Science makes solar power cheap; may be the end for fossil fuels
By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, THE DAILY TELEGRAPH April 11, 2014
London - Solar power has won the global argument.
Photovoltaic energy is already so cheap that it competes with oil, diesel and liquefied natural gas in much of Asia without subsidies.
A McKinsey study said the average cost of installed solar power in the US has dropped to $2.59 from $6 a watt in 2010. It expects this to fall to $2.30 next year and to $1.60 by 2020. This will put US solar within “striking distance” of coal and gas.
Prof Michael Aziz at Harvard University is developing a flow-battery that promises to cut the cost of energy storage by two-thirds below the latest vanadium batteries. He said technology gives us a “fighting chance” to overcome the curse of intermittency from wind and solar power, which spike and die in bursts. “I foresee a future where we can vastly cut down on fossil fuel use.”
Deutsche Bank says there are already 19 regional markets around the world that have achieved “grid parity”, meaning that photovoltaic solar panels can match or undercut local electricity prices without subsidy: California, Chile, Australia, Turkey, Israel, Germany, Japan, Italy, Spain and Greece for residential power; Mexico and China for industrial power.
For the world, it portends a once-in-a-century upset of the geostrategic order.
Sheikh Yamani, the veteran Saudi oil minister, saw the writing on the wall long ago.
“Thirty years from now there will be a huge amount of oil - and no buyers. The Stone Age came to an end, not because we had a lack of stones,” he told The Daily Telegraph in 2000.
Inequality has risen across America. Once high-paying middle class jobs have disappeared, as the job market has cleaved into high-wage knowledge and professional jobs and an even larger number of low-pay, low skill service positions. The result of this cleaving has been increasingly unaffordable housing, especially in the high-priced cities supposedly suffering least in the wake of the recession.
A report released this week by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, Out of Reach 2014, identifies the growing gap between housing and wages across the United States. To get at this, it uses a metric it calls the “housing wage” – the wage Americans would need to pay for a two-bedroom unit at market rent, devoting the recommended 30 percent of their income to housing costs. The housing wage for the country as a whole is $18.92 an hour, up 52 percent since 2000. Across the country, this means it would take an average of 2.6 full-time minimum-wage jobs to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment.
About 10 years ago when the game Second Life was released on June 23, 2003 the Pentium M chip had just announced, XP was the hot new OS, itunes was first announced and Skype went public. Just months before In 2002, technology made a huge change in the history of mobile phones, putting a full colour display and integrating camera to mobile phones, producing the world’s first camera cell phone. in 2003 the United States had 39 million, or 13 percent of Americans, connecting via broadband,all others used dialup. Even high end graphics cards were 100 times more primitive then found on today”s cellphone.
In 2007, Apple Inc unveiled the Apple iPhone, Second Life was hot, with educators and corporations like IBM & Intel. Then Cory Linden left Second Life. Now what does that have to do with today?
Cory Ondrejka is vice president of engineering at Facebook. He also was the Chief Technology Officer of Linden Lab, makers of Second Life.
Before Linden Lab Before joining Linden Lab, Ondrejka served as Project Leader and Lead Programmer for Pacific Coast Power and Light, where he helped to develop Road Rash 64 and built a core technology team to deliver titles to the Nintendo 64 and Sony PlayStation consoles. Prior to 2000, Ondrejka also worked for the Department of Defense and the National Security Agency.
Linden Lab (2000-2007) Ondrejka joined San Francisco-based Linden Lab in 2000 and was the fourth employee retained by the company. During his tenure at Linden Lab (2000–2007), Ondrejka was chiefly responsible for the development of the Linden Scripting Language, and reportedly spearheaded Linden Lab’s initiatives in favor of user intellectual property rights and open source code. Ondrejka departed Linden Lab in 2007, a move initially rumoured in the virtual world blog Massively and subsequently confirmed in CNET and by numerous other sources following an official statement. Ondrejka’s departure, which former Linden Lab Chief Executive Officer Philip Rosedale characterized in a BBC interview as amicable “differences… about how to run the company and how best we organise ourselves as a company going forward”, was a source of controversy and speculation in the media and blogosphere.
After Linden Lab In 2008, Ondrejka was recruited to join EMI with the title of senior vice-president of digital strategy. Digital business president Douglas Merrill commented on Ondrejka’s appointment that, Ondrejka’s experience in building virtual environments will be valuable to EMI in creating “new digital communities for fans and artists”, specifically with a view to enabling people to find and engage with musical content.
In November 2010 Ondrejka was hired by Facebook, which also acquired the assets of a startup he cofounded in April 2010, Walletin. He got the title of engineering director. In 2011 he became the director of mobile engineering.
In Second Life Ondrejka was known in Second Life as “Cory Linden,” and created an avatar to appear in the 3D world as the Flying Spaghetti Monster. His activities in the world were characterized by Wagner James Au as “puckish” and playfully anarchic, often to the benefit of newbies.
Today: Facebook Buying Oculus Virtual-Reality Company for $2 Billion
The acquisition comes just weeks after Facebook announced it would purchase the messaging service WhatsApp for $19 billion. Zuckerberg noted that he didn’t expect Facebook’s buying spree to continue, but that the company would open its wallet for companies that it thinks offer a unique value opportunity. “There are not that many companies that are building core technologies that can be the next major computing platform,” he said of Oculus.
Facebook does not yet have a business model for Oculus, but revenues won’t center around selling Oculus Rift headsets. Zuckerberg said he could envision people visiting virtual worlds where they can buy goods and are served advertisements.
The huge purchase shows that every major tech player is making a big bet on wearable devices. Google is continuing to develop its Google Glass hardware and just announced a version of its Android operating system tailored for smart watches. Samsung already has a line of smart watches. With Oculus, Facebook is making a remarkably bold bet that people in the future will want to be fully immersed in technology. “We feel like we should be looking ahead and thinking about what the next platforms are going to be,” Zuckerberg said. “We think vision is going to be the next really big platform.”
In the end, I kept coming back to a question we always ask ourselves every day at Oculus: what’s best for the future of virtual reality? Partnering with Mark and the Facebook team is a unique and powerful opportunity. The partnership accelerates our vision, allows us to execute on some of our most creative ideas and take risks that were otherwise impossible. Most importantly, it means a better Oculus Rift with fewer compromises even faster than we anticipated.
Very little changes day-to-day at Oculus, although we’ll have substantially more resources to build the right team. If you want to come work on these hard problems in computer vision, graphics, input, and audio, please apply!
This is a special moment for the gaming industry — Oculus’ somewhat unpredictable future just became crystal clear: virtual reality is coming, and it’s going to change the way we play games forever.
The real race isn’t over the client — the glasses, watches, phones, or goggles. It’s over the servers. It’s over the operating system. The one that understands countless layers of semantic tags upon every object on earth, the one that knows who to show you in Machu Picchu, the one that lets you turn whole visualizations of reality on and off.
Hopefully, the one that isn’t owned by anyone. (I have a spec I started. But nobody wants it. Money, remember?)
Pshhht, rendering? We’ll get new client hardware, new client software. Big whoop. I’m a lot more worried about whose EULA is going to govern my life.
The Race is On “Again”
If you read the Time article Zuckerberg sounds like a 2007 Second Life fanboy, and the dream of Virtual Reality is alive again..
Sony, Facebook, and High Fidelity, Google are all in the mix.
Second Life Founder Philip Rosedale’s High Fidelity, the virtual world startup led by Second Life founder Philip Rosedale, had raised at least $3.4 million, .
Tony Conrad of True Ventures just announced that his firm led High Fidelity’s Series A, and that Google Ventures and various angel investors also participated. The High Fidelity website now mentions Mitch Kapor and Linden Lab (the company behind Second Life) as investors too. In his blog post, Conrad praises Rosedale’s achievement in building virtual world Second Life. Then he offers this description of what the new company does:
Philip is truly a Founder of a movement—his passion for authenticity in our virtual interactions is unparalleled. So it stands to reason that his most recent company, High Fidelity, is building a next-generation virtual world enabling even richer avatar interactions, driven by sensor-equipped hardware, simulated and served by devices (phones, tablets and laptops/desktops) contributed by end-users. Together with Co-Founders Fred Heiberger and Ryan Karpf, the High Fidelity team is creating a version of the SETI system, but with computers powering a tiny piece of the virtual world rather than folding proteins or looking for aliens.
This all may have little to do with sustainable living except to reflect on three things:
Though many people are looking at alternatives to the present choices in housing going off the grid does not mean giving up a cell phone or posting to tumblr.
The fact that like Virtual Reality affordable housing has just not made it big time. Hopefully the time will be right soon when the convergence of better technology meets capital and a few future thinking developers.
The market for a second life, a real life based on an affordable and sustainable smaller lifestyle, far outstrips those that only play in virtual reality.
Even if Tesla sells the 500,000 mass-market vehicles it desires, and continues to make the Model S and Model X, the Gigafactory should still have a remaining 10 GWh of manufacturing capacity left, Jaffe said. That remaining capacity could be used to support — and expand — its burgeoning stationary (as opposed to portable — that is, cars) energy storage business.
Tesla already supplies the California energy services company SolarCity with batteries for energy storage systems designed for commercial buildings. SolarCity has worked closely with Tesla for more than three years in its development of a stationary storage product, said Eric Carlson, SolarCity’s senior director of grid systems integration. (Tesla’s Musk is also chairman of SolarCity.)
Carlson wouldn’t comment on any future plans with the automaker except to say that he expected the partnership to continue. However, he did say that SolarCity sees significant demand for stationary energy storage and would expect that Tesla would also be excited about its market potential.
Nevertheless, if Tesla expects to sell more than 10 GWh per year’s worth of battery packs to the stationary storage market, the packs will have to be priced below $200 per kilowatt-hour (kWh), Jaffe said. Tesla has said that the lithium-ion batteries it buys from Panasonic are between $200 and $300 per kWh, but the current cost of stationary energy storage is much higher — between $500 and $800 per kWh globally.
Investment bank Morgan Stanley says it has been overwhelmed by the response to its recent analysis which suggested that the falling costs of both solar modules and battery storage presented a potential tipping point that would encourage huge numbers of homeowners and businesses in the US to go off grid.
The initial report, published earlier this month, has been followed up by a note from Morgan Stanley highlighting the extent to which investors had been unaware of these mega trends, which threaten massive disruption in the trillion-dollar utility business.
Sure, they had heard that solar was proving popular, but had no idea of the size of the market that Morgan Stanley had identified. And while most had been sceptical of the potential impact of battery storage, they were intrigued by the potential cost falls that could be achieved by Tesla, the electric car company, and its ability to monitor power levels in batteries and schedule a battery swap in the case of depletion.
More importantly, the investors were particularly focused on how utilities might respond. Solar, they suggested, should be seen as an opportunity and utilities should look at ways of becoming enablers of these technologies, rather than barriers.
During two great eras of prosperity in America three simple automobiles dotted the landscape, The Model T, The Jeep and the VW bug. As we look at affordable and sustainable don’t forget you need wheels.
Out of Gas: Most Americans Can’t Afford New Cars NBC News: 3/25/2014
For many Americans, new cars are driving out of reach. Jose Hernandez, 24, lives in East Los Angeles and makes $26,000 a year working the front desk at a clinic. After a trade-in, he financed a 2013 Civic EX for $25,000 at 2.3 percent for 6 years, paying $379 in monthly payments, plus $100 per month in insurance. He finds a new car can be a stretch.
"I believe most cars are slightly out of reasonable price range for the average American, especially considering most ‘affordable’ cars don’t last very long and lose a lot of value rather quickly," he said.
For many Americans, a car isn’t a way to get from point A to point B, it’s freedom. The promise of an automobile goes beyond the thrill of the open road or being able to get a late-night pint of ice cream when you want. With a car, you’ve arrived. And with a car, you can always leave. Social mobility, a new life in a new town, used to be just a black ribbon of interstate away.
Now, amid stagnant wages and a shaky recovery, the average new car price rose last year by $1,536. "Americans can only afford used cars," said Louis Hyman, an assistant professor in the labor relations, law, and history department at Cornell University. "The recovery has only been for those at the top and not for normal Americans."
Car ownership has long sat at the core of what it means to “make it” in this country. If you want to get to and around the suburbs, you’ll need to drive.
It’s an aspiration that’s slipped from the grasp of most, as a new report finds the average new car unaffordable for the average American family in 24 of the 25 largest U.S. metro areas.
Except for Washington, D.C., median-income households in those areas fell shy of the $32,086 in annual salary required to buy an average new car, the Interest.com analysis found.
"The consumer gets to the end of the month and discovers they have no money left in their checking account," said Interest.com managing editor Mike Sante. "They’ve spent every cent they have and wonder how on earth they’re supposed to save for their retirement or their kids’ education."
While the auto loan market is measured in the billions, compared to the housing market’s trillions, car buying is one of the main drivers of the economic cycle. Should credit for cars and trucks crash and dry up, it could hobble an already shaky recovery.
Some of those driving off the lot today with a bad loan in the backseat could find themselves living out of their new rides tomorrow.
"These are really good gambles for the banks," said Alan Helfman, owner of River Oaks Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram in Houston, "They’ll let the home go before the car. You got to get to work. You got to eat."