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High winds, a beaming sun, a remote landscape — the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL’s) Flatirons Campus might be a familiar environment to military servicemembers. Here at “Fort Renewable,” down a dirt road from the main research campus, military Quonset huts are dispersed among energy assets like solar photovoltaics and battery storage.

Compared to a real military base, the Fort Renewable setup is not so much forward-operating as forward-thinking, with its own critical mission: to design high-renewable systems for secure applications. With unique cyber and physical capabilities, NREL’s microgrid research platform is the scene of large-scale grid demonstrations that are helping the military, microgrid, and energy storage industries transition past technical barriers toward extreme renewable integration.

Quonset huts at NREL replicate military microgrid environments so that DOD and partners can reliably evaluate energy security with renewables and battery storage.

Quonset huts at NREL replicate military microgrid environments so that DOD and partners can reliably evaluate energy security with renewables and battery storage.

Quonset huts at NREL replicate military microgrid environments so that DOD and partners can reliably evaluate energy security with renewables and battery storage.

A Competition To Create Quality Microgrids

Microgrids are nothing new to the military, and especially nothing new for NREL–Department of Defense (DOD) collaborations. But as new threats emerge on energy systems — generally cyber and environmental — the DOD is now looking to bolster its backup power with battery storage, in place of a current preference for diesel generators.

“We’ve had military microgrids for 20 years now,” said Brian Miller, a senior NREL researcher and microgrid research lead. “But we didn’t have batteries back then, and very little solar.”

Relying on diesel generators alone could put microgrids at risk. If a true disaster scenario takes down the grid for an extended period, the military’s old diesel generators would not survive multiweek outages.

“Renewables and battery storage have the potential to last longer on fuel supplies and provide important energy diversity,” Miller said.

To discover the best microgrid-storage implementations across its diverse sites, the DOD arranged a unique program that is half competition, half technology accelerator. Under the program, the early-stage companies have been invited to validate their microgrid solutions on progressively more realistic grid systems, and progressively more challenging platforms. This way, companies can quickly gain field experience, DOD can confidently invest in its own microgrid improvements, and the experimental results will be widely available as stakeholder resources.

The project is facilitated through the DOD Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP) and therefore inherits the program’s goal of assisting early-stage commercial products past the difficulties of breaking into the market. Each participating company is matched with an industry principal investigator, forming teams of two that apply the commercial concepts to real microgrid operations.

The validations got underway in 2020. While each of the participating teams are ultimately striving to prove their technologies at an actual DOD base, they first must advance through two lower-fidelity trials. These initial validations are taking place at NREL, where energy systems can be emulated to exact similarity under most any scenario.

Building Military Microgrids at a Replica Base

In preparation for the program, NREL refashioned its world-class power systems research platform ARIES into a distributed military microgrid — off-grid as a DOD base might be, but with high-performance experimental assets like weather stations and six-strand fiber optic communication links. At NREL’s Fort Renewable, DOD and participating companies have now been able to truly validate and derisk commercial microgrid systems.

Each team’s microgrid-battery storage solution is tested against emulated power outages, which the microgrid controls must be capable of managing.

Each team’s microgrid-battery storage solution is tested against emulated power outages, which the microgrid controls must be capable of managing.

Phase 1 of the program brought seven teams to NREL, where their microgrid-storage concepts were plugged into virtual systems and analyzed with simulated operations. This first phase validated teams’ technologies on a model military base, testing whether the devices could respond with a baseline level of performance, and filtered the number of participating teams down to four. Phase 1 results are available on the ESTCP website.

Phase 2 of the project raised the bar higher: Teams have submitted their technologies to more rigorous validations on a near-exact approximation of DOD’s Naval Air Station Patuxent River (NAS Patuxent River) — a 34-MW Air Force base in Maryland — replicated right inside NREL.

“Our platform is built such that users can prove their designs for islandable microgrids that are able to provide power in a long-duration emergency at a reasonable cost,” said Miller, who led the development of the military microgrid research platform. “Doing a study is one thing, but you can’t pencil whip whether a power hardware is successful. That’s why these companies come to NREL. If they can leverage our capabilities, it’s huge.”

Miller, himself once a major in the U.S. Air Force, has a career’s worth of energy resilience experience drawn from service overseas and across the United States, and used his background to build out the replica research environment.

The research platform involves about 250 kW of hardware, which is variously swapped with teams’ technologies — everything from microgrid switches and controllers to batteries. The teams rely on NREL for the rest of the microgrid environment: power and grid emulators, SCADA networks, switchgear, load banks, renewable resources, and a replica of the NAS Patuxent River grid.

And that covers just the hardware. The full platform crosses nearly every lab space in NREL’s Energy Systems Integration Facility and connects out to the Flatirons assets miles away. An integrated Cyber-Energy Emulation Platform (CEEP) digitally emulates communications and controls for the microgrids, while a vast sensor network simultaneously collects power data at all points throughout the microgrid and visualizes interactive metrics in real time. All told, the military microgrid research platform is as close to real as the teams will experience until Phase 3.

Microgrid Lessons for a Larger Grid

Each team has a different approach to microgrid-storage solutions: One is using redox-flow batteries, others bring their own microgrid controllers, and another is validating lithium iron phosphate battery storage. As of Phase 2, the participating teams are led by Ameresco, the Energy Power Research Institute, Raytheon, and SRI and Arizona State University. Cummins, which helped NREL build out the military microgrid research platform and contributed its microgrid controller to the design, has also thrown its hat into the program. NREL could not resist entering the action as well.

The teams have an important stake in the program — successful validations could carry their products from relative obscurity to energy markets anywhere, with the bonus of being proven in highly demanding applications. But the larger energy industry stands to gain something more: The demonstrations are establishing first-ever data around what works for critical applications of energy storage in microgrids.

“This project is about learning how critical loads can survive disaster and outage scenarios,” said Martha Symko-Davies, laboratory program manager of the ESIF. “We’re not validating microgrids for the military only; we want to do this for the whole country. Future campuses and microgrid systems will look to this project for examples, and to NREL for microgrid research capabilities that exist nowhere else.”

In this perspective, project teams endure the hardest tests so that future microgrids can better survive worst-case scenarios. NREL validations force difficult decisions that a critical microgrid could encounter, like choosing between multiple critical loads. For participating teams, their early-stage concepts that have scarcely seen commercial applications are up against disasters that any system would hope to never see, but nevertheless must prepare for.

“Some universities maintain billion-dollar inventories of temperature-controlled cell cultures, for example. This is a critical load compared to other buildings on campus, and a functional microgrid should be able to allocate power accordingly,” Miller said.

NREL is advancing distributed grid and microgrid control and optimization solutions through research such as Autonomous Energy Systems and products like OptGrid.

Beyond specific technologies, this ESTCP evaluation program is creating important knowledge for microgrids generally. Networked microgrids are an upcoming approach for accommodating distributed energy while enhancing resilience against future threats. Likewise, the Autonomous Energy Systems portfolio of work is developing microgrid controls for autonomous configuration and operation of connected microgrid systems. In each topic, the ESTCP program is showing what critical microgrid operations look like — the real results of applying renewable energy assets to resilience events.

As the participants move to Phase 3 of the program — installation at one of seven DOD microgrid sites — industry moves one step closer to resilient renewable microgrids. For all the expectations that microgrids and renewables could reliably support critical loads, a new class of commercial players is arriving with the first data to show exactly how.

Article courtesy of NREL.

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This guy built a six-seater electric bike for $150, and it absolutely rips

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This guy built a six-seater electric bike for 0, and it absolutely rips

I’ve always enjoyed multi-seater electric bikes, which bring passenger-carrying utility to small-format, easy-to-produce vehicles. But I never thought I’d see the concept taken this far. At least not until I stumbled upon a six-seater electric bike that has me all kinds of jealous.

It’s no surprise where this custom e-bike originated. If you want to see the most creative and ingenious transportation solutions in the world, you have to head over to Asia.

The Chinese often get a lot of credit for some of the more wacky vehicles popping up on Alibaba, but India usually takes the cake with some of the coolest auto and motorcycle innovation on the planet. And that’s exactly where this impressive six-seater bike comes from, where it was hand-built by Ashhad Abdullah from Lohra in eastern India.

Abdullah seems to have caught my recent Awesomely Weird Alibaba Electric Vehicle of the Week entry for a three-seater electric bike and said “Hold my lassi.”

Flip-flops and no helmets, but at least he’s wearing a mask!

Instead of a three-seater, Abdullah doubled the capacity to six seats. His stretch-limousine electric bike looks like it wears a scooter fork on front complete with drum brake, off-road lighting kit, and even a motorcycle horn. The rear seems to hold a hub motor wheel in a swingarm supported by dual coilover shocks. There’s a battery box mounted just in front of the swingarm, though how much capacity he’s rocking seems to be a mystery.

Bridging the two ends of the bike is a bespoke ladder frame with six seats, six handlebars, and six pairs of foot pegs.

There’s no word on the turning radius, but we’d wager it’s somewhere around the width of the state of Bihar.

Abdullah created the custom-designed bike after climbing fuel prices made petrol-powered motorcycles less appealing. In total, he says the bike cost him around 12,000 INR (US $150) to build.

It gets a range of around 150 km (93 miles) and costs around 10 INR (US $0.12) to recharge.

I’m not sure if this is technically an e-bike, at least by electric bicycle standards. It certainly looks like a tandem-style bicycle setup with bicycle seats, but the lack of pedals means it would be classified more like an electric scooter or motorcycle.

But whatever you call it, the six-seater bike has received a warm reception around the world.

The novel creation went viral on Twitter after a video of it in action was reposted by Anand Mahindra, the chairman of Mahindra Group, one of the largest automakers in India (and similar in size to GM).

It’s unlikely we’d see an awesome ride like this in the West, where safety regulations and an unhealthy aversion to two wheels would likely make this six-seater dead on arrival.

I’ll admit that it’s hard for me to argue with the safety concerns, especially when seeing six helmet-less heads and a few bare feet as well.

There are some good alternatives available in the US, at least if you’re alright with just two-seater e-bikes. But with options like a $999 Lectric XP 3.0 or a $1,499 RadRunner helping put more riders on smaller electric vehicles, the chances for sharing the fun on e-bikes are growing, even in laggard countries like the US.

We may never get six bodies on one bike, but even two would be a good start!

via: TimesNowNews

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Tesla launches in Thailand, opens Model 3 and Y orders at competitive prices

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Tesla launches in Thailand, opens Model 3 and Y orders at competitive prices

Tesla has officially launched in Thailand and opened orders for Model 3 and Model Y at competitive prices.

It has been a little while since Tesla has expanded into a brand-new market. The company was trying hard to enter the Indian market for years, but the effort was put on hold earlier this year after negotiations with the government stalled.

A few weeks later, we learned that Tesla’s new market team turned its attention to Southeast Asia, and more specifically Thailand.

The automaker filed to register its product for sale in the country. That was the first indication that Tesla planned to enter the market.

In September, we reported that Tesla started to hire in Thailand – indicating that a launch was imminent.

Today, Tesla has officially launched its Model 3 and Model Y vehicles in Thailand with a small event in a luxury mall in central Bangkok.

The automaker has started taking orders through a new Thai configurator for those two models. Tesla is offering all variants of the Model 3 and Model Y for sale in Thailand:

The Model 3 starts at ฿1,759,000 in Thailand, which is the equivalent of about $50,000 USD and fairly competitive compared to other luxury EVs in the market.

The Model Y starts ฿1,959,000, or about $58,000 USD.

Interestingly, while Tesla is starting to take orders through the new configurator, the automaker doesn’t list expected delivery windows in the country.

While we don’t know when official deliveries from Tesla will start in Thailand, there are already a decent number of Tesla electric vehicles in the country.

They have been imported privately by the owners – and that’s a factor that Tesla takes into account when considering entering a new market. If many people are willing to go through the trouble of importing the vehicle, there’s a good chance that there’s a market for its vehicles in the country.

We even reported on the Thai police buying a fleet of Tesla Model 3 vehicles for police patrol back in 2020, pictured above.

The Thai auto market is more significant than most people would think. More than 750,000 cars were sold in the market last year, and it is expected to ramp up to 800K–900K this year. However, most of those vehicles are not in the same price range as Tesla vehicles.

Thailand is also a vehicle assembly hub with up to 2 million vehicles produced locally per year.

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U.S. pledges to ramp up supplies of natural gas to Britain as Biden and Sunak seek to cut off Russia

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U.S. pledges to ramp up supplies of natural gas to Britain as Biden and Sunak seek to cut off Russia

Rishi Sunak and Joe Biden photographed on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Indonesia on Nov. 16, 2022.

Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images

LONDON — The U.K. and U.S. are forming a new energy partnership focused on boosting energy security and reducing prices.

In a statement Wednesday, the U.K. government said the new partnership would “drive work to reduce global dependence on Russian energy exports, stabilise energy markets and step up collaboration on energy efficiency, nuclear and renewables.”

The U.K.-U.S. Energy Security and Affordability Partnership, as it’s known, will be directed by a U.K.-U.S. Joint Action Group headed up by officials from both the White House and U.K. government.

Among other things, the group will undertake efforts to make sure the market ramps up supplies of liquefied natural gas from the U.S. to the U.K.

Read more about energy from CNBC Pro

“As part of this, the US will strive to export at least 9-10 billion cubic metres of LNG over the next year via UK terminals, more than doubling the level exported in 2021 and capitalising on the UK’s leading import infrastructure,” Wednesday’s announcement said.

“The group will also work to reduce global reliance on Russian energy by driving efforts to increase energy efficiency and supporting the transition to clean energy, expediting the development of clean hydrogen globally and promoting civil nuclear as a secure use of energy,” it added.

Commenting on the plans, U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “We have the natural resources, industry and innovative thinking we need to create a better, freer system and accelerate the clean energy transition.”

“This partnership will bring down prices for British consumers and help end Europe’s dependence on Russian energy once and for all.”

The news comes at a time of huge disruption within global energy markets following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

Read more about electric vehicles from CNBC Pro

The Kremlin was the biggest supplier of both natural gas and petroleum oils to the EU in 2021, according to Eurostat, but gas exports from Russia to the European Union have been signifciantly reduced this year. The U.K. left the EU on Jan. 31, 2020.

Major European economies have been trying to reduce their own consumption and shore up supplies from alternative sources for the colder months ahead — and beyond.

Top CEOs from the power industry have forecast that turbulence in energy markets is likely to persist for some time. “Things are extremely turbulent, as they have been the whole year, I would say,” Francesco Starace, the CEO of Italy’s Enel, told CNBC last month.

“The turbulence we’re going to have will remain — it might change a little bit, the pattern, but we’re looking at one or two years of extreme volatility in the energy markets,” Starace added.

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