Categories
Space Technology

Tianzhou-2 cargo carrier has landed in Wenchang to prepare for space station launch

On April 12, 2021, the China Manned Space Engineering Office announced that the Long March 7 space vehicle has landed alongside the Tianzhou-2 cargo spacecraft. The cargo transporter will carry the supplies for the upcoming space station launch. The Asian country bred the idea of building a space station in 1992 and the three-module orbital facility might be up and running by 2022. The core space station will be launched first by Tianhe spacecraft abode Long March 5B rocket and is expected to go live towards the end of this month.

The Long March 7 will be assembled at Wenchang to prepare it for the Tianzhou-2 launch. The space vehicle uses kerosene and liquid oxygen fuel and is set to be ready before the end of May. Tianzhou -2 will ride on the rocket to provide Tianhe with fuel to maintain orbital altitude and astronauts’ supplies. Apart from the two modular missions for the space station, China is rolling out other missions this year. The Shenzhou-12 mission will take three astronauts to the Tianhe core to work on the space station development. The Long March 2F rocket will carry the trio towards the end of June.

China plans to complete the three space station modules installation by the end of next year, with over ten launches between now and then. China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) aims to conduct three launches for the three nodules, four launches for crewed missions, and four cargo spacecraft flights. The agency is training astronauts in readiness for the crewed missions. Twelve astronauts will fly to space in four missions. CASC has also instructed that a Long March 2F rocket be prepared, waiting on the Jiuquan spaceport for emergency rescue missions to the space station.

Once the space station is up and running, three astronauts will camp there for six months conducting research. These studies include international projects in astronomy, space medicine, biotechnology, microgravity fluid physics, among others. Although the space station could be expanded in the future to six modules, the sixty-six metric ton facility will first consist of the three modules. It will be orbiting the earth at 340-450 kilometer altitude for a decade. It will be inclined at forty-three degrees to make it easy for launches to the facility to be conducted from the Jiuquan launch site.

When the Long March 5 rocket failed to launch in 2017, China’s dream of starting the space station construction between 2018 and 2019 was crushed. This year, everything is going as planned so far, and the country is still hopeful the station will be complete by 2022. This mission’s success will make China the third country to develop an independent human spaceflight capacity after Russia and the United States.

Categories
Energy Politics

Direct pay is altering the renewable energy investment projections

Congress and the White House have developed a plan that offers direct payments to the US entities running renewable energy projects. The US President Joe Biden supported this proposal and came up with a $2 trillion American Jobs Plan in the Growing Energy and Efficiency Now Act (Green Act) and section 45Q carbon capture legislation (ACCESS 45Q). These acts’ success will allow the energy developers to enjoy tax credits through direct pay for their renewable energy projects.

Initially, renewable energy projects depended partly on tax equity financing, which generated investments that allowed huge corporations to enjoy tax credits for the projects. These tax credits would allow the companies to reduce the impact of tax liability. However, the pandemic changed this narrative because the energy developers are pessimistic about the tax credits and their likelihood of becoming profitable through tax equity investments.

Direct pay would help the energy developers evade tax credits utilization since it has no tax liability links. This direct pay structure would allow the developers to assume that the renewable energy projects’ tax credit is payment for tax returns filed. Some of the credits in this category include investment tax credit (ITC) or production tax credit (PTC). This decision places developers as the receivers of tax refunds since direct pay surpasses tax liability. The previous tax equity structure would absorb the tax credits’ value to the level of the tax liability. However, this new structure allows the taxpayer to feel the tax credit effect without regarding the individual’s tax liability.

Direct pay proposals place developers of renewable projects in line to receive tax credits that were promised in Section 1603 Cash Grant program of 2009. The developers won’t have to wait for approval of cash grants by the treasury to convert their tax credits into cash. Moreover, direct pay eliminates the need for various bureaucratic processes like taking the proposal to Congress to approve the grant program and allocating the necessary funds to support them.

Furthermore, direct pay is executable through the IRS procedure, just like companies usually file their returns annually. Direct pay would enable the developers of renewable energy projects to run the other projects when they can’t access tax equity financing. Finally, the strategy seems plausible since President Biden has recommended it in his American Jobs Plan and congressional legislation.

Categories
Satellites Space

SpaceX is rethinking the tiered pricing plan for the Starlink satellite internet service

The head of SpaceX, Gwynne Shotwell, stated that the company is not likely to introduce tiered pricing for the Starlink satellite internet service’s direct consumers. The service will be going for a monthly price of $99 for the early adopters. Shotwell explained that this move is to prove to potential customers that their service is transparent and to motivate them to subscribe to it. The executive said this in a Satellite 2021 “LEO Digital Forum” webinar held two days ago. A tiered pricing system limits the customers to the service level that they have subscribed to with the choice of going overboard when their disposable income is sufficient.

Starlink is a project which brings together thousands of satellites to form a network and to provide internet service. This grouping of satellites is called a constellation, and it supplies high-speed internet to consumers in the entire globe. There are over 1200 satellites already in orbit to form a pilot test for the project. The company unveiled the service last year to customers situated in the US, New Zealand, Canada, Germany, and the UK.

The service costs $99 each month. It also comes with an additional cost for the devices tapping into the satellites in space for the internet. Elon Musk expanded the service garnering over 10000 users in the first quarter since the rollout. Shotwell reiterated that they would be operating in the public beta phase for quite some time while making the necessary changes to guarantee the transition to another phase.

Musk hopes that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) can approve his plan of extending the service to mobile systems like cars, trucks, and aircraft. This move would open up a new market that the company is targeting to serve in the coming years. Currently, the company meets the demands of the rural and remote customers, who are about 60 million in the United States.

Shotwell explained that they decided to start with the US since there is no language barrier limiting their access to the remote and rural areas to install the devices compatible with the satellite signals. The company’s challenge is shipping the user terminals that communicate with the satellites to consumers’ residences. SpaceX has to shoulder the costs to encourage consumers to partake of this technology. Luckily, the company unveiled advanced terminals, which have minimized the cost of each by approximately $200.

Categories
Energy Environment

Solar Energy Scotland is calling for a greater emphasis on solar energy

Thomas McMillan, the chair of Solar Energy Scotland, has written to the Scottish political parties, explaining the case for further ambition as well as policy backing for solar energy in Scotland. In the letter, Thomas urges the parties to provide a comprehensive course of action for solar energy implementation as a component of their election campaign. He applauds Scotland’s leadership for its net-zero goal and use of other clean energy innovations. Still, He laments the country’s shortage of solar energy adoption, accounting for just 3 percent of all green energy in Scotland.

“Scottish solar has remained in the darkness of the wind market for way too long,” stated Thomas McMillan, chairperson of Solar Energy Scotland. “We must eradicate the idea that solar energy is not a significant resource in Scotland. Enough sunshine falls on a region the Isle of Hoy’s scale to satisfy all of Scotland’s electricity needs. Solar is cost-effective with wind power, as it is available to consumers who choose to produce their energy at a lower cost than what they will pay from a provider. It’s past time for Scotland to receive its fair share of renewable energy.”

A manifesto that follows the study points out five measures that will dramatically improve Scotland’s solar potential:

Increase current housing stock’s energy quality requirements.

Expand financial assistance for residents, city governments, and housing councils who choose to install solar panels on their homes.

Solar energy, as well as batteries, may be exempt from the non-domestic rates.

Extend the allowed construction status of all solar ventures from 50kW to about 1MW or higher, as is England’s case.

Enable farmers who lease property for solar parks to earn compensation under the Basic Payment Scheme whether the land is still utilized for sheep grazing or even biodiversity enhancement.

Encourage the creation of a smart grid such that solar will lead to an effective and well-managed infrastructure.

As opposed to its neighbors, Scotland is still at the bottom of the solar installation league, adding just 2.5% of overall power in the UK. While having an environment and population similar to Denmark, the invention’s land has just a third of the country’s solar energy. Scotland’s solar energy capacity could expand by over ten times its current levels if main obstacles are eliminated.

Renewable energy development in Scotland is a subject that has risen to prominence in scientific, economic, as well as political terms in the early years of the twenty-first century. Renewable energy has a large natural resource base by European as well as even global norms, with wind, wave, and the tide is the most significant possible sources.

In 2020, renewables generated 97.4 percent of Scotland’s energy, with wind power accounting for the majority of this. Scotland delivered 59 percent of its electricity from renewable energy in 2015, surpassing the country’s target of 50 percent renewable power by that year. Scotland had 11.8 gigawatts (GW) of deployed renewable energy power at the start of 2020, accounting for about 25% of overall UK renewable production (119,000 GWh). Scotland exported about 28% of its generation in 2018, and green power generation accounted for 90% of total energy demand in 2019. Onshore wind, offshore wind, hydropower, solar PV, and biomass all add to Scotland’s renewable energy production, in declining order of capacity.

Categories
Energy Environment

Vestas retains top position as the largest supplier of wind turbines thanks to its diversification strategy and strong performance

Vestas Wind Systems holds the crown as the most prominent global wind systems supplier in 2020, a position it also claimed in 2019. According to preliminary reports by Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), the Aarhus-headquartered company beat big players like General Electric (GE) Renewable Energy and Chinese Goldwind due to its increased turbine installations across several markets despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

GWEC Market Intelligence noted that the Danish firm outdid its competitors due to its “wide geographic diversification strategy, with over thirty new installations across the globe. Also, Vesta’s strong performance in the United States, Australia, Brazil, Netherlands, France, Poland, Russia, and Norway gave it an upper hand.

“Our preliminary findings from the supply side confirm that 2020 was an incredible year for the wind industry,” said Feng Zhao, Strategy and Market Intelligence chief at GWEC. American multinational green energy giant GE Renewable took the second position, moving two places up from position four in 2019. The win came mainly due to the firm’s “explosive growth” in the United States and its mighty presence in the Spanish renewable energy space.

GE Renewables is still the number one US-based wind energy supplier two years in a row, despite the delays and work interference by the Coronavirus outbreak. Amid supply chain disruption and project execution delays experienced worldwide in 2020, the firm managed to install more wind energy projects with over 10GW capacity.

Chinese state-owned wind turbine manufacturer, Goldwind, took the third position globally but retained the first position in China. Back at home, the Beijing-based manufacturer-installed more than 12GW of wind energy. Also, the multinational delivered up to 1GW of onshore and offshore wind projects outside China. Although Goldwind is still the king in the Chinese market, two local wind systems suppliers give the 23-year-old firm a run for its market share.

Envision Energy, headquartered in Shanghai, is a wind turbines and energy management software dealer founded in 2007. The private-owned company came fourth in the preliminary findings, moving one position from the fifth spot in 2019. According to GWEC, the firm managed to beat big players in the competitive space by “taking advantage of strong market growth” in China.

Envision installed 10GW wind projects in 2020, setting a new record. “Turbine makers in China and the United States had a track record of new installations, with the majority of them climbing the international turbine original equipment manufacturer (OEM) industry lists. This makes sense as it reflects the situation that the world’s two largest markets; In 2020, China as well as the United States accounted for the lion’s share of global wind installation,” said Zhao.

Spanish Siemens Gamesa made its mark by acquiring the fifth spot, a fall from the second position in 2019. The Biscay-based wind engineering firm installed thirty wind turbines in varying markets in 2020. Despite its fall in position, Siemens Gamesa still holds the crown as the biggest offshore wind turbine supplier globally.

Categories
Energy Environment

Lightsource BP inks Pennsylvania PV Supply Deal

After the planet first spoke of renewable energy, there was doubt among the people, with many questions rising about this sector. Renewable energy comes from natural sources like wind and the sun probably why many people questioned their efficiency to deliver adequate power to the world. As a result, many people never paid attention to the details climate experts gave on the subject. Years later, the climate sector’s challenges resulted in people heeding the advice of transiting to renewable energy, explaining why many governments are currently striving to introduce clean energy to the people.

The Pennsylvanian’s Commonwealth will source half of the annual energy demand from renewable energy via a deal with the Energy Provider Constellation and the Lightsource BP. Pennsylvania recently awarded power accounted across the state to the Constellation, resulting in an agreement to get power and the project-specific RECs (Renewable Energy Certificates) from the Lightsource BP current solar project sourcing out 191MW.

It is a popular project located in seven sites across six counties in Pennsylvania, the PULSE (Project to Utilize Light and Solar Energy) that will achieve its commercial operation by late 2022 if things go according to Lightsource BP’s plans. After its completion, it will supply clean energy to at least 16 Commonwealth of Pennsylvania agencies. Also, the Commonwealth constellation contract will start in January 2023. The agreement states that Commonwealth will source solar energy in the next decade.

This project comes in handy after Governor Tom Wolf set a Climate Change Executive Order targeting lower greenhouse gas emissions. The order targets recording a 26% reduction of gas emissions by 2025 and 80% in the coming three decades compared with the country’s 2005 greenhouse gas levels. It also aims to have at least 40% of electric power from the state’s clean energy sources.

Tom Wolf stated that Pennsylvania has been and is the national energy leader for over a century as the state works on diversifying the power grid with clean energy. It aims to maintain the top rank in energy leadership and deliver economic, environmental, and health benefits to Pennsylvania. To achieve its goal, it needs innovative ideas as demonstrated by renewable energy projects with a strategic partnership which is evident with the Constellation and Lightsource BP collaboration.

The terms of the deal require Constellation to purchase RECs and energy from Lightsource BP and later sell them to the Commonwealth accounts. This deal is the most significant offsite venture to date for Constellation. Jim McHugh, the chief executive officer of Constellation, commented on the joint venture stating that it will enable Commonwealth to achieve sustainability benefits and unlocks economic benefits. Kevin Smith from Lightsource BP expresses the company’s commitment to helping the field of renewables.

Categories
Satellites Space

Pixxel launches a hyperspectral satellite seed series

An Indian startup has earned $7.3 million to build a constellation of the hyperspectral imaging satellites, the first phase towards a much larger venture.  Pixxel revealed the seed round on 17 March and received support from Omnivore VC as well as Techstars, among others. The organization had previously received $700,000 in the “pre-seed” financing to get underway.

Bengaluru, an India-centered firm, strives to stand out in a competitive area of Earth-imaging firms by concentrating on the hyperspectral imaging, which captures data through hundreds of spectral bands at the same time. Agriculture, oil, and natural resources will benefit from such imagery, which will offer a wealth of data. Despite its potential, hyperspectral data has yet to gain traction in the commercial imaging industry. Satellogic, for instance, flies hyperspectral imagers on its increasing constellation of satellites, but more traditional high-resolution imagery that such satellites often have has piqued interest.

Pixxel predicts that higher-quality hyperspectral data can help it succeed. In a conversation, Awais Ahmed, Pixxel’s co-founder, and CEO stated, “If you glance at Satellogic, it’s thirty bands at 30 meters resolution.” “We’re off with a 5-meter capacity and 150 bands.”

He says that the updated data can be paired with a tech interface that will make it simpler for consumers to interpret data, which is a problem for hyperspectral imaging. “People also shied away from hyperspectral photography in favour of the optical RGB imaging as it needs more computing capability,” stated Pixxel co-founder as well as chief technology officer (CTO) Kshitij Khandelwal. “We’re putting together a toolkit so that anyone can deal with hyperspectral data as well as other types of data.”

Pixxel has planned to launch the first satellite, a 15-kg spaceship, into orbit by now. However, due to software issues, the corporation had to pull satellite from the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle barely days before the deployment on February 28.

According to Ahmed, they discovered issues with GPS logging and acquisition tools a day before they were supposed to deliver satellite to the launch pad. He explained, “We wanted not to hurry it.” The business has resolved the software problem, done further tests, and is searching for launch options “in the coming months” on either an Indian or even an international rocket.

Pixxel is currently building a second satellite, which will weigh around 30 kg and be deployed in October. The satellite, just like the first, would be manufactured by the firm but with parts obtained from a variety of sources. Dragonfly Aerospace, which is a South African spacecraft imaging device manufacturer, provides the spacecraft’s camera, for instance. Khandelwal explained, “We are basically a satellite integrator and also a designer.”

Categories
Electric vehicles Energy

Foxconn plans to renovate Wisconsin factory to manufacture electric vehicles

The Foxconn head, a Taiwanese manufacturing firm, stated that the company might begin manufacturing electric vehicles at the Wisconsin plant, which Donald Trump abandoned. Foxconn’s presiding officer, Young Liu, said that the firm would complete its strategies before the end of July to prepare the firm’s effectiveness before 2023.

The original strategy to refurbish the Wisconsin Plant was announced in 2017, where the actual plan was to manufacture LCD screens. It was not long before there were allegations of occupants being forced to relocate. Millions of US tax breaks were placed under security, and this was the point Foxconn decided to re-examine if it was able to manufacture screens at the location.

The plant has promised over 13,000 job opportunities and $10 billion in local investment by 2023 deemed mysteriously. Young said that his group recently found out that probably electric vehicles would be the best product to manufacture from the US. Electric vehicles are enormous products and not that easy to distribute. Young also made an exploration around the Wisconsin area, and he found out it is near where vehicles are manufactured, meaning the facilities are there.  

Young was asked if he is worried about how the US would perceive the firm now that Foxconn had failed to deliver its promised project to Philadelphia and other nations overseas. In response, Young said that all resources are already in place, the land and the factory buildings. So the only thing left is to implement their strategies and remain on track.

Young added that investment that would be made must surpass the previous one by 30 percent.  Foxconn used to manufacture iPhones and other consumer-related electronics, and now it has extended to the electrical manufacturing facility in just a year. Foxconn has built joints businesses with vehicle manufacturers in China and Taiwan and not forgetting Fisker, a US start-up. Foxconn has begun making an open software and hardware program for its manufacturers, which would help reduce the time used to make products.

In February this year, Young vowed two to three electric vehicles would be manufactured before the year-ends. He added that the firm aims to provide 10 percent of all-electric car production, making deals with one firm from the US. Young did not mention the US-based firm; however, he said it was not a traditional car-manufacturing firm.

While Foxconn has no prior experience with electric vehicles, Young believes that their lack of experience and “pace” can help them contend with companies like Magna, the current market leader, who recently revealed a $1 billion partnership with LG to supply EV components. Young, who took over from creator Terry Gou in the 2019 and became the company’s second-ever CEO, has been extending the company’s presence into new regions. He created the firm’s semiconductor division in 2014.

Categories
Space Technology

Space Foundation collaborates with Noosphere Venture Partners for a three-year initiative to support the yearly International Student Art competition

A Colorado-based non-profit organization, Space Foundation, has announced a three-year deal with Noosphere Venture Partners, a California financial services and asset management firm, to support the former’s annual International Student Art Contest. The competition attracts students worldwide who submit their art based on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

Students aged between three and eighteen years from nations such as Japan, United States, United Arab Emirates, China, India, and Malaysia have participated in this tournament, which kicked off in 2011. This contest equips students with creative and critical thinking skills and allows them to showcase and explore their talents in the space industry. “Space Foundation is grateful and excited to partner with Noosphere to take the International Student Art Contest to its next level of worldwide impact. Blending the arts, sciences, and imagination open up a wellspring of creativity for young people to explore how they see themselves in the global space ecosystem, “said Shelli Brunswick, chief operations officer at Space Foundation.

Noosphere Venture Partners is an asset management company dedicated to space-based initiatives. Through its subsidiary, Firefly Aerospace, the firm has sponsored this year’s International Student Art Contest to promote space and STEM awareness among students and teachers. “Today’s young people are tomorrow’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and leaders. With Noosphere’s support, the International Student Art Contest can celebrate students and inspire even more of them to reach for the stars,” added Brunswick.

Under the leadership of its managing partner, Dr. Max Polyakov, Noosphere Venture is carrying out a Dedicated Research and Education Accelerator Mission (DREAM), a global contest to host academic and educational payloads as rideshare participants on the Firefly’s inaugural mission, the Firefly Alpha spacecraft.

“The goals of the International Art Contest align with the Noosphere theory, initially promoted by celebrated academician Volodymyr Vernadsky, which considers the human mind and knowledge to be driving forces of development and the most valuable resources for the preservation of the planet,” said Dr. Polyakov.

“By instilling younger generations with a love and understanding of space and STEM, humanity will be better equipped to tackle the challenges facing the Earth,” added Polyakov. Parents, guardians, and teachers will help the student submit their artwork online. The winning pieces are displayed at the Space Foundation’s Discovery Center in Colorado and the annual Space Symposium. The best artwork is also posted on the organization’s website and social media pages.

The top 25 winning pieces are selected from the pool of submissions. The best, first runners up and second runners up positions are awarded. The best overall artist receives the Space Foundation Achievement Award. The submission and participation are free.