request," states the official response from the agency. But MuckRock adds that on June 25, "responding to a follow-up request, the NSA at least provided an image of the tape labels," leading MuckRock to complain that the NSA "is well-positioned to locate, borrow and use a working VTR machine to access Admiral Hopper's lectures... The NSA, with its history of navigating complex technological landscapes and decrypting matters of national significance, does not typically shy away from a challenge."The challenge of accessing these recordings is not just technical, but touches on broader issues around preserving technological heritage.... It is our shared obligation to safeguard such pivotal elements of our nationâ(TM)s history, ensuring they remain within reach of future generations. While the stewardship of these recordings may extend beyond the NSAâ(TM)s typical purview, they are undeniably a part of Americaâ(TM)s national heritage.

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Sony Announces It's 'Gradually' Stopping Production of Recordable Blu-Ray Discs
A report from TechSpot:For home videographers and data hoarders who still rely on optical discs for archiving, some bad news just dropped: Sony is winding down production of recordable Blu-ray media... In an interview Sony gave to AV Watch recently, the company admitted it's going to "gradually end development and production" of recordable Blu-rays and other optical disc formats at its Tagajo City plants in Miyagi Prefecture, Japan. Essentially, 25GB BD-REs, 50GB BD-RE DLs, 100GB BD-RE XLs, or 128GB BD-R XLs will soon not be available to consumers. Professional discs for video production and optical archives for data storage are also being discontinued. Sony says it's pulling the plug because the cold storage market never really took off like they hoped, and the overall storage media business has been operating in the red for years... It's not all bad news, though. The commercial Blu-ray discs you buy movies and games on will still be produced, so there's no need to panic about the death of physical media just yet. Share your thoughts and reactions in the comments. (Long-time Slashdot reader storkus wonders if it's possible there are still other companies, possibly Chinese, that are still making the disks?)

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Three Mile Island Considers Nuclear Restart
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Constellation Energy is in talks with the Pennsylvania governor's office and state lawmakers to help fund a possible restart of part of its Three Mile Island power facility, the site of a nuclear meltdown in the 1970s, three sources familiar with the discussions said on Tuesday. The conversations, which two sources described as "beyond preliminary," signal that Constellation is advancing plans to revive part of the southern Pennsylvania nuclear generation site, which operated from 1974 to 2019. The nuclear unit Constellation is considering restarting is separate from the one that melted down. The sources said that a shut Michigan nuclear plant, which was recently awarded a $1.5 billion conditional loan to restart from the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden, could serve as a private-public sector blueprint for Three Mile Island. The sources asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the discussions. "Though we have determined it would be technically feasible to restart the unit, we have not made any decision on a restart as there are many economic, commercial, operational and regulatory considerations remaining," Constellation spokesperson Dave Snyder said in an email. Snyder did not comment on the specifics of discussions about reopening the Pennsylvania site. Last month, Constellation told Reuters that it had cleared an engineering study of Three Mile Island, though it was unknown if the Baltimore, Maryland-based energy company would move forward with plans to reopen the site. Constellation also said that given the current premium placed on nuclear energy, acquiring other sites was generally off the table and the company would instead look to expand its existing fleet. The Three Mile Island unit that could be restarted is different to the site's unit 2, which experienced a partial meltdown in 1979 in the most famous commercial nuclear accident in U.S. history. The report notes that "no U.S. nuclear power plant has been reopened after shutting." A restart will not only be costly, but it will be challenged over safety and environmental concerns.

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German Navy To Replace Aging 8-Inch Floppy Drives With an Emulated Solution
Mark Tyson reports via Tom's Hardware: The German Navy is searching for a new storage system to replace the aging 8-inch (20cm) floppy disks which are vital to the running of its Brandenburg class F123 frigates. According to an official tender document, the ideal answer to the German Navy's problems would be a drop-in floppy disk replacement based upon a storage emulation system, reports Golem.de. Germany's Brandenburg class F123 frigates were commissioned in the mid 1990s, so it is understandable that floppy disks were seen as a handy removable storage medium. These drives are part of the frigates' data acquisition system and, thus "central to controlling basic ship functions such as propulsion and power generation," according to the source report. The F123s are specialized in submarine hunting, and they are also being upgraded in terms of the weapon systems and weapon control systems. Swedish company Saab is the general contractor for the F123 modernizations. It won't be trivial to replace three decades old computer hardware seamlessly, while retaining the full functionality of the existing floppies. However, we note that other companies have wrestled similar problems in recent years. Moreover, there are plenty of emulator enthusiasts using technologies for floppy emulation solutions like Gotek drives which can emulate a variety of floppy drive standards and formats. There are other workable solutions already out there, but it all depends on who the German Navy chooses to deliver the project.

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Linus Torvalds Says RISC-V Will Make the Same Mistakes As ARM and x86
Jowi Morales reports via Tom's Hardware: There's a vast difference between hardware and software developers, which opens up pitfalls for those trying to coordinate the two teams. Arm and x86 researchers encountered it years ago -- and Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux, fears RISC-V development may fall into the same chasm again. "Even when you do hardware design in a more open manner, hardware people are different enough from software people [that] there's a fairly big gulf between the Verilog and even the kernel, much less higher up the stack where you are working in what [is] so far away from the hardware that you really have no idea how the hardware works," he said (video here). "So, it's really hard to kind of work across this very wide gulf of things and I suspect the hardware designers, some of them have some overlap, but they will learn by doing mistakes -- all the same mistakes that have been done before." [...] "They'll have all the same issues we have on the Arm side and that x86 had before them," he says. "It will take a few generations for them to say, 'Oh, we didn't think about that,' because they have new people involved." But even if RISC-V development is still expected to make many mistakes, he also said it will be much easier to develop the hardware now. Linus says, "It took a few decades to really get to the point where Arm and x86 are competing on fairly equal ground because there was al this software that was fairly PC-centric and that has passed. That will make it easier for new architectures like RISC-V to then come in."

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China Building Two-Thirds of World's Wind and Solar Projects
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: The amount of wind and solar power under construction in China is now nearly twice as much as the rest of the world combined, a report has found. Research published on Thursday by Global Energy Monitor (GEM), an NGO, found that China has 180 gigawatts (GW) of utility-scale solar power under construction and 15GW of wind power. That brings the total of wind and solar power under construction to 339GW, well ahead of the 40GW under construction in the US. The researchers only looked at solar farms with a capacity of 20MW or more, which feed directly into the grid. That means that the total volume of solar power in China could be much higher, as small scale solar farms account for about 40% of China's solar capacity. Between March 2023 and March 2024, China installed more solar than it had in the previous three years combined, and more than the rest of the world combined for 2023, the GEM analysts found. China is on track to reach 1,200GW of installed wind and solar capacity by the end of 2024, six years ahead of the government's target. "The unabated wave of construction guarantees that China will continue leading in wind and solar installation in the near future, far ahead of the rest of the world," the report said. Earlier analysis suggests that China will need to install between 1,600GW and 1,800GW of wind and solar energy by 2030 to meet its target of producing 25% of all energy from non-fossil sources. Between 2020 and 2023, only 30% of the growth in energy consumption was met by renewable sources, compared with the target of 50%.

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Amazon Says It Now Runs On 100% Clean Power. Employees Say It's More Like 22%
Today, Amazon announced that it reached its 100% renewable energy goal seven years ahead of schedule. However, as Fast Company's Adele Peters reports, "a group of Amazon employees argues that the company's math is misleading." From the report: A report (PDF) from the group, Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, argues that only 22% of the company's data centers in the U.S. actually run on clean power. The employees looked at where each data center was located and the mix of power on the regional grids -- how much was coming from coal, gas, or oil versus solar or wind. Amazon, like many other companies, buys renewable energy credits (RECs) for a certain amount of clean power that's produced by a solar plant or wind farm. In theory, RECs are supposed to push new renewable energy to get built. In reality, that doesn't always happen. The employee research found that 68% of Amazon's RECs are unbundled, meaning that they didn't fund new renewable infrastructure, but gave credit for renewables that already existed or were already going to be built. As new data centers are built, they can mean that fossil-fuel-dependent grids end up building new fossil fuel power plants. "Dominion Energy, which is the utility in Virginia, is expanding because of demand, and Amazon is obviously one of their largest customers," says Eliza Pan, a representative from Amazon Employees for Climate Justice and a former Amazon employee. "Dominion's expansion is not renewable expansion. It's more fossil fuels." Amazon also doesn't buy credits that are specifically tied to the grids powering their data centers. The company might purchase RECs from Canada or Arizona, for example, to offset electricity used in Virginia. The credits also aren't tied to the time that the energy was used; data centers run all day and night, but most renewable energy is only available some of the time. The employee group argues that the company should follow the approach that Google takes. Google aims to use carbon-free energy, 24/7, on every grid where it operates.

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Lithium Ion Batteries a Growing Source of PFAS Pollution, Study Finds
"Nature recently published an open-access article (not paywalled) that studies the lifecycle of lithium-ion batteries once they are manufactured," writes Slashdot reader NoWayNoShapeNoForm. "The study is a 'cradle-to-grave' look at these batteries and certain chemicals that they contain. The University researchers that authored the study found that the electrolytes and polymers inside lithium-ion batteries contain a class of PFAS known as bis-FASI chemicals. PFAS chemicals are internationally recognized pollutants, yet they are found in consumer and industrial processes, such as non-stick coatings, surfactants, and film-forming foams. PFAS chemicals have been found in windmill coatings, semiconductors, solar collectors, and photovoltaic cells." Phys.org reports: Texas Tech University's Jennifer Guelfo was part of a research team that found the use of a novel sub-class of per- and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) in lithium ion batteries is a growing source of pollution in air and water. Testing by the research team further found these PFAS, called bis-perfluoroalkyl sulfonimides (bis-FASIs), demonstrate environmental persistence and ecotoxicity comparable to older notorious compounds like perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). The researchers sampled air, water, snow, soil and sediment near manufacturing plants in Minnesota, Kentucky, Belgium and France. The bis-FASI concentrations in these samples were commonly at very high levels. Data also suggested air emissions of bis-FASIs may facilitate long-range transport, meaning areas far from manufacturing sites may be affected as well. Analysis of several municipal landfills in the southeastern U.S. indicated these compounds can also enter the environment through disposal of products, including lithium ion batteries. Toxicity testing demonstrated concentrations of bis-FASIs similar to those found at the sampling sites can change behavior and fundamental energy metabolic processes of aquatic organisms. Bis-FASI toxicity has not yet been studied in humans, though other, more well-studied PFAS are linked to cancer, infertility and other serious health harms. Treatability testing showed bis-FASIs did not break down during oxidation, which has also been observed for other PFAS. However, data showed concentrations of bis-FASIs in water could be reduced using granular activated carbon and ion exchange, methods already used to remove PFAS from drinking water. "Our results reveal a dilemma associated with manufacturing, disposal, and recycling of clean energy infrastructure," said Guelfo, an associate professor of environmental engineering in the Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering. "Slashing carbon dioxide emissions with innovations like electric cars is critical, but it shouldn't come with the side effect of increasing PFAS pollution. We need to facilitate technologies, manufacturing controls and recycling solutions that can fight the climate crisis without releasing highly recalcitrant pollutants."

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