About Greg Michael

A communications​, SEO, UX, and media consultant for energy and IT companies.

Small steps in solar energy efficiencies make a giant leap for solar power

via Small steps in solar energy efficiencies make a giant leap for solar power


Small steps in solar energy efficiencies make a giant leap for solar power

By Greg Michael

An “overnight success” often takes decades of development. Electric lamps had a slow start in the 1880s. It took the Edison Company seven years to grow from 203 customers to 710. By 1900, ten thousand people had electric lights. Ten years later the number reached three million. One hundred years later, technological advances in lithium-ion batteries launched Tesla into a new, all-electric car company.

Significant advances are coming from improvements in existing electrochemical technologies by using new materials. These incremental advances improve battery reliability, longevity, and lower costs.

One of the most promising opportunities for future battery technology is the lithium-air or lithium-oxygen battery, which is predicted to provide three times as much power as lithium-ion batteries.

The unique properties of the lithium-air battery come from thin air.

Traditionally, the electrodes in batteries are made of metal or metal oxides. One electrode is replaced with air that flows in and out of the battery. It is a weightless substance, cutting battery weight in half. The other electrode in the next-gen batteries will be made of near-pure metallic lithium, a lightweight element, reducing more weight.

Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) – a branch of the U.S. Department of Energy presented data at their March 17, 2018, energy summit that states it achieved its breakthrough technology in seven years.

Ellen Williams, ARPA-E’s director, and the spokeswoman said: “I think we have identified some holy grails in batteries.”

Many of the projects incubated by the agency are attracting private sector funding. In fact, Bill Gates and 24 other billionaires have committed to spend $2 billion on energy research.

In April, MGM Resorts announced that it has signed a contract with Invenergy to build a 100 MW solar project in Nevada to power its casinos and resorts on the Las Vegas Strip. The solar farm will be on 640 acres of the Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone.

The plant is scheduled to go live by the end of 2020. The goal is to meet 90% of the electricity demand for MGM’s 13 casinos in Las Vegas, including the Mandalay Bay, Circus Circus, Bellagio, Mirage, Aria and MGM Grand resorts. In 2016, MGM completed an 8.3 MW rooftop array.

As solar farms have become commercial successes, battery storage systems developed with ARPA-E’s support are on the verge of transforming America’s electrical grid, a transformation that could unfold within the next five to ten years, according to ARPA-E. New methods for storing electricity for the grid are developing rapidly, but widespread adoption of these technologies requires detailed data about their performance, reliability, and longevity.

ARPA-E improved battery technologies for the grid are about to be tested. The goal of the testing is to quicken the commercialization of electrochemical energy storage systems from design and testing to real-world application.

The most promising developments are with large energy storage systems on the grid, including Community Solar – a leading solar farm firm that generates and supplies power at the utility level. The solar power source is from photovoltaic modules that convert light directly into electricity. This is several degrees different from solar arrays of mirrors, which concentrate solar power to produce steam to generate turbines to produce electricity. There are disadvantages to concentrated solar power systems, including mirror wobble that damages the collection structure, and reported cases of incinerated migratory birds that fly into the concentrated rays. Photovoltaic (PV) systems outnumber concentrators by nearly 40-to-1.

Most of the existing large-scale photovoltaic power stations are owned and operated by independent power producers, but the involvement of community- and utility-owned projects is increasing. To date, almost all have been supported at least in part by regulatory incentives such as tax credits. Success has brought grid parity with legacy fossil fuel systems to many regions.

Most of today’s solar PV farms are owned by independent power producers, but utility-owned projects are rapidly increasing. At the same time, technologies in solar panel efficiencies and durability have grown as fast. Today, Community Solar has massive commercial solar arrays linked and metered to the grid in Minnesota, Michigan, and New York. California leads the nation in advanced solar energy production. Chevron has a business unit focused installing massive solar panel grids on top of roofs of schools and government buildings.


The Memo Has Landed


Andy McCabeGreg Michael

The Hillary Clinton campaign’s Fusion GPS created the dossier.

Clinton supporters in the FBI promoted the false dossier to major U.S. news media including the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, the New Yorker, Yahoo, and Mother Jones.

The four-page report includes testimony from a high-ranking government official that without the infamous Trump dossier, the FBI and DOJ would not have secured surveillance warrants to spy on at least one member of the Trump team.

It also claims the FBI and DOJ used media reporting to lend credibility to the dossier, while the firm behind the dossier, Fusion GPS, briefed major American news outlets to include New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, New Yorker, Yahoo and Mother Jones.

The memo shows that after former British spy Christopher Steele was cut off from the FBI, he continued to pass information, as did Fusion GPS, through Justice Department Official Bruce Ohr.  Ohr’s wife Nellie began working for Fusion GPS as early as May 2016.

It also claims evidence that Steele has a personal animus for President Trump.

McCabe knew that the FISA warrant was obtained using shady dossier and that all extensions were based on the original application. The Obama administration then used information that Hillary paid for to justify spying on . If I got that right should be game over.

The impending release of the four-page memo comes after the House Intelligence Committee voted earlier this week, over Democratic objections, to make the document public. This led to a rare and stunning rebuke from the bureau, which said Wednesday they had “grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”

The memo includes alleged abuses involving the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

In a last-ditch objection, the top Democrat on the House committee claimed overnight that Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., had made “material changes” to the memo that was sent to the White House for review.

Nunes’ office described the changes as minor and blasted the complaint as a “bizarre distraction from the abuses detailed in the memo.”

The White House has backed the memo’s release, calling for “transparency.”



Earlier Friday, President Trump unleashed an early-morning tweet at a Justice Department he said has been “politicized” by Democrats.

GOP-led House investigators believe the FBI used a dubious dossier, initially prepared as campaign opposition research for Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid, to get permission from a secret federal court to eavesdrop on Trump campaign and transition team communications.

“The top Leadership and Investigators of the FBI and the Justice Department have politicized the sacred investigative process in favor of Democrats and against Republicans – something which would have been unthinkable just a short time ago,” Trump wrote. “Rank & File are great people!”

Just more than two weeks, Republican lawmakers first drew attention to the memo, with some calling it “shocking,” “troubling” and “alarming” and one likening the details to KGB activity in Russia. They argued the memo should be immediately made public, leading to a social media #ReleaseTheMemo campaign.

Fox News’ Catherine Herridge, Judson Berger, and Brooke Singman contributed to this report.


NASA’s moon launch computer technology was a fraction of what is on​ an iPhone or laptop today


IMG_2600By Greg Michael

Landing the first two astronauts on the Moon on July 20, 1969, ranks as one of the greatest engineering achievements of mankind.
— Photo by Greg Michael, Apollo exhibition at the Space Center in Houston

July 20, 2019, will be the 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s historic walk on the moon. It is one of the most impressive engineering feats in history. Top rocket scientists of the day used slide rulers for calculations. Handheld calculators were not yet invented. IBM’s state-of-the-art mainframes for NASA’s mission control were in a 10,000 square foot, climate-controlled room. Those massive mainframes could have up to 8MB of memory.

Fast forward to 2018, you can buy an iPhone with 32GB or 256GB. One gigabyte (GB) is about 1 billion bytes or 1,000 megabytes.

The iPhone was launched over 10 years ago, in 2007. Rarely has one product generated so much innovation in mini-computers, texting, social media, cell phone technology, cameras, weather forecasts, storm tracking, and the ability to hail an Uber or Lyft driver. The iPhone gave rise to thousands of apps, competitors, and entirely new industries.

Most project managers use smartphones in their day-to-day lives. Text messages on when to pick up the kids for soccer practice, ordering lunch from JimmyJohns, and checking on bank accounts… Now the technology is being applied to work.

A dozen years ago, a construction manager used a digital camera to capture progress on the project. They may have taken a SIM card to a drug store to print photos and then paperclip them to a folder. In recent years, more advanced project managers began attaching JPG images to their digital drawings in seconds.

Thanks to smartphones, project managers are no longer limited by questionable or unreliable Wi-Fi connections inside the construction trailer; smartphones can create a hotspot for laptops in a pickup truck.

Weather tracking on smartphones comes in handy for construction crew scheduling. When a major storm is tracking toward the job site, the project manager can cancel the delivery of concrete mixers, roofers, and masons. Crews can get an alert text message the day before.

The manager can now email the next day’s work plan to the crew. Progress can be recorded and emailed to the office at the end of the day.

Nearly 20 years before the iPhone, niche software companies began developing digital solutions that were virtually paperless for estimating, takeoff, project collaboration, and tracking. But adaptation has been slow.

Nearly half of contractors still use paper plans to create bids and takeoffs manually. They get the job done, but they aren’t aware of the ways technology can improve their business.

Today, project managers can snap several images of construction progress or critical issues with their smartphone and email the JPG to their laptop, where they can be attached with a hyperlink to the exact spot on digital plans.  Change orders, drawings, photos, and project history can now be stored in the cloud, to be instantly recalled on a laptop, smartphone, or iPad from anywhere.

Using the smartphone hotspot, project managers, and foremen can view and collaborate on the same set of plans at the same time from the field and in the office.

Remember the scientists at NASA and their slide rulers? Even in the early ‘70s when hand-held calculators became popular, most of the rocket scientists refused to use the new technology, they trusted their slide rulers.

Follow me on Twitter @mickgregory