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Did You Know? April 2022

Questioning the status quo and industry shortcomings in this column and in some podcasts with my “Blarney Brother”, George Pedersen, some recent developments have me wondering if I should change the name of this piece to “See, I Told You So!”

For example, did you know the largest publicly-owned electrical utility in the US, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), agrees with me when it comes to pushing for a revival of nuclear energy in the form of small, localized nuclear reactors? Having received a lot of pushback for being a dangerous retro approach, it appears the sky is not falling, and it is gratifying to see TVA recently announcing that it’s establishing a new nuclear program. This initiative will explore advanced nuclear options as an essential component of TVA’s decarbonization efforts.

Furthermore, did you know Dairyland Power Cooperative, a Wisconsin-based energy company, recently entered into an agreement with NUScale Power, based in Portland, Oregon, to explore using NUScale’s smaller-scale, nuclear generating technology? And what about this, coming from the data center world? This headline came from the February 9, 2022 Biznow newsletter: “Data Center Operators Are Considering the Nuclear Option”.

Did you know – a February 18, 2022 article in the Wall Street Journal under the heading “America’s Power Grid Is Increasingly Unreliable” reinforces my opinion regarding the fragility of the North American power grid? The article states that, “Behind a rising number of outages are new stresses on the system caused by aging power lines, a changing climate and a power plant fleet rapidly going green.” And it goes on to say that, “The U.S electrical system is becoming less dependable. The problem is likely to get worse before it gets better.” How is the grid going to handle the increased load of all these electric vehicle chargers? Just asking!

Did you know there is starting to be a pushback on renewable energy and some of it coming from on high? From the Climate Change Dispatch of February 2, 2022, under the headline of “More On The Impossibly High Cost of a Wind, Solar and Battery (storage) System”, it should be glaringly obvious that, if we are shortly going to try to convert to a “net-zero” carbon emissions energy system based entirely on wind, sun, and batteries, then there should be a serious focus on the feasibility and costs of such a system. Not only is Elon Musk calling for Europe to restart its nuclear power industry, according to Fox Business, but he is urging the U.S. to increase oil and gas output immediately, as noted in the March 7th edition of  the Epoch Times. He said it would negatively impact Tesla, but we need to power civilization in the meantime. According to the UK Guardian Newspaper, a huge, 2,800 acre solar farm proposed for a considerable chunk of land in eastern England is facing opposition from environmentalists and government ministers. A government spokesperson said” “We recognize the need to preserve greenfield land while protecting the environment as we work to generate more, cheap, clean power in the UK.” It seems a fine line they are walking and it increases my wonderment at what could be grown on the arable land that these solar farms obliterate, without the benefit of sunlight? On March 2, 2022, the British Parliament said it was misled by its Climate Change Committee and that there appears to be no coherent plan for delivery, and points out that the Government has finally admitted it has no idea of the costs involved. This was reported in NetZero Watch.

Did you know Volvo is integrating and testing a new wireless charging technology in a live city environment, together with selective partners, evaluating its potential for future electric cars? Again, this is consistent with what was previously mentioned in a podcast, when we discussed how it would be nice if one could charge an EV on the go with some form of electromagnetic chargers built into the road.

Did you know that former Tesla co-founder and chief technical officer, JB Straubel, has departed Tesla and founded a recycling company called Redwood to focus on electric car batteries? This addresses another quandary that I had when we discussed how are we going to recycle all of those spent lithium batteries? In a January 31, 2022 press release, Straubel freely admits that it may be a long time before Redwood is profitable. However, with millions of US dollars already pouring in and Straubel’s plans to build one of the world’s largest battery materials factories with an investment of over $1 billion, things are looking very promising. Will the new battery chemistries ever reach the 98% recyclable figure of lead-acid batteries?Did you know, according to BEST Magazine Battery Briefing, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has called for a tightening of rules governing the US lead battery industry? This is yet another item I had mentioned – how it appears that the environmental lobby is targeting lead-acid batteries, which is probably fueled by money from the manufacturers of other battery technologies that are making some headway. The EPA is proposing the tightening of the lead emission limits for any facility engaged in producing lead-acid batteries or recycling them. This I find suspicious, since the EPA has found just one of the country’s lead battery plants in violation of the lead National Ambient Air Quality Standard, and that was a recycling facility in Florida.

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