Verizon is making its largest commitment to clean power to date with a planned $100 million investment into installing solar panels and fuel cells at its facilities. The company joins the league of Apple and Google with its aggressive investments in distributed, renewable energy.
According to a filing with the North Carolina Utilities Commission, Apple’s fuel cell farm at its data center in North Carolina could start operating by June and will use twenty four 200 kW fuel cells.
Utilities will spend $3.2 billion this year in telecommunications services, but only a third is related to smart meters. A growing proportion will pay for mobile broadband for workers as part of a wider shift to thinking mobile broadband access is essential for productivity.
To build or to buy is often described as the oldest decision in IT. Today, electric utility executives are facing it anew with the smart grid. The best decision is likely to be neither build only nor buy only, but rather to take a hybrid approach.
Wireless spectrum: It’s the air that mobile service providers breathe, and the FCC has been freeing up chunks of wireless spectrum for our insatiable appetite for wireless services. But turns out it’s not just cell phone companies that want more spectrum; utilities want more, too.
What’s a Bloom Electron worth to would-be customers of Bloom Energy’s new power purchase agreement style service — and what will those electrons cost Bloom and its financial backers?
The bloom on Bloom Energy has begun to fade, and questions are rising about the fuel cell startup’s competitiveness against existing forms of power. At $7 to $8 dollars per watt, Bloom’s fuel cell capital costs have trouble matching those from some distributed generation systems such as solar panels, not to mention grid power — though Bloom says it’s working hard to bring its costs down further.
But what about those rare, but critical, hours when grid power goes out? While most power outages are brief, even a tiny break in electricity flow can wreak havoc with always-on facilities like hospitals, factories — and, in particular, data centers. To keep the juice flowing all the time, data centers need uninterruptible power supply (UPS) systems — and combining UPS ability with always-on power is where Bloom’s boxes might find themselves competitive, if they can prove their reliability.
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It’s been a rough year for file-sharing sites, legally speaking. Today a Dutch court ordered Mininova to remove all torrents of copyrighted works in the next three months or pay up to $7.16 million in fines.
Copyright holder group Stichting Brein had sued Mininova for inciting and profiting from copyright infringement. The BitTorrent search engine and directory already removes files after receiving takedown notices and moderates pornography, viruses and fakes.
Given that Mininova is already doing some proactive filtering, the court said the site should assume all commercial works are copyrighted.
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American Electric Power (AEP) (s AEP), one of the largest generators of electricity in the U.S., told the Federal Communications Commission today during a workshop on smart grid technology that “dedicated licensed spectrum is sorely needed by utilities.” In other words AEP supports the idea of having the government allocate wireless spectrum specifically for utilities to use for smart grid purposes. This would mean either restricting that spectrum to a few select groups, or making it completely off limits for other types of companies and organizations working on things other than smart grid technology.
The argument behind this call from AEP is that as utilities roll out more and more smart grid services, the utilities will need more and more network bandwidth. The fear for some utilities is that heavy use of unlicensed, undedicated wireless spectrum — which can be used by any company if they follow specific rules for using the spectrum — could lead to interference between their smart grid applications and other groups’ uses of the network. In AEP’s presentation for the FCC it wrote: “Dedicated spectrum is much less likely to receive interference and has a remedy procedure if interference is experienced.”
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A good portion of the intelligence that will be added to the upcoming smart grid will be wireless — radios, sensors and access points strategically placed throughout the power grid and on our homes that can help manage energy consumption and distribution. Increasingly, utilities and companies are deciding whether smart grid wireless networks need to run over licensed wireless spectrum, in which the airwaves are owned and regulated or unlicensed, which is shared spectrum and can be used by anyone as long as they abide by certain rules. With utilities spending billions on smart grid networks, the choice could determine which tech companies that plan to sell smart grid gear to the utilities are successful and which are not.
The degree of reliability and security that a smart grid demands can only be achieved with licensed spectrum, its backers argue. The idea is that because licensed spectrum is owned by one entity and can be used for a single purpose its users won’t face interference. But the problem is that licenses to buy spectrum cost money adding substantial fees to smart grid rollouts. On the other hand because unlicensed spectrum is shared and doesn’t require an expensive license to access it, its backers believe it’s the only option cheap enough to offer utilities a cost-effective method to roll out meter projects. But critics say that because unlicensed spectrum is shared by many users, services deployed on those networks can face interference.
We recently learned of the debate from Stewart Kantor, the CEO and founder of Full Spectrum, a two-year-old startup that builds WiMAX-based wireless networking gear that runs over licensed spectrum. His company sells WiMAX-based radios (which add intelligence to the power grid where power is distributed from generation to substation) that run over licensed, ultra-high frequency and very high frequency spectrum. He told us unlicensed wireless services are “problematic” for mission-critical services, which need to be secure, reliable and robust.
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