We’re always striving to move away from coal and oil to power our world, but Tesla Motors is in a full on sprint, and they want to share their dream with the world. We have all heard the news about the Tesla Powerwall but without a knowledge of batteries it is a bit hard to understand why the breakthrough is so exciting. Let’s take a minute to break it down!
Solar has always been a bit of a pain to manage and set up, but Tesla’s new Powerwall changes all of it. The Powerwall is sleek and efficient while completely erasing the issues of current-generation solar power storage. Up until recently most solar battery back-ups were a string of 4-12 Lead-Acid car batteries to help bridge the gap between peak solar (When your panels get the best sun) and peak electrical demand, allowing you to light your house at night without scraping out the extra change to do so. Some have even upped the battery count to cut out their electrical bill completely.
Why The Old Options Just Don’t Cut it!
Using a bunch of car batteries for solar is a good option, however, it requires some dangerous maintenance and can cause serious damage to you and your environment.
Lead-acid batteries need to be kept full of electrolyte (Sulphuric Acid in Water) to keep the battery performing its best. Many go for “AGM” lead-acid batteries instead to reduce risk in maintenance, but these are much more expensive.
AGM stands for Absorbent Glass Mat. It’s there to soak up the acid solution and prevent it from physically spilling if knocked over.
Even past the maintenance issues, Lead-acid has drawbacks. They work well with solar only because they get the chance to charge and discharge throughout the day which is essential to the batteries life. Even a week with no charge on a lead-acid battery will dramatically reduce its charge. In the case of solar, this is wasted solar power.
Lead-acid loses its charge over time due to the internal electrolysis of the electrolyte (Electricity + H20 = Hydrogen and oxygen gas) and the ambient discharge of whatever material sits under it. Concrete and Metal will do this easily which is why it’s common practice to keep unused batteries on top of something like a wood shipping pallet. In your car’s case, it could lose capacity through the metal of the car, although the entire car is grounded back to the negative post of the battery making this effect go much slower. That plastic tray under there is actually to catch any acid that manages to escape from the battery, so it doesn’t corrode all over your engine bay. Regardless, your battery will absolutely die over time in a car that sits around without being ran.
The Tesla Powerwall Overcomes Major Issues
The Tesla Powerwall has none of these issues – It’s a bank of Lithium-Ion batteries. Not much different from the idea of a large water cooled phone charger, although owning a Powerwall solely to charge your phone is massive overkill. Or not, I won’t judge you.
Before I go into how this works I’d like to explain how reliable lithium-ion batteries are.
Lithium Ion ( Li-Io ) is built in a way where catastrophic failure results in excess heat and an inner seal busting open to safely vent any pressure that might have built up inside. Lithium Polymer, on the other hand, has a tendency to start fires when poked a bit too hard with something sharp.
Usually, Lithium Ion batteries come in prismatic (the flat removable battery in some phones) and Cylindrical, much like the AA battery would be shaped. These cylindrical lithium ion batteries are the most popular in the world. The 18650 (18mm wide, 650mm tall – about twice the size of a AA) is the standardized size. I can almost guarantee that this cell in its many makes and models is present in every mobile lithium-ion application, save for a very few super modern slim laptops. three good examples are lithium drill batteries, most every other laptop battery you’ll ever see, and (at the time of posting) all available lithium golf cart batteries.
Lithium solar battery backups don’t have the issues that a lead-acid backup would. Lithium Ion can sit fully charged for months on end with little to no loss of capacity and don’t require a minute of maintenance after it’s been installed. As for total capacity? Lithium Ion has the highest energy density (power it can hold in a specific size and weight) out of most other commercial energy storage systems available. This means that this Powerwall is much lighter and much more powerful than its solar-bank predecessors. Finer details of the Tesla Powerwall can be found on the Tesla website here.
The Commercial Powerpack!
Tesla also offers a variant of the Powerwall called the Powerpack , which is essentially a power-wall built to use the modules that they place inside of their vehicles. The main change of the “power-pack” is that it’s designed more as an industrial / commercial backup battery to help offset peak times and loads, which means it “shaves off” most of the electrical demand at times of the day where the company using it would otherwise be paying a good portion more. It has much less focus on the solar implementation, but it’s technical specifications show that it’s just as capable as the official powerwall for solar use.
Due to the fine-tuned supply/demand prices that today’s power companies implement, using Tesla’s Powerpack is an incredibly effective way to avoid up-ending the company budget on its power bills. They’re built to order and can be scaled up to a virtually limitless amount of stored energy, although they resemble the size of a refrigerator rather than something that hangs on the wall. The Powerpack uses the same modules as their cars, which means that those who want to start out small can slowly and easily expand their storage capacity over time.
It goes without saying that such high-powered battery backups are invaluable to industries that would need constant power, specifically the medical industry. Hospitals could utilize these backups in conjunction with generators as a “Plan C” for power outages, which could prove essential in saving countless lives in the rare scenarios where hospitals find themselves relying on backup power. Alternately, these are a big attraction to data centers around the world seeing as a power loss could end up with ludicrous amounts of money lost in damage from an outage.
Coincidentally, all of the batteries for Teslas cars and their Powerwall are large arrays of these 18650 lithium-ion batteries manufactured by Panasonic and shipped overseas to us, although plans for a Battery Manufacturing Plant in Sparks, Nevada will make all of Tesla’s products cheaper without cutting any performance – which could eventually dethrone Coal and Oil as the power production standard in the U.S. in favor for solar and wind – because now we can actually store the power that our green technology brings us.
A bright looking future indeed, but we’ll all be waiting awhile to see this possibility come to fruition. Whether or not it ever will is anyone’s guess, but optimism makes sense here. Mr. Musk is putting his money where his mouth is and he’s absolutely not slowing down for anything.
Written by Alexandre Sheets
Florida Set to Release a Billion Genetically Modified Mosquitoes in “Nightmare” Experiment
Environmentalists and Florida residents voiced concern and outrage Monday as state government officials and the biotechnology giant Oxitec announced plans to move ahead this week with a pilot project that involves releasing up to a billion genetically engineered mosquitoes in Monroe County over a two-year period.
Presented by local authorities as an effort to control the population of Aedes aegypti—a mosquito species that can carry both the dengue and yellow fever virus—critics warn that the effort’s supposed benefits and its potential negative consequences have not been sufficiently studied.
Responding to news that the first boxes of genetically modified mosquitos are set to be placed in six locations in Monroe County this week, Friends of the Earth noted in a press release that “scientists have raised concerns that GE mosquitoes could create hybrid wild mosquitoes which could worsen the spread of mosquito-borne diseases and could be more resistant to insecticides than the original wild mosquitoes.”
Dana Perls, food and technology program manager at Friends of the Earth, called on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—which approved the project last May—to “halt this live experiment immediately.”
“This is a dark moment in history,” said Perls. “The release of genetically engineered mosquitoes puts Floridians, the environment, and endangered species at risk in the midst of a pandemic. This release is about maximizing Oxitec’s profits, not about the pressing need to address mosquito-borne diseases.”
The Florida Keys Mosquito Control District and Oxitec said late last week that “less than 12,000 mosquitoes are expected to emerge each week” in Monroe Country over a duration of around three months, the initial phase of the experiment.
The stated goal of the project is for Oxitec’s genetically altered, non-biting male mosquitos to mate with the local biting female population, producing female offspring that die in the larval stage before they can spread disease.
As the Miami Herald explained earlier this year: “A ‘death mechanism’ designed into mosquitoes is meant to ensure no viable female offspring will result from the mating, according to Oxitec. The male offspring will pass on the ‘self-limiting gene’ to half of their offspring, said company spokesman Ross Bethell.”
“My family’s bodies, blood, and private property are being used in this trial without human safety studies or my consent,” Mara Daly, a resident and local business owner in Key Largo, Florida, said in a statement Monday.
Barry Wray, executive director of the Florida Keys Environmental Coalition, added that the “EPA has set the lowest possible bar for approving genetically engineered insects and has opened Pandora’s Box for future experiments that will slide through with little investigation.”
“Everyone should be writing the White House to stop this release until there are regulations and standards that truly protect us,” Wray said.
Republished from CommonDreams.org under Creative Commons
SpaceX Starship Had “Near Collision” With Unknown Flying Object, NASA Confirms
On Friday, NASA was able to successfully deliver four astronauts into orbit on board a SpaceX Crew Dragon starship, marking the first time that a manned mission took place using a reused rocket and spacecraft.
While the launch was a historical success, with the four astronauts from the United States, Japan and France reaching the International Space Station without any complications, there was a tense moment when they were warned of a potential collision with an unidentified flying object, or literal “UFO.”
While there was no time to perform an avoidance maneuver to avoid colliding with an object, the crew was informed that they should get into their pressurized suits to mitigate any harm in case of a collision, reports Futurism.
“The NASA/SpaceX team was informed of the possible conjunction by US Space Command,” said NASA spokesperson Kelly Humphries. “The object being tracked is classified as ‘unknown.’
“The possibility of the conjunction came so close to the closest approach time that there wasn’t time to compute and execute a debris avoidance maneuver with confidence, so the SpaceX team elected to have the crew don their pressure suits out of an abundance of caution,” Humphries added.
The space agency was notified by the Pentagon about the potential collision roughly seven hours after the launch of the spacecraft, according to U.S. Space Command spokesman Erin Dick.
“After further analysis, the 18th Space Control Squadron quickly determined there was no conjunction threat, all aboard are safe and the spacecraft was not at risk,” Dick said.
While the “UFO” hasn’t been precisely identified, the most likely explanation was that it was a piece of space junk – or one of a growing number of human-made pieces of junk like chunks of rockets and dead satellites that have been the subject of increasing concern over the years, with the European Space Agency hosting a major conference on space debris just last week.
Humphries notes that the object only came as close as 45 kilometers from the spacecraft, posing “no real danger to the crew or the spacecraft.”
Nevertheless, the small scare illustrates the potential havoc that could be caused by the increasingly litter-strewn low-Earth orbital space.
Scientists Create First-Ever Embryos With Monkey and Human Cells
For the first time, scientists have created embryos in a lab that contain the cells of both humans and monkeys.
Scientists hope that by creating chimeric embryos – embryos containing cells from two distinct species – they might be able to create organs for people who desperately need transplants.
Over 100,000 people in the United States lone are currently on a waiting list for organ transplants crucial to saving their lives, but the supply of donor organs has dropped significantly since the pandemic began unfolding.
Researchers have attempted to inject human stem cells into the embryos of pigs and sheep in recent years in hopes of growing organs for transplants, but this hasn’t yielded positive results. Scientists are hoping that by turning to macaque monkeys, which share a greater genetic similarity to humans, they may have more success.
In a study published Thursday in the journal Cell, researchers in the U.S. and China injected 25 pluripotent stem cells from humans into embryos from macaque monkeys.
After one day, the researchers detected human cells beginning to grow in 132 of the embryos. They embryos ultimately survived for 19 days.
However, bioethicists have raised concerns about the potential for abusing medical regulations that currently govern the treatment of animal and human subjects, as well as the possibility that a rogue scientists might potentially spike living creatures with human cells.
“My first question is: Why?” Kirstin Matthews, a science and technology fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute, told NPR. “I think the public is going to be concerned, and I am as well, that we’re just kind of pushing forward with science without having a proper conversation about what we should or should not do.”
Researchers insist that the study serves purely humanitarian goals that could save countless lives in the future.
“This work is an important step that provides very compelling evidence that someday when we understand fully what the process is we could make them develop into a heart or a kidney or lungs,” said University of Michigan professor Jeffrey Platt, who was not involved in the study.
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