Posts with «renewable energy & energy saving» label

The world’s biggest 3D printer can a make a house in under 80 hours

The University of Maine just unveiled the world’s largest polymer 3D printer. The new printer, named Factory of the Future 1.0 (FoF 1.0), can print objects as large as 96 feet long by 32 feet wide by 18 feet high. It’s also quite speedy, relatively speaking, as it can print up to 500 pounds per hour. That’s like three people, every hour.

It can dynamically switch between printing techniques to suit different aspects of complex jobs. The printer can flip between large-scale additive manufacturing, subtractive manufacturing, continuous tape layup and robot arm operations. These technologies make the printer uniquely suited for a number of industries, including housing, infrastructure and the development of military vehicles.

Most of the stuff it makes is recyclable, so “you can basically deconstruct it, grind it up if you wish” and “do it again”, according to Dr. Habib Dagher, the Director of the Advanced Structures and Composites Center at the University of Maine. To that end, the printer prioritizes biobased materials, like wood residuals.

This tech seems like a great way to build a ton of affordable housing quickly and that’s exactly what some proponents have in mind. “Maine needs an estimated 80,000 additional homes by 2030, many specifically for households with incomes at or below the area median income,” said MaineHousing’s Development Director Mark Wiesendanger. “This effort creates another means of producing quality affordable housing, while further driving costs down, and using abundant wood residuals from Maine sawmills.” AP suggests the printer “may one day create entire neighborhoods.” The specs indicate that it should be able to make a modest single-story home in around 80 hours.

However, this is America, so it’s not like people built this thing just to help the unhoused. UMaine researchers received funding from the Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy. These governmental institutions are going to want a return on their investment, so the printer will also likely be used to whip up lightweight rapidly deployable vessels, like submarines and other maritime vehicles. Senator Susan Collins called the printer “invaluable to our national security."

The FoF 1.0 has a sibling printer on the UMaine campus, which was the previous record holder for the world’s largest 3D printer. It’s already been used to manufacture a 600-square-foot, single-family home made of wood fiber and bioresin materials. The new printer, however, is four times the size. Luckily, the two models are housed in the same location and can work on different aspects of the same projects simultaneously.

The University of Maine will soon break ground on a new research laboratory called the Green Engineering and Materials (GEM) Factory of the Future. This will be the new home of both printers, with a primary aim to “facilitate and scale up more sustainable manufacturing practices.” It will also likely house even larger printers in the future. “We’re learning from this to design the next one,” Dr. Dagher told ABC News.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Samsung awarded $6.4 billion CHIPS Act grant to build 'semiconductor ecosystem' in Texas

The Biden administration just announced a preliminary agreement to award Samsung up to $6.4 billion in grants as part of CHIPS Act funding. This money will complement the $44 billion in private investment that the company has promised to spend in the state to build a “semiconductor ecosystem.”

This money will be spent to finish a “leading-edge” campus in Taylor, Texas that will focus on research and development of advanced logic technologies, manufacturing and, perhaps most importantly, packaging. When it comes to chips, packaging refers to providing power, inputs and outputs. It’s a highly specialized process that’s typically done overseas, which means that even chips built on US soil have to get shipped to another country and then mailed back. Samsung’s dedicated packaging facility should eliminate some of these headaches and strengthen the overall supply chain.

The money will also go toward an expansion of Samsung’s pre-existing facility in Austin. Taylor and Austin are only 40 minutes away from one another, leading the Biden administration to suggest that the combination of both facilities will turn “Samsung’s existing presence in Texas into a comprehensive ecosystem for the development and production of leading-edge chips in the United States.” The president also says it’ll lead to 21,500 jobs for Texans, with $40 million set aside for training.

The CHIPS and Science Act has given the federal government authority to award funding and offer loans to tech companies to encourage domestic spending. GlobalFoundries received a grant of $1.5 billion back in February to help with a major expansion, in addition to snapping up a $1.6 billion loan. The company plans on spending this money in Malta, New York to build a new fabrication facility that manufactures chips for the automotive, aerospace, defense and AI industries.

Intel recently received the largest CHIPS grant to date, grabbing up to $8.5 billion to continue various US-based ventures. Intel plans on using that money to build some new plants that manufacture semiconductor chips for the AI industry. It’s building two new fabrication facilities in Arizona and two more in Ohio. Intel will also use the financial windfall to modernize a pair of pre-existing plants in New Mexico and one in Oregon. The company says it’ll be investing $100 billion in US-based chip manufacturing, leading to an influx of around 30,000 jobs.

President Biden signed the CHIPS and Science Act into law back in 2022 to encourage domestic semiconductor research and manufacturing in order to lessen America's reliance on Chinese suppliers. All told, it sets aside $52 billion in tax credits and funding for companies to expand stateside production.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Leaked Rivian R2 specs include a 330-mile range and $47,000 starting price

Specs for the Rivian R2 leaked this week ahead of Thursday’s unveiling. Found by “internet sleuths” who tipped off Electrek, its specifications were buried in source code for the EV’s teaser website (briefly visible to anyone in the public using a web inspector). The code suggests the R2 will have up to a 330-mile range and a $47,000 starting price when it arrives in 2026.

The R2 allegedly has a three-second 0 to 60 mph acceleration time, but it’s probably wise to expect that only in the top-tier models. The code lists the compact SUV as a five-seater with a 115.6-inch wheelbase. Other details include a length of 185.6 inches, a width of 75 inches (84.4 inches with mirrors) and a height of 66.9 inches.

The code says it will have a NACS chargeport but adds that it can also charge at CCS stations. The leak also lists powered rear glass and a bike mount that “snaps into the rear accessory ports.” (It mentions that no tools are needed.) The bike mount allegedly fits in the R2’s frunk when not in use. “We design our vehicles to maximize storage throughout,” the marketing copy from the source code reads. “The roomy front trunk offers plenty of space to stow large items — from weekend gear to weekly grocery haul.”

Other details from the source code include a maximum ground clearance of 9.8 inches, a 32-inch wheel and tire diameter, a 25-degree approach angle and a 27-degree departure angle.

Rivian confirmed last month that it will officially unveil the R2 on March 7. The automaker’s CEO, RJ Scaringe, had previously said the vehicle would be smaller and cheaper than the R1. Its $47,000 starting price (the code also lists $47,500 in other places) would put it squarely within the $40,000 to $60,000 range CFO Claire McDonough previously promised.

Unfortunately, news of more layoffs at Rivian emerged ahead of Thursday’s launch event. Crain’s Chicago Business (via Quartz) first reported that the EV maker laid off “about 100” employees at its Normal, IL factory. That’s about one percent of the plant’s total workers. The cuts follow (or are perhaps part of) those announced in February when Rivian said it would lay off 10 percent of its workforce.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

GlobalFoundries secures $1.5 billion in CHIPS Act funding for US expansion

The Biden administration is granting $1.5 billion in funding to GlobalFoundries to bolster semiconductor production under the CHIPS Act. The company, which spun out from AMD in 2009 and also has access to $1.6 billion in loans from the CHIPS Program Office, will split the cash between three projects.

First, GlobalFoundries will build a new fabrication facility in Malta, New York, where it aims to produce "high value technologies not currently available in the US," the Department of Commerce said in a statement. GlobalFoundries says it will use the facility to build chips for a range of industries and applications, including the automotive, aerospace, defense and AI spaces. Construction is expected to start in 2025.

Secondly, GlobalFoundries plans to expand its existing facility in Malta by incorporating tech from its Singapore and Germany plants with the aim of making more semiconductors for use in cars and trucks. This expansion, combined with the new fab, will enable GlobalFoundries to triple the capacity of its Malta campus over the next decade or so. Once all phases of both projects are complete, GlobalFoundries expects to increase wafer production to 1 million per year across the plants.

Last but not least, the remaining funding will go toward modernizing an existing fab in Burlington, Vermont. The aim is to build the first US plant capable of high-volume manufacturing of next-generation gallium nitride on silicon semiconductors for electric vehicles, smartphones, the power grid and other key technologies. The plant will use entirely carbon-free energy, while an on-site solar system will provide up to nine percent of annual power needs.

Through public-private partnerships, GlobalFoundries plans to invest more than $12 billion into the sites over the next 10-plus years. New York is also supporting the Malta projects with $575 million in performance-based Green CHIPS tax credits, while the New York Power Authority is investing at least $30 million.

The Department of Commerce says the three projects are expected to create 1,500 manufacturing positions and around 9,000 construction jobs over the next 10 years. The positions are slated to pay fair wages and offer benefits including childcare.

Aligned with the broader aims of the CHIPS Act, the investment is designed to improve domestic semiconductor supply chains. GlobalFoundries says that there are only four companies that can deliver "current and mature foundry capabilities" at its scale outside of China, and it's the only one of those based in the US.

Last year, the company reached a direct supply agreement with GM to provide the automaker with US-built processors and help it avoid the kinds of chip shortages that caused a significant slowdown in car manufacturing in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. GlobalFoundries agreed to create an exclusive capacity corridor for GM chips. GlobalFoundries struck a chip deal with Ford in 2021 as well.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

SpaceX moves its legal home to Texas from Delaware

Elon Musk has started moving his businesses away from Delaware, following a judge's decision in the state to invalidate his $56 billion Tesla pay package. In a post on X, Musk has announced that SpaceX has moved its corporate home from Delaware to Texas, along with a copy of the certificate of conversion it received from the Texas Secretary of State. "If your company is still incorporated in Delaware, I recommend moving to another state as soon as possible," the executive added. 

SpaceX has moved its state of incorporation from Delaware to Texas!

If your company is still incorporated in Delaware, I recommend moving to another state as soon as possible.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 15, 2024

As Bloomberg notes, he also moved Neuralink's business from Delaware to Nevada on February 8, shortly after he revealed that the company implanted its brain chip into a human patient for the first time. With that change in location, Neuralink joined another company Musk controls in the state: X, which he also moved from Delaware, when he changed its name from Twitter in 2023. 

Back when the court's decision to toss out his Tesla compensation package came out, Musk posted a series of tweets airing his grievances against the state. In one post, he polled people on whether Tesla should change its legal corporate home to Texas. "Never incorporate your company in the state of Delaware," he wrote in another post. "I recommend incorporating in Nevada or Texas if you prefer shareholders to decide matters," Musk added

Unlike SpaceX and Neuralink, though, it will likely take a while for Tesla to move its incorporation. Musk still has to take a vote from shareholders on whether the company should move its legal home. It's worth noting that both Tesla and SpaceX already have a massive presence in The Lone Star State. Tesla moved its physical headquarters to Texas from California due to the latter's COVID-19 safety measures. It also has a Gigafactory in the state, which produces the company's vehicles, including the Cybertruck. Meanwhile, SpaceX's Starbase, a production and launch facility for its Starship vehicles, is located in Boca Chica, Texas. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

It’s a great time to buy a solar generator

I’ve been interested in solar generators for a long while, but very few of them ever felt worthy of specific comment. Many of them historically boasted of running laptops, TVs or coolers, but their constrained outputs made them incapable of powering kettles, washing machines or air conditioners. CES 2024 has shown that the industry has moved beyond those limitations, with newer units capable of fulfilling the promise inherent in their names.

Take the new EcoFlow Delta Pro Ultra, the company’s flagship whole-home backup, which can pump out 7,200W. The company claims the unit is strong enough to power a three ton central air unit, one of the most demanding appliances in the home. Plus, because it’s a modular design, you can add up to three of these units to the same home for a cumulative output of 21.6kW — and, with enough batteries, a total storage capacity of 90kWh.

Solix, Anker’s big battery division, was here at CES showing off its new F3800 portable power station. The company moved into the home battery market in the summer of 2023 but even something designed to be wheeled around is shorn of the older limitations. The F3800 can pump out a peak of 6,000W – a figure you can double if you buy two – enough to add juice to an EV in a pinch. And, best of all, it’s currently available to buy for $3,499 which, depending on how much solar you pair it with, should mean payback considerations are less than five years.

Jackery, which has been a name in this market for a long while, will sell you its 2000 Plus, complete with two 200W solar panels, for just $3,300. That small unit, if you use the right accessory, can be wired into your home’s breaker box and similarly has a surge peak of 6,000W. It’s not quite as muscular as some of its competitors, but the low cost means that it’s hard to argue against if you’re looking to dip a toe into this world.

Cost for solar panels and batteries have fallen dramatically in the last few years, with Our World in Data reporting that the cost of a panel has dropped from $2.32 per watt in 2010 to just $0.26 per watt in 2022. BloombergNEF reported that lithium ion battery prices have fallen from $780 per kWh in 2013 down to $139 per kWh in 2023. And it’s this that has enabled this surge in home battery uptake.

Emma Ross, who heads up communications for Jackery, says that customers are drawn to these falling prices. She added that, second to cost, the plug-and-play element of the gear is key, offering “the perfect combination of convenience and environmental friendliness.” The low cost and ease of installation means these systems “require less investment than other, larger solar options,” making it a “less intimidating” way for wary neophytes to get involved.

Nick Bowers, head of business development at EcoFlow in the US, says that consumers are frustrated with the domestic energy market. He claims rate increases, natural disasters, power outages and climate change have all driven people toward buying solar gear. “The pain points pushing people toward renewables,” he said, “will only grow more acute,” with users looking to “be less reliant on the grid.”

And the solar industry writ large is gearing up to address a surge in demand expected to come as these prices fall. Eric Villines, head of global communications at Anker, says that the only roadblock right now is the fact most homeowners aren’t investing in storage alongside their solar gear. “In 2022, only ten percent of installed home solar systems in the US included energy storage,” he told Engadget, “preventing homeowners from securing protection against blackouts.” To address this, the company surveyed users and found most were either put off by the high price, or didn’t even know that it was a viable option for them.

Which is why the knock-down prices on hardware the likes of which we’ve seen at CES 2024 is hopefully going to address some of those issues. After all, whereas some of this gear would have cost tens of thousands of dollars a few years ago, they’re now less than half that price. Perhaps these units will serve as a gateway drug to investments into more expansive whole home batteries further down the line. And that’s a good first step towards our bigger, and hopefully brighter solar future.

We're reporting live from CES 2024 in Las Vegas from January 6-12. Keep up with all the latest news from the show here.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Google's first geothermal energy project is up and running

Google says a first-of-its-kind geothermal energy project is now feeding carbon-free electricity (CFE) into the Nevada grid that powers its data centers in the area. The company says that the enhanced geothermal system (EGS) is delivering a round-the-clock supply of CFE to the grid. It's a step toward Google's goal of entirely powering its data centers and offices on CFE by 2030.

Google teamed up with clean energy startup Fervo Energy in 2021 to work on an EGS. Unlike other sources of CFE such as solar and wind, geothermal projects can operate at any time (solar projects, for instance, can only capture energy during the day). 

Fervo Energy achieved a geothermal breakthrough earlier this year when its system achieved flow and power output records for an EGS. It was capable of producing 3.5 megawatts of electricity — enough to power around 2,600 homes. That test result was said to be the first time an energy company proved an EGS is capable of working on a commercial scale.

Scientists have been trying to make an EGS work since the 1970s. A natural geothermal system requires a blend of heat, rock permeability and fluid to generate electricity. In areas where there's sufficient heat but not enough permeability, an EGS creates the latter by drilling deep into the earth and injecting fluid to create fractures in the rock.

At its Nevada site, Fervo drilled 8,000 feet into the ground, then extended the well horizontally to reach more of the hot reservoir. It drilled a second horizontal well to intersect the fractures in the rock. The company pumps cold water from the first well through the fractures into the second well. The water absorbs heat from the surrounding rock. This is used to generate steam and that produces CFE.

The Department of Energy has acknowledged that, unlike with gas and oil fracking, EGS poses a low risk of water contamination. EGS reservoirs are typically much deeper in the ground than oil and gas reservoirs and aren't close to groundwater or near-surface drinking water supplies. Geothermal power plants don't release any water on the surface either.

A 2019 report by the DOE found that — through advancements in technology as well as in policy and procurement — EGS could generate up to 120 gigawatts of clean energy by 2050. That would be enough to cover over 16 percent of the US' expected electricity needs.

Google says it's working to accelerate adoption of EGS as a clean energy solution. To that end, it recently teamed up with Project InnerSpace, a non-profit organization that's focused on removing barriers that are limiting the global development of geothermal energy. Fervo, meanwhile, is building an EGS site in Utah that it expects to deliver 400 megawatts of 24/7 carbon-free electricity — enough to power as many as 300,000 homes. Fervo says that site will start delivering power to the grid in 2026 and reach full-scale production two years later.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Toyota and Lexus are adopting Tesla's EV charging standard

One by one, automakers have started adopting the North American Charging Standard (NACS) used by Tesla's Superchargers as they move towards their goal of replacing their fleet with electric vehicles. Toyota is the latest company to join the growing list. The automaker has announced that it has reached an agreement with Tesla to incorporate NACS ports into certain Toyota-branded vehicles starting in 2025. Some EVs under its luxury brand, Lexus, will come with the standard's charging ports, as well. 

By using NACS ports on its electric vehicles, Toyota is effectively giving its customers the power to access more than 12,000 Tesla Superchargers across North America. While the company won't be implementing the standard over the next year, its timeline matches its rival automakers'. To note, customers who already have Toyota and Lexus vehicles equipped with the Combined Charging System (CCS) will be offered access to NACS adapters starting in 2025, as well.

BMW also recently announced that it was adopting the standard for all its EVs in the United States and Canada. A few months ago, GM and Ford revealed they were making the switch starting in 2025, but owners will already be able to access Tesla Superchargers next year with an adopter. Hyundai will adopt the port for its EVs in the US in 2024, with EVs in Canada to follow in 2025. Honda, Toyota's fellow Japanese automaker, announced its transition to NACS in September and its plans to sell vehicles with the port in two years' time. It also said, however, that it's developing an adapter to allow pre-2025 Hondas to charge using Tesla's system. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

'Breakthrough' geothermal tech produces 3.5 megawatts of carbon-free power

Fervo Energy says it has achieved a breakthrough in geothermal technology. It carried out a 30-day well test at its site in northern Nevada and says it was able to achieve a "flowrate of 63 liters per second at high temperature that enables 3.5 megawatts of electric production." The company says the test resulted in flow and power output records for an enhanced geothermal system (EGS) and that it was completed without incident.

A megawatt can power around 750 homes at once. Fervo is expected to connect its Project Red site to the grid this year. It will be used to power Google data centers and some of the company's other Nevada infrastructure. Google and Fervo signed an agreement in 2021 to develop a "next-generation geothermal power project."

This is the first time an energy company has shown that an EGS can work on a commercial scale, according to Bloomberg. It's been a long road to reach this point, as scientists have been trying to make EGS a reality since the 1970s.

For a natural geothermal system to produce electricity, it needs a combination of heat, fluid and rock permeability, as Bloomberg notes. In many areas, the rock has the required levels of heat, but not enough permeability for fluid to flow through it.

An EGS creates this permeability artificially by drilling deep underground and injecting fluid to create fractures in the rock. That approach can vastly increase the number of potential sites for a geothermal power plant.

Fervo says it's the first company to "successfully drill a horizontal well pair for commercial geothermal production, achieving lateral lengths of 3,250 feet, reaching a temperature of 191°C, and proving controlled flow through rigorous tracer testing."

One of the major advantages of geothermal power plants is that they're entirely carbon free — Google aims to run all of its offices and data centers on carbon-free energy by 2030. These plants can also operate at any time (unlike solar and wind), making geothermal energy a compelling source of renewable power. However, cost reductions and regulatory red tape are barriers to making EGS more broadly available, according to Fervo CEO Tim Latimer.

The company is hoping to replicate its success at a site in Utah. If Fervo sees similar results there and it successfully implements design upgrades to maximize output, the site is expected to generate enough electricity to power 300,000 homes simultaneously, Latimer said. That's around a quarter of all homes in Utah.

“Achieving our goal of operating on 24/7 carbon-free energy will require new sources of firm, clean power to complement variable renewables like wind and solar,” Michael Terrell, Google's senior director for energy and climate, said in a statement. “We partnered with Fervo in 2021 because we see significant potential for their geothermal technology to unlock a critical source of 24/7 carbon-free energy at scale, and we are thrilled to see Fervo reach this important technical milestone.”

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Tesla's 'Charge on Solar' lets Powerwall owners send excess energy to their EV

Tesla has launched a feature called "Charge on Solar" that allows owners to fill up their electric vehicles' batteries using only excess solar energy. As TechCrunch notes, the automaker started testing the capability in May, but now it's more widely available to Tesla customers in the US and in Canada. The number of people who can access the feature, however, likely remains pretty limited. To start with, it will only be accessible to those who have newer Teslas — 2021 and later — who also have a Powerwall. That's the company's battery system that stores solar energy harnessed by solar panels. 


To enable Charge on Solar, users will need to fire up their Tesla app, choose the feature and then set it up. They'll then see a slider with a sun icon within the feature's settings that they can drag left or right to set the charge limit. The vehicle will charge itself from solar and the grid like usual before it reaches the sun slider, ensuring users have enough power to get where they need to. But after reaching the sun slider, the vehicle will only charge itself using excess solar energy. 

The Powerwall will still prioritize storing backup energy or charging other appliances when it's in Storm Watch mode before allocating any excess solar power for vehicle charging. Charge on Solar will truly only charge EVs using excess energy, which is also why owners worried about not having enough juice can set a time limit for it. Of course, they can also adjust their charge limit, or switch off Charge on Solar entirely if they want to be absolutely sure that their batteries will get fully charged. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at