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NREL Inventiveness Sets New Record for Patent Activity

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For Greg Glatzmaier, the road between innovation and implementation runs along a dusty stretch of highway about a dozen miles south of Boulder City, Nevada, where his patented idea could solve an industry problem. The destination for his idea is Nevada Solar One, an outpost in the desert where 186,000 parabolic shaped mirrors tilt to capture the sun’s rays.

Greg Glatzmaier tests the high-temperature thermal/mechanical stability of sealants that are being used in equipment installed at the Nevada Solar One power plant. The process reduces trace levels of hydrogen in the power plant and maintains its original design efficiency and power production. Photo by Dennis Schroeder, NREL

“When the plant first opened, there was nothing around it but open desert with mountains to the west and east,” said Glatzmaier, a senior engineer in the Thermal Energy Science and Technologies group at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). “The only other landscape feature is a dry lakebed north of the plant.”

Since Nevada Solar One began operations in the summer of 2007, other utility-scale solar power plants have opened in that lakebed. Nevada Solar One is the only concentrating solar power (CSP) plant in the region, however, and the technology faces a unique set of challenges.

The CSP facility uses concentrated beams of sunlight to heat a fluid flowing through 20,000 tubes to as high as 752 degrees Fahrenheit. The process creates steam to spin a turbine that powers a generator and produces electricity. Over time, however, the heat transfer fluid begins to break down and form hydrogen, which reduces the effectiveness of the process. Tiny metal pellets in the tubes absorb the hydrogen, but after about seven years they become saturated and cannot be removed and replaced. Glatzmaier developed a method to address the hydrogen problem.

“To try to go in individually and address the situation for each tube is not really practical,” Glatzmaier said. “So, the method that I’ve developed, and what’s in that patent, and what this project has been all about, is to reduce and control the level of hydrogen that’s in the heat transfer fluid.”

NREL applied for a patent on Glatzmaier’s invention in the fall of 2017. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office last May granted patent protection to what is simply called “Hydrogen sensing and separation.”

Laboratory Filed 188 Patent Applications

Glatzmaier’s patent was merely one of the 40 U.S. patents issued to NREL during fiscal 2020, a bump from the 32 issued during the prior fiscal year. Of the 269 disclosures filed with the laboratory’s Technology Transfer Office as the first step toward either patent or copyright protection, 153 fell in the category of a record of invention and 116 in the area of software.

“We continue to see strong engagement from researchers who submit their ideas for evaluation, with especially strong growth in software,” said Anne Miller, director of NREL’s Technology Transfer Office. “It’s great to see such growth because it tells us that the outreach to the lab to get people to report their innovations and work with us in getting them protected and deployed means that it’s working, that people know who to contact. Hopefully, it means that they have some confidence in our ability to be helpful and steer them in the right direction.”

Anne Miller, director of NREL’s Technology Transfer Office, speaks to laboratory employees at a 2019 event. Photo by Werner Slocum, NREL.

NREL filed 188 patent applications in FY20, up from 124 the year before.

Lance Wheeler, a research scientist at NREL, has about a dozen patent applications in the pipeline tied to the discovery several years ago of a way to turn windows into solar cells. The technology relies on perovskite solar cells that enable the glass to darken and generate electricity, and also switch back to a clear pane. The most recent patent approved, for “Energy-harvesting chromogenic devices,” was granted in November, or almost four years after the provisional application was filed.

“It’s much different than writing a paper because you can write a paper and get it published within months,” said Wheeler, who shares credit on the patent with colleagues Joey Luther, Jeffrey Christians, and Joe Berry. “You’ll never get a patent awarded in months. It’s usually at least a year, and three is not crazy.”

Buildings across the United States account for nearly two-thirds of energy used, so the notion of using these “smart windows” to take advantage of sunlight could bring that energy consumption down.

The patents issued so far for Wheeler’s dynamic photovoltaic windows cover foundational aspects of the technology and sprang from the initial research. A series of patent applications followed.

“When you write the first patent application, you don’t know everything,” Wheeler said. “As you learn more and especially for very particular market needs, or what a product might look like, you learn what’s important and you continue to protect the things that are working. Then you make more discoveries, and you patent more things, but they’re all aligned in the same area.”

Perovskite Composition Earns Patent Protection

Alignment, as it turns out, is a key part of making perovskites most effective in capturing the sun’s energy. Unlike widely used silicon, which is a naturally occurring mineral, perovskites used in solar cells are grown through chemistry. The crystalline structure of perovskites has proven exceptionally efficient at converting sunlight to electricity.

NREL researchers have explored possible combinations for perovskite formulas to find the best. That work resulted in a patent issued in April 2020 for “Oriented perovskite crystals and methods for making the same.” The process begins with a small crystal that’s attached to another crystal and then another and on and on. The crystals are also oriented in the same direction. Kai Zhu, a senior scientist and one of the inventors, uses bricklaying as an analogy.

“You lay one layer down, you put one next to another, you align them perfectly,” he said. “You have to do this in order to build a very large wall. But if you have some randomness in it, your wall will collapse.”

The patent, which covers the composition of the perovskite, was issued to Zhu, Berry, and Donghoe Kim of NREL and to a scientist in Japan. NREL filed the patent application in 2017. Compared to a perovskite solar cell made of crystals allowed to grow randomly instead of in a specific orientation, the NREL-developed composition has been proven to have fewer defects and able to move charge carriers quickly. The result is a perovskite solar cell capable of reaching the highest efficiency.

“This represents the current best performing perovskite composition for the single-junction solar cell,” Zhu said.

Software Filings Reach New Record

NREL’s Technology Transfer Office received 116 software record (SWR) disclosures in fiscal 2020, establishing a new record and marking a big increase from 72 the prior year. The growth in submittals is partly due to more software being developed and authorized for free open-source release. One software record approved for closed-source licensing last year and now available for commercial users is the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Projection tool, or EVI-Pro. A simplified, open-source version, known as EVI-Pro Lite, also has been released.

The core of EVI-Pro allows users to forecast the demand for electric vehicle charging infrastructure in a particular area. The predictive nature of the software also enables users to determine in advance how an influx of electric vehicles might affect the grid and energy demand. EVI-Pro relies on real-world information.

Eric Wood, the NREL researcher who oversaw the development of EVI-Pro, said it is not enough to simply consider how many charging stations were installed in an area previously and make an educated guess based on that information.

“That misses some key points,” he said. “The vehicle technology is evolving. The charging technology is evolving. And the behavior of individuals that own these vehicles is evolving.”

Early adopters of electric vehicles could charge them at home, in their garage. As the market expands, Wood said, people living in apartments or who have to park on the street need to have a place to plug in.

“The role of public charging infrastructure is going to continue to elevate as the market grows,” he said. “Continuing to develop the software with an eye on reflecting the latest situation in the market is one of the challenges that we face, so keeping EVI-Pro relevant and current is important.”

From the Laboratory to the Outside World

For Glatzmaier, the journey to see how well his invention could perform at isolating and removing hydrogen from the concentrating solar power plant was not a quick one. Grounded from flying because of the pandemic, last year he made four trips to the Nevada site by car. Each trip took about 13 hours one way.

Scientists typically keep close to their laboratory space, with companies able to license ideas that sprang from the inventive minds at NREL. Often, with license in hand, a company will conduct research using its own people. In Glatzmaier’s case, Nevada Solar One signed cooperative research and development agreements that have kept the scientist and company working closely together since 2015.

Glatzmaier initially planned to address the hydrogen buildup using two processes: one to measure the amount of the gas, and a second to extract it. Laboratory-scale tests showed his ideas would work, but he still expected some hesitation from company executives when it came time to trying out the devices on a much larger scale.

“I was thinking, they’re going to be very reluctant because companies tend to not want to make changes to their power plants once they are up and running,” he said. So he proposed installing the mechanism to only measure hydrogen buildup. Instead, the company wanted him to move ahead and tackle both problems at once. From the initial idea to installation has been a long road, but it does not end in Nevada.

Glatzmaier said 80 concentrating solar power plants exist around the world, and talks are in their final stages to license the technology for its use in these plants.

Learn more about licensing NREL-developed technologies.

—Wayne Hicks

Article courtesy of the NREL, The U.S. Department of Energy.


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Lincoln Announces 4 New EVs Coming, Audi Halts New Internal Combustion Engine Development

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The pace of change in the world of automobiles is accelerating. Lincoln and Audi had announcements this week that should gladden the heart of all EV proponents.

Lincoln Says 4 New Battery Electric Cars On The Way

Ford Motor Company is aggressively moving into the EV space with the Mustang Mach E and the upcoming F-150 Lightning pickup truck. It should come as no surprise then that Lincoln is also in line for an assortment of battery electric cars. The first is scheduled to appear next year — just in time for the company’s centennial — with three more coming by 2030.

According to the Detroit News, Lincoln expects a majority of its sales globally will be fully electric by 2026. “You typically see luxury clients more as tech adopters and certainly with the propulsion paired with that connectivity and that intelligence you get in the vehicle and those digital experiences, it makes sense we’re seeing that,” Lincoln president Joy Falotico said during a virtual news conference this week. “It’s going to be a transition period and we want to make sure we have what clients want.”

The electric cars from Lincoln will be built on a dedicated EV platform that permits either a single motor rear-wheel drive configuration or a dual motor all-wheel drive variant. The company has provided no specifics about its first all electric car, but if you guessed it will be an SUV, you are probably right on the money.

Image courtesy of Lincoln

“When you’re working around traditional engines, transmissions, fuel systems, the space left for people can be compromised,” said John Jraiche, global director for luxury vehicles at Ford. “But the company’s new rear-wheel drive/all-wheel drive flexible bed architecture allows us to re-imagine the interior space and deliver the power of sanctuary in a new way for our clients.”

Lincoln is joining the 21st century in other ways as well. Lincoln Intelligence System, a cloud-based system for electrical, power distribution and computing systems, will allow for continued updates over the life of the vehicle. The company is also expanding its online sales platform and the number of bespoke showrooms across the country.

Those locations will showcase Lincoln vehicles, provide digital resources for customers to purchase a vehicle, and serve as a place where customers can drop off their vehicle for service. “This is what luxury clients expect,” Michael Sprague, director of North America operations, said. “Brand-exclusive facilities drive our growth. In the top 30 luxury markets, more than 75% of our volume comes from brand-exclusive locations.”

Audi To Halt Development Of Internal Combustion Engines

Perhaps no legacy automaker is as committed to selling exclusively electric cars at Volkswagen Group, the parent company of Audi. Speaking to German auto industry source Automobilwoche this week, Audi CEO Marcus Duesmann said, “We will no longer develop a new internal combustion engine, but will adapt our existing internal combustion engines to new emission guidelines. The EU plans for an even stricter Euro 7 emissions standard are a huge technical challenge and at the same time have little benefit for the environment,” he said. “That extremely restricts the combustion engine.”

Actually, Marcus, that’s sort of the point of the new standard. Quit whining. The changeover to all electric cars at Audi will take a while, perhaps as long as 15 years. While the company may not develop any new internal combustion engines, it has a whole slew of world class engines it can plug into future cars and sell them in markets where exhaust emissions are not as strict as those in Europe — places like the US, for example. Motor 1 reports the company is planning one last gasp ultra premium sedan featuring the iconic W12 engine that has seen duty in the discontinued Volkswagen Phaeton and in many Bugatti models.

Ultimately, it will not be the engines that cause some of the models that Audi currently manufacturers to disappear, it will be the chassis they are built on. At some point (and the sooner the better), investing in new products based on last century technology will no longer be profitable. The days of building cars that can accept a diesel, gas, hybrid, plug-in hybrid, or battery electric powertrain are rapidly coming to a close.

Ford’s John Jraiche said it best when talking about the new electric cars coming from Lincoln. Electric cars permit more room for passengers and allow designers to rethink what the cars of the future should be. Companies that insist on honoring the paradigm of the ICE powered car will be out of business as customers shun their products.

Previously, Marcus Duesman has hinted that Audi will be an all electric brand by 2035. That is much too low a target. If Audi is that slow to change, it will disappear from the marketplace by then and deservedly so.


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Kansas City Engages Community To Expand Electric Vehicle Infrastructure

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Researchers are working to expand access to electric vehicles (EVs) by building more charging stations in neighborhoods that otherwise might be overlooked.

Scientists from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) are partnering with the Metropolitan Energy Center (MEC) and other organizations to increase the electric vehicle charging infrastructure in Kansas City, Missouri, by installing charging units on existing streetlights. NREL and MEC are working closely with nonprofit organizations, academia, local government, and community members to ensure the station location selection focuses on providing equitable access to EV charging.

“There is a real risk that electric vehicle adoption will be concentrated to limited geographic and demographic markets, minimizing the benefits to underserved populations that are already more susceptible to lower air quality and higher vehicle ownership burdens,” said Erin Nobler, a project manager with NREL and one of the lead researchers on this project.

The streetlight charging stations will be available for anyone to use. They also will be located in residential areas to support overnight charging.

Most electric vehicle charging happens at home. But people who live in apartment buildings or other multifamily housing do not always have garages or other places to plug in an electric vehicle.

“Folks can park their car curbside as they normally would, go into their apartment, and in the morning their car will be charged,” said Miriam Bouallegue, a sustainable transportation project manager with MEC, the lead partner on the project. MEC houses the Kansas City Regional Clean Cities Coalition, which is part of a coordinated group of more than 75 coalitions throughout the country working to advance affordable domestic fuels and technologies.

Research Approach

The research started by identifying all the streetlights where installing vehicle chargers was technically possible. The next step was to prioritize which streetlights would be selected as charging stations.

Researchers at Missouri University of Science and Technology initially looked at traffic patterns in Kansas City to determine the areas with the most demand. The NREL team added demographic information to the analysis to identify locations where community members had few or no existing options for charging at home.

The NREL team looked at the geographic intersection of electric vehicle adoption rates, income, housing ownership, and building parcels. The analysis also incorporated environmental indicators, such as areas of high traffic, noise, and traffic-related air pollution to identify areas where electric vehicle adoption could help mitigate some of these impacts.

Community Engagement

The project team is now sharing the results of the analysis with the community. Two virtual meetings will be held to gather input from Kansas City residents on where the charging stations should be located. This will also include Spanish-speaking options to provide representation across the community.

“We know the locations that are technically feasible, but now it’s totally community engagement focused,” Nobler said. “We’re asking the community what they think about the locations before making siting decisions.”

The community engagement work is being led by EVNoire, an organization with expertise in community engagement and environmental justice. Local nonprofit organizations with established, trusted relationships within the community are also helping guide the outreach efforts. These organizations include Shirley’s Kitchen Cabinet and Westside Housing.

The team is approaching all aspects of the project from an equity-focused lens. Community members will be compensated for participating in the virtual meetings. If the meetings had been held in person, as originally planned, the research team would have provided childcare and transportation vouchers.

“We’re asking for the community members to provide their expertise, and we want to treat them just like we would any expert we bring into a team,” Nobler said.

Next Steps

The feedback gathered from the community members will help the project team determine where to install the charging units. Once they are installed, the team will study how they are being used. This information will inform future decisions about installing additional charging infrastructure.

“We’re really seeing folks get excited about electric vehicles and realize this can be a reality, even here in Kansas City,” Bouallegue said. “Electric vehicles aren’t just something that people out in California or people with a lot of money drive. Electric vehicles can be a reality for the community here in Kansas City.”

This project is funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to the Metropolitan Energy Center. Project partners include the City of Kansas City, Evergy, Black and McDonald, EVNoire, Lilypad EV, the Missouri University of Science and Technology, NREL, Shirley’s Kitchen Cabinet, and Westside Housing.

Learn more about NREL’s sustainable transportation and mobility research.

Article courtesy of the NREL, the U.S. Department of Energy


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The Challenge of the Last Few Percent: Quantifying the Costs & Emissions Benefits of a 100% Renewable U.S. Electricity System

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Only two decades ago, some scientists were skeptical we could integrate more than about 20% renewable energy generation on the U.S. power grid. But we hit that milestone in 2020 — so, these days, experts’ sights are set on finding pathways toward a fully renewable national power system. And according to new research published in Joule, the nation could get a long way toward 100% cost-effectively; it is only the final few percent of renewable generation that cause a nonlinear spike in costs to build and operate the power system.

In “Quantifying the Challenge of Reaching a 100% Renewable Energy Power System for the United States,” analysts from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) evaluate possible pathways and quantify the system costs of transitioning to a 100% renewable power grid for the contiguous United States. The research was funded by EERE’s Strategic Analysis Team.

“Our goal was to robustly quantify the cost of a transition to a high-renewable power system in a way that provides electric-sector decision-makers with the information they need to assess the cost and value of pursuing such systems,” said Wesley Cole, NREL senior energy analyst and lead author of the paper.

Expanding on previous work to simulate the evolution of the U.S. power system at unprecedented scale, the authors quantify how various assumptions about how the power system might evolve can impact future system costs. They show how costs can increase nonlinearly for the last few percent toward 100%, which could drive interest in non-electric-sector investments that accomplish similar decarbonization objectives with a lower total tab.

“Our results highlight that getting all the way to 100% renewables is really challenging in terms of costs, but because the challenge is nonlinear, getting close to 100% is much easier,” Cole said. “We also show how innovations such as lower technology costs, or alternate definitions for 100% clean energy such as including nuclear or carbon capture, can lower the cost of reaching the target.”

Advanced Methods Expand Our Understanding of High-Renewable Grids

This work builds on another Joule article released last month exploring the key unresolved technical and economic challenges in achieving a 100% renewable U.S. electricity system. While some aspects of 100% renewable power grids are well established, there is much we do not know. And because 100% renewable grids do not exist at the scale of the entire United States, we rely on models to evaluate and understand possible future systems.

“With increasing reliance on energy storage technologies and variable wind and solar generation, modeling 100% renewable power systems is incredibly complex,” said Paul Denholm, NREL principal energy analyst and coauthor of the paper. “How storage was used yesterday impacts how it can be used today, and while the resolution of our renewable resource data has improved tremendously in recent years, we can’t precisely predict cloudy weather or calm winds.”

Integrated energy pathways modernizes our grid to support a broad selection of generation types, encourages consumer participation, and expands our options for transportation electrification.

Many prior studies have modeled high-renewable electricity systems for a variety of geographies, but not many examine the entire U.S. grid. And even fewer studies attempt to calculate the cost of transitioning to a 100% renewable U.S. grid — instead, they typically present snapshots of systems in a future year without considering the evolution needed to get there. This work expands on these prior studies with several important advances.

First, the team used detailed production cost modeling with unit commitment and economic dispatch to verify the results of the capacity expansion modeling performed with NREL’s publicly available Regional Energy Deployment System (ReEDS) model. The production cost model is Energy Exemplar’s PLEXOS, a commercial model widely used in the utility industry.

“Over the past couple of years we put a tremendous amount of effort into our modeling tools to give us confidence in their ability to capture the challenges inherent in 100% renewable energy power systems,” Cole said. “In addition, we also tried to consider a broad range of future conditions and definitions of the 100% requirement. The combination of these efforts enables us to quantify the cost of a transition to a 100% clean energy system far better than we could in the past.”

The analysis represents the power system with higher spatial and technology resolution than previous studies in order to better capture differences in technology types, renewable energy resource profiles, siting and land-use constraints, and transmission challenges. The analysis also uniquely captures the ability to retrofit existing fossil plants to serve needs under 100% renewable scenarios and assesses whether inertial response can be maintained in these futures.

What Drives System Costs? Transition Speed, Capital Costs, and How We Define 100%

The team simulated a total of 154 different scenarios for achieving up to 100% renewable electricity to determine how the resulting system cost changes under a wide range of future conditions, timeframes, and definitions for 100% — including with systems that allow nonrenewable low-carbon technologies to participate.

“Here we use total cumulative system cost as the primary metric for assessing the challenge of increased renewable deployment for the contiguous U.S. power system,” said Trieu Mai, NREL senior energy analyst and coauthor of the paper. “This system cost is the sum of the cost of building and operating the bulk power system assets out to the year 2050, after accounting for the time value of money.”

To establish a reference case for comparison, the team modeled the system cost at increasing renewable energy deployment for base conditions, which use midrange projections for factors such as capital costs, fuel prices, and electricity demand growth. Under these conditions, the least-cost buildout grows renewable energy from 20% of generation today to 57% in 2050, with average levelized costs of $30 per megawatt-hour (MWh). Imposing a requirement to achieve 100% renewable generation by 2050 under these same conditions raises these costs by 29%, or less than $10 per MWh. System costs increase nonlinearly for the last few percent approaching 100%

Associated with the high renewable energy targets are substantial reductions in direct carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. From the 57% least-cost scenario, the team translated the changes in system cost and CO2 emissions between scenarios into an average and incremental levelized CO2 abatement cost. The average value is the abatement cost relative to the 57% scenario, while the incremental value is the abatement cost between adjacent scenarios, e.g., between 80% and 90% renewables. In other words, the average value considers all the changes, while the incremental value considers only the change over the most recent increment.

Total bulk power system cost at a 5% discount rate (left) for the seven base scenarios and levelized average and incremental CO2 abatement cost (right) for those scenarios. The 2050 renewable (RE) generation level for each scenario is listed on the x-axis. The system costs in the left figure are subdivided into the four cost categories listed in the figure legend (O&M = operations and maintenance). The purple diamond on the y-axis in the left plot indicates the system cost for maintaining the current generation mix, which can be used to compare costs and indicates a system cost comparable to the 90% case.

Total bulk power system cost at a 5% discount rate (left) for the seven base scenarios and levelized average and incremental CO2 abatement cost (right) for those scenarios. The 2050 renewable (RE) generation level for each scenario is listed on the x-axis. The system costs in the left figure are subdivided into the four cost categories listed in the figure legend (O&M = operations and maintenance). The purple diamond on the y-axis in the left plot indicates the system cost for maintaining the current generation mix, which can be used to compare costs and indicates a system cost comparable to the 90% case. NREL

Notably, incremental abatement costs from 99% to 100% reach $930/ton, driven primarily by the need for firm renewable capacity — resources that can provide energy during periods of lower wind and solar generation, extremely high demand, and unplanned events like transmission line outages. In many scenarios, this firm capacity was supplied by renewable-energy-fueled combustion turbines, which could run on biodiesel, synthetic methane, hydrogen, or some other renewable energy resource to support reliable power system operation. The DOE Energy Earthshots Initiative recently announced by Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm includes the Hydrogen Shot, which seeks to reduce the cost of clean hydrogen by 80% to $1 per kilogram in one decade — an ambitious effort that could help reduce the cost of providing renewable firm capacity.

“When achieving a 100% renewable system, the costs are significantly lower if there is a cost-effective source of firm capacity that can qualify for the 100% definition,” Denholm said. “The last few percent cannot cost-effectively be satisfied using only wind, solar, and diurnal storage or load flexibility — so other resources that can bridge this gap become particularly important.”

Capital costs are the largest contributor to system costs at 100% renewable energy. Future changes in the capital costs of renewable technologies and storage can thus greatly impact the total system cost of 100% renewable grids. The speed of transition is also an important consideration for both cost and emission impacts. The scenarios with more rapid transitions to 100% renewable power were more costly but had greater cumulative emissions reductions.

“Looking at the low incremental system costs in scenarios that increase renewable generation levels somewhat beyond the reference solutions to 80%–90%, we see considerable low-cost abatement opportunities within the power sector,” Mai said. “The trade-off between power-sector emissions reductions and the associated costs of reducing those emissions should be considered in the context of non-power-sector opportunities to reduce emissions, which might have lower abatement costs — especially at the higher renewable generation levels.”

“The way the requirement is defined is an important aspect of understanding the costs of the requirement and associated emissions reduction,” Cole said. “For instance, if the 100% requirement is defined as a fraction of electricity sales, as it is with current state renewable polices, the cost and emissions of meeting that requirement are similar to those of the scenarios that have requirements of less than 100%.”

Additional Research Can Help the Power Sector Understand the Path Forward

While this work relies on state-of-the-art modeling capabilities, additional research is needed to help fill gaps in our understanding of the technical solutions that could be implemented to achieve higher levels of renewable generation, and their impact on system cost. Future work could focus on key considerations such as the scaling up supply chains, social or environmental factors that could impact real-world deployment, the future role of distributed energy resources, or how increased levels of demand flexibility could reduce costs, to name a few.

“While there is much left to explore, given the energy community’s frequent focus on using the electricity sector as the foundation for economy-wide decarbonization, we believe this work extends our collective understanding of what it might take to get to 100%,” Cole said.

Learn more about NREL’s energy analysis and grid modernization research.

Article courtesy of the NREL, the U.S. Department of Energy


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New Tesla Model S Plaid Owner Shares Yoke Driving Experience: “Embrace the yoke for what it is”

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Omar Sultan, who took delivery of his new Tesla Model S Plaid a few days ago, has been sharing some of his experiences. In his latest video, he talks about his continued yoke adventures and how they are helping him to break old habits while building new muscle memory. For those who may not realize, the yoke is a new Tesla steering wheel design that was first seen during the Cybertruck reveal.

In his video, you can clearly see the details of Tesla’s new steering wheel design — with the logo right in the center. To me, the yoke wheel looks very similar to the Tesla logo — in shape, at least.

“Overall, I feel it’s getting easier and I have to think about it less,” Omar said in his video. He was referring to the switch from driving with a regular, round steering wheel to the new yoke design. He noted that one of the tricks is to stop trying round wheel steering techniques and to “embrace the yoke for what it is.”

As he drives up to a traffic circle, he effortlessly steers the yoke and navigates the circle. With a flick of his thumb, he turns on the turn signal. This was something many were wondering about. How could you use the turn signal without the stalk? Omar demonstrated this perfectly in the video.

In a parking lot, he performs a U-turn and then goes around in a circle and then heads home. He said it was still a work in process. Perhaps it’s the turn signal buttons being located on the wheel instead of on a stalk, or the simple design of the yoke itself, but I feel like I would actually have a better time learning to drive with the yoke than with a circular wheel.

Overall, Omar’s video shows how easy it is to use the yoke steering to drive a car. “I know yokes are not going to be for everyone, but I definitely think: give it a try,” Omar said just before his video ended.

Another thing I noticed in the video was how quiet the vehicle was. While in the test ride at the event, I honestly wasn’t paying attention to the sound. I was kind of caught up in the excitement.

AutoShift & The Clear UI

In his first video, Omar talked mostly about his new vehicle’s AutoShift feature and the clear UI.

To enable AutoShift, you need to have your seatbelt fastened, he noted. “Once you do that, you see it asks you to tap the brake pedal, the car comes on and it tells you what it’s going to do. It’s very clear — it’s going to back up.”

He panned the camera to the display and pointed out that the screen shifter was up. If the car was to choose to shift into an area that isn’t wise (like, into a building), you can easily take over and have it shift forward.

Another tweeter, @maddass1218, wanted to know what would happen when Omar was finished reversing or let off the pedal. Omar explained that if you let off the pedal, the car stops moving and the hold function kicks in. As to the answer to the first part of the question, Omar swiped on the screen shifter once he was done backing out and just headed on his drive.

Omar also has a gallery of photos of his new 2021 Tesla Model S Plaid. The tweet by me below includes a video of the display as well — it’s short and loud so enjoy.


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Coinsmart. Beste Bitcoin-Börse in Europa
Source: https://cleantechnica.com/2021/06/17/new-tesla-model-s-plaid-owner-shares-yoke-driving-experience-embrace-the-yoke-for-what-it-is/

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