Leading the News
Administration Expected To Propose Cuts To DOE Energy Research Programs.
The Washington Post (5/18, Mooney) reports that “current and former Energy Department officials familiar with budget discussions” say the Administration “is expected to propose massive cuts to federal government research on wind and solar energy next week.” Citing a Department budget document Axios first reported that the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy “would face a roughly 70 percent cut in 2018, carving about $ 1.45 billion from its $2.09 billion 2017 budget,” and two officials contacted by the Post “cited numbers very similar or, in some cases, identical to those in that report.” DOE spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes “declined to comment on the budget numbers, because they have not yet been made public.” But she stated Energy Secretary Rick Perry “will lead the Department of Energy in the same way he led Texas, focusing on carrying out our core agency functions efficiently and effectively while also being fiscally responsible and respecting the American taxpayer. The Department looks forward to working with Congress as the budget process continues.”
The Washington Examiner (5/18, Siciliano) reports Senate appropriators urged President Trump yesterday “to ensure adequate funding” for the DOE. The draft budget also proposed “steep cuts to its nuclear and fossil programs.” In a letter to President Trump, the senators led by Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander, said, “Government-sponsored research is one of the most important investments our country can make to encourage innovation, unleash our free-enterprise system to create good-paying jobs and ensure American competitiveness in a global economy.” The letter also said, “We cannot lose the technological advantages we have gained through our country’s investment in research and development.” The Hill (5/18, Cama) reports the senators also wrote, “Governing is about setting priorities, and the federal debt is not the result of Congress overspending on science and energy research each year. We urge you to continue to invest in the Department of Energy’s research and development programs in fiscal year 2018.” Greenwire (5/18, Subscription Publication) reports Republican Sens. Susan Collins, Cory Gardner, Lindsey Graham, Lisa Murkowski and Mike Rounds also signed the letter. The “Morning Energy” blog of Politico (5/17, Adragna) briefly previewed the letter.
ED: DeVos Reviewing Debt Relief Claims For Students Defrauded By For-Profits.
Politico Morning Education (5/18) reports that after a group of Democratic Senators, including Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), “blasted the Trump administration for halting debt relief to federal student loan borrowers who were defrauded by for-profit schools,” an ED spokesperson said this week “‘students should rest assured that the secretary is reviewing these claims carefully with the best interest of students in mind.’”
Florida International University Taking Part In Program Promoting STEM Path For Females.
The South Florida Business Journal (5/18, Subscription Publication) reports that researchers at Florida International University and other universities “are joining forces to help promote physics as a career path to young women, thanks to a $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation.” The program is “centered around tasking 16,000 high school teachers with recruiting female students to pursue a physics major in college.”
Research and Development
West Virginia University Researchers Demonstrate Technology To Help Buildings Withstand Earthquakes.
The AP (5/18) reports researchers at West Virginia University “have patented technology for reinforcing the T-shaped joints of concrete beams in buildings to better withstand shocks like earthquakes without breaking.” The technology was developed by “doctoral engineering student Praveen Majjigapu and his adviser, Professor Hota GangaRao.” The article describes a demonstration at a lab at the school during which the researchers “applied increasing pressure with a hydraulic actuator down onto a horizontal concrete beam joined to a vertical beam.” The piece quotes GangaRao saying, “We are trying to simulate in real life what happens in a high-rise system.”
New York University Researchers: Aggressive Driving Causes Many New York City Crashes.
The New York Daily News (5/17) reports that according to researchers at New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering, “aggressive driving and cellphone fiddling is responsible for the vast majority of the 125,000 car accidents recorded by the NYPD since July, 2012.” The piece reports that new technology “makes it possible to know what drivers were doing at the moment of the easily avoidable crash.”
Google Grant Provides STEM After-School Programs For Detroit High School Students.
MLive (MI) (5/18) reports that Google has provided $250,000 in funding for the Michigan Engineering Zone to collaborate with the University of Michigan College of Engineering, Detroit Public Schools, and FIRST Robotics to provide “hands-on science and engineering after-school programs at the Michigan Engineering Zone.” The program is intended to get “hundreds of students interested in pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.”
ARL Developing “Third Arm” Wearable Weapon Stabilizer.
IHS Jane’s 360 (5/18, Wasserbly) reports the US Army Research Laboratory (ARL) is developing a body-mounted stabilization device enabling soldiers to support heavier weapons. The ARL refers to the “Third Arm” device as “a passive mechanical appendage that interfaces with a soldier’s protective vest and counterbalances the weight of weapons and other tools.” It will weigh approximately 4lbs and connect to a soldier’s vest, MOLLE webbing, or an armor-plate pocket insert, according to ARL mechanical engineer Dan Baechle.
3D Displays Soon “Could Become A Reality” Amid New Hologram Research.
TechRadar (5/19, Sarkar) reports that 3D displays for smartphones soon “could become a reality,” with the emergence of new technology that employs a “topological thin film insulator” and “carefully controlled lasers to encode a holographic image that can be viewed without the aid of 3D goggles.” Scientists behind the technology, an effort led by RMIT University Distinguished Professor Min Gu, note this first prototype “doesn’t produce freestanding holograms,” but instead “manipulates light like any standard flat hologram” and then “produces phase shift at much higher resolutions for more detailed images that appear to pop off the surface.” Referencing the potential to integrate the technology “into consumer electronics like smartphones, tablets and television sets,” the article quotes Professor Gu as saying: “Conventional computer-generated holograms are too big for electronic devices but our ultrathin hologram overcomes those size barriers. Our nano-hologram is also fabricated using a simple and fast direct laser writing system, which makes our design suitable for large-scale uses and mass manufacture.”
Titan May Have More In Common With Mars Than With Earth.
Yahoo! News (5/18, Glowatz) reports that though Titan “is the only place in our solar system where liquid currently flows in the same way it does on Earth,” it “may have more in common with Mars than with our planet. Recent research suggests while Earth’s landscape was formed more by collisions beneath its surface, with tectonic plates crashing to form mountains and influence the path of rivers, rivers on Titan and the traces of ancient rivers on Mars did not show signs of the same processes.” Rather, scientists cite “tidal pull from its mother planet Saturn causing changes in the thickness of its crust rather than tectonic plate activity within the crust itself.”
New UAS Runway Launched On Virginia’s Eastern Shore.
The AP (5/18) reports that Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has “helped launch” a runway “dedicated to [UAS] research and development on the Eastern Shore.” McAuliffe also flew aboard a remotely-piloted aircraft which had a human pilot onboard “as backup.” The article reports that Virginia Space “is seeking customers for the airstrip.”
The Hampton Roads (VA) Virginian-Pilot (5/18) reports that McAuliffe’s flight “was part of [the airstrip’s] ribbon-cutting ceremony,” also attended by state Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne. McAuliffe said, “The MARS UAS Airfield presents a significant new capability for Wallops and the Hampton Roads region.” He added, “It propels Virginia further on its quest to become a national leader in autonomous technology and industry, which is at the heart of our efforts to build a new Virginia economy.”
Microsoft To Open Africa Data Centers, “Seeking Edge” In Cloud Push.
Bloomberg News (5/18, Prinsloo) reports Microsoft “will offer cloud-computing services from data centers in Africa for the first time, seeking an edge over rivals in targeting local customers.” The software maker “said Thursday it plans to open two data centers in Johannesburg and Cape Town as part of an expansion that stretches across 40 regions globally.” Previously companies in Africa had to rely on Microsoft’s European data-center hubs such as Ireland and the Netherlands. Scott Guthrie, Microsoft’s executive vice president for cloud and enterprise, said in a statement, “We’re excited by the growing demand for cloud services in Africa and the ability of the cloud to act as a catalyst for new economic opportunities.” The Street (5/18) reports data research firm International Data Corp. “estimated that cloud revenue in South Africa was $243 million, with that number expected to grow 20% annually through 2021.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Amazon Focuses On Developing Air Traffic Control System For Drones.
Bloomberg News (5/18, Mawad) reports that Amazon “said Thursday it has started development of an air traffic control [ATC] system to manage its fleet as the drones fly from warehouses to customers’ doors.” According to the article, the system, which is being developed near Paris, will focus on “ensuring flying delivery vehicles don’t collide with buildings, trees, other drones or – and most unpredictable of all – birds.” Amazon made the decision to develop its own ATC system “after concluding what’s available isn’t adequate for a large fleet of autonomous drones.” The article mentions that in the US, the FAA released rules that restrict drone use in densely populated areas, which may mean “Amazon’s service would be restricted to more rural areas.”
Report: New York Needs More Transmission Lines.
The Syracuse (NY) Post-Standard (5/18, Knauss) reports Power Trends 2017, the annual report from the New York Independent System Operator, indicates transmission lines between Upstate New York and the New York City-Long Island region “two areas are already overburdened, and are not equipped to handle the anticipated growth in Upstate” wind and hydroelectric power. While two major transmission projects are being planned, they take years to be built and the report says more are likely to be needed. Rich Dewey, executive vice president of the New York ISO, called for, in the Post-Standards’ words, “new pricing strategies to lure renewable energy facilities closer to the power-hungry Downstate region” and “market price mechanisms to provide conventional generators with a financial incentive not to close their plants” so there will be enough power when renewable output is low.
California Sets Renewable Energy Record.
The San Francisco Chronicle (5/18, Fracassa) reports that on Saturday “renewable sources produced a record 67.2 percent of the electricity on the portion of state’s power grid controlled by the California Independent System Operator.” The year is expected to be record-setting for renewable energy production in the state, due to “the growing number of solar power plants in the state, the seasonal increase in sunshine and the flush hydroelectricity reserves produced by last winter’s rain.” Steven Greenlee, a spokesman for the ISO, said that the regular pace of record breaking days “shows how our grid is shifting from the old paradigm, the old grid we used to have.”
Report: California Needs To Add Energy Storage To Incentives For Solar For Low-Income Residents.
E&E Publishing (5/18, Subscription Publication) reports that nonprofit Clean Energy Group released a report saying that “California needs to add energy storage to its incentives for installing solar on apartments and other housing for low-income residents, in order to make it more cost-effective.” The California Public Utilities Commission is developing the rules for implementing a measure allowing “revenues from the state’s carbon cap-and-trade program to provide an incentive for adding solar on low-income housing.”
Maryland Approves Off-Shore Wind Project, Seeking Economic Boost.
E&E Publishing (5/18, Subscription Publication) reports Maryland approved 368 megawatts of offshore wind power last week in an effort to become “the industry’s ‘first mover’ and the supplier for the East Coast.” The approval is the first policy in the US “to explicitly marry an offshore wind goal to an economic one.” The Maryland Public Service Commission required developers US Wind and Deepwater “to build part of their supply chains in Maryland,” including spending at least $76 million on steel manufacturing in the state, using ports in Baltimore and Ocean City, and “pump[ing] $40 million into Tradepoint Atlantic, a vast shipyard east of Baltimore.” Maryland offers offshore renewable energy credits worth about $130 per megawatt-hour generated for “20 years once the windmills start generating power,” creating “a premium price for power” but also a cash stream the developers “say will enable them to raise the cash to build the projects.”
Group: CTE Programs Must Evolve To Keep Up With Evolving Workforce Demands.
Sarah D. Sparks writes at the Education Week (5/17) “Inside School Research” blog that a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine says that “the skills needed for technical careers have changed significantly, and school and adult education programs need to do more to support evolving technical education.” The group is looking to spur “debate over the future of career education; the report comes as the House education committee members unanimously voted to approve a new federal career education bill.”
Investigation: Many Low-Income Students With Aptitude Excluded From North Carolina Gifted Programs.
The Charlotte (NC) Observer (5/18, Neff) reports that an investigation by newspapers in the state shows that “thousands of low-income children who get ‘superior’ marks on end-of-grade tests aren’t getting an equal shot at advanced classes designed to challenge gifted students.” Low-income elementary school students who score high on math tests “are much more likely to be excluded from the more challenging, enriched classes than their peers from families with higher incomes, the analysis shows.”
Thursday’s Lead Stories
• Grassley Blasts DOE Electric Grid Study.