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Japan's Abe orders surviving Fukushima reactors scrapped, pledges safe Olympics | Reuters.com

Japan's Abe orders surviving Fukushima reactors scrapped, pledges safe Olympics | Reuters.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ordered the scrapping of two Fukushima nuclear reactors that survived the 2011 tsunami, a write-off that threatens to complicate a turnaround plan the operator has presented to creditors.


He also said he stood by his commitments to the International Olympic Committee of insuring a safe 2020 Summer Games.


"I will work hard to counter rumours questioning the safety of the Fukushima plant," he said.


Abe, speaking to reporters after a tour of the plant on Thursday, said he told Tokyo Electric Power Co to set a time frame for dealing with leaking contaminated water.


"In order for them to concentrate on this, I have directed them to decommission the No. 5 and No. 6 reactors that are now halted," Abe said.


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Farms of the Future Will Use Drones, Robots and GPS | Alex Thomasson | Drone 360 | Discover Magazine

Farms of the Future Will Use Drones, Robots and GPS | Alex Thomasson | Drone 360 | Discover Magazine | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Today’s agriculture has transformed into a high-tech enterprise that most 20th-century farmers might barely recognize.

After all, it was only around 100 years ago that farming in the US transitioned from animal power to combustion engines. Over the past 20 years the global positioning system (GPS), electronic sensors and other new tools have moved farming even further into a technological wonderland.

Beyond the now de rigeur air conditioning and stereo system, a modern large tractor’s enclosed cabin includes computer displays indicating machine performance, field position and operating characteristics of attached machinery like seed planters.

And as amazing as today’s technologies are, they’re just the beginning. Self-driving machinery and flying robots able to automatically survey and treat crops will become commonplace on farms that practice what’s come to be called precision agriculture.

The ultimate purpose of all this high-tech gadgetry is optimization, from both an economic and an environmental standpoint. We only want to apply the optimal amount of any input (water, fertilizer, pesticide, fuel, labor) when and where it’s needed to efficiently produce high crop yields.


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Biodegradable computer chips made almost entirely from wood | Ben Coxworth | GizMag.com

Biodegradable computer chips made almost entirely from wood | Ben Coxworth | GizMag.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

As electronic devices are becoming outdated at an increasingly fast pace, e-waste continues to be a huge problem. That's why scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison have started producing "wooden" semiconductor chips that could almost entirely biodegrade once left in a landfill. As an added bonus, the chips are also flexible, making them prime candidates for use in flexible electronics.

Although it would be neat to see a chip made from rich mahogany or knotty pine, the substrate of the UW-Madison chips is actually made of a translucent material known as Cellulose NanoFibrils (CNF) – it's also called nanofibrillated cellulose.

As outlined in a previous Gizmag article on CNF, the material is typically made by adding water to cellulose-containing materials (usually wood waste, as would be found at paper or lumber mills) then using high-pressure homogenizers, grinders or microfluidizers to rip the wood fibers into much smaller cellulose nanofibers. This results in a gel which is subsequently freeze-dried to remove the water, leaving the long, interconnected nanofibers behind.

Working with the US Department of Agriculture's Forest Products Library, the researchers added an epoxy coating to the CNF. This made the substrate smooth enough for application of the non-CNF circuitry (which makes up only a small part of the total chip), plus it kept the material from expanding or contracting by taking on or releasing moisture.


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UK: Zaha Hadid completes stainless steel-clad facility at Oxford University | Adam Williams | GizMag.com

UK: Zaha Hadid completes stainless steel-clad facility at Oxford University | Adam Williams | GizMag.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Zaha Hadid Architects has completed work on a striking new £11 million (US$17 million) addition to the Middle East Centre at St Antony’s College, University of Oxford. Contrasting markedly with nearby Brutalist and Victorian architecture, the modernist Investcorp Building is clad in stainless steel and sees the architect's distinctive flowing style used to great effect.

Comprising 1,127 sq m (12,130 sq ft) of usable floorspace split over three main floors and a basement, the Investcorp Building (named after the company that stumped up the cash for the project) doubles available space for the Middle East Centre. The building features a reinforced concrete primary structure, a glulam (glued laminated timber)-framed roof, and is clad in polished stainless steel. Its flowing form moves between two other buildings, and also curves to avoid harming a protected sequoia tree.

The interior is finished to a very high standard, and the decor is dominated by oak veneer timber panels and unfinished pre-cast concrete. The new rooms in the facility include a lecture theater, a gallery, library and archive reading rooms. The archives room boasts over 400 collections of private papers and 100,000 historic photographs concerning the modern Middle East for scholars and academic specialists to pore over.


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Facebook will send encrypted emails as users add PGP key to profile | Fred O'Connor | NetworkWorld.com

Facebook will send encrypted emails as  users add PGP key to profile | Fred O'Connor | NetworkWorld.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Some Facebook users should soon be able to receive encrypted emails from the social networking site if they add PGP public keys to their profiles.

Facebook called the PGP feature “experimental” and said it is slowly rolling it out, although a timeline wasn’t provided. The PGP key details will be added to the “contact and basic info section” of a person’s profile under “contact information.”

Facebook sends messages to private email accounts to inform users when they have a private message or friend request, for example. It currently uses TLS to establish secure connections to a person’s email provider, but this won’t keep the details of an email private from prying eyes.

By enabling PGP, Facebook will protect the content contained in an email, Facebook said Monday. Email service providers like Yahoo and Google scan a person’s inbox and run ads based on the content of a message, a practice some users don’t like. Revelations about widespread government surveillance programs have also made many people more concerned about online privacy.

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Iceland: Siminn extends LTE footprint to 84% of population | TeleGeography.com

Icelandic operator Siminn (Iceland Telecom) has announced that its Long Term Evolution (LTE) network now covers 84% of the country’s population, following the introduction of 4G services in the towns of Eskifjordur, Fellabaer and Neskaupstad. Going forward, the operator is planning to extend the 4G network to most of Nordfjord in the near future.

As previously reported by CommsUpdate, Siminn commercially deployed its LTE network in January 2014, using 2×20MHz spectrum in the 1800MHz frequency band. The network offered maximum download speeds of 100Mbps at launch, though in April 2015 Siminn upgraded its LTE transmitters and upped the maximum download speeds over the 4G network to 150Mbps, using equipment provided by Swedish vendor Ericsson.

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U.S. EPA proposing temporary pesticide-free zones for honeybees | Carey Gillam | Reuters

U.S. EPA proposing temporary pesticide-free zones for honeybees | Carey Gillam | Reuters | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

U.S. environmental regulators on Thursday proposed a rule that would create temporary pesticide-free zones to protect commercial honeybees, which are critical to food production and have been dying off at alarming rates.

The restrictions are aimed at protecting bees from "pesticides that are acutely toxic" to them, and would cover foliar applications when certain plants are in bloom and when commercial honeybees are being used to pollinate crops, the Environmental Protection Agency said in an 18-page outline of the rule. In foliar applications, the pesticide is put on the plant.

Honeybees pollinate plants that produce roughly a quarter of the food consumed by Americans, and beekeepers travel around the country with managed hives to help the process.

The rule, due to be published in the Federal Register on Friday, would apply to pesticide applications to blooming crops where bees have been contracted to pollinate and would cover 76 active ingredients used in pesticides, including a popular class of insecticide known as neonicotinoids.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said that honeybees had disappeared at a staggering rate over the last year. Losses of managed honeybee colonies hit 42.1 percent from April 2014 through April 2015, up from 34.2 percent for 2013-2014, and the second-highest annual loss to date, according to the USDA.

Commercial beekeepers reported adverse effects from pesticide applications to roughly 20,000 bee colonies pollinating almonds and roughly 2,000 colonies contracted to pollinate blueberries in 2014, and there are claims of tens of thousands more colonies similarly affected, the EPA said.

Beekeepers, environmental groups and some scientists say neonicotinoids, or neonics - used on crops such as corn as well as on plants used in lawns and gardens - are harming the bees.

But Bayer, Syngenta and other agrichemical companies that sell neonic products say mite infestations and other factors are the cause.

The White House has formed a task force to study the issue, and the EPA said Thursday it continues to conduct "chemical-specific risk assessments for bees" and will consider additional product-specific mitigation efforts.


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Climate change or natural variation? Understanding this ocean phenomenon will help us figure it out. | Brian Palmer | onEarth.org

Climate change or natural variation? Understanding this ocean phenomenon will help us figure it out. | Brian Palmer | onEarth.org | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Some of the most important research on climate change right now isn’t on climate change at all. Here’s what I mean: Every time an extreme weather event strikes, a debate ensues about whether manmade climate change caused the incident or if it was the result of “natural variability.”

There’s a big problem with this argument. We know a lot about climate change but very little about natural variability—the complex system that dictated all weather before humans intervened with our carbon emissions. As a result, the burden of proof falls on those arguing that climate change caused a storm or drought. If they can’t prove that human activity directly caused the event, it falls into the big black box labeled “natural variability.” No one asks for proof that natural variability caused an extreme event, and only in rare cases, such as the California drought, does such evidence exist.

If we better understood the natural forces that drove changes in the earth’s climate for the last 4.5 billion years, we could have a more informed discussion about how to attribute extreme weather events to either natural variability or anthropogenic climate change. To that end, we need more research on ocean currents, variations in solar intensity, volcanic eruptions, and other natural phenomena. That research is only starting to dribble out. Today, researchers at the U.K.’s National Oceanography Centre published a study explaining the forces that drive the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation.


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MI: Utility plans would further divide industrial, residential users | Andy Balaskovitz | Midwest Energy News

MI: Utility plans would further divide industrial, residential users | Andy Balaskovitz | Midwest Energy News | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Michigan’s two largest investor-owned utilities are seeking a change in the way electricity rates are set that would effectively raise rates on residential customers and decrease rates for industrial users.

Questions over what the right balance should be — so industrial users aren’t subsidizing residential ratepayers — have been debated for years. But consumer advocates say the proposals would rank Michigan near the top nationally in the rate gap between the two classes.

The Michigan Attorney General’s Office has intervened in the cases before the Michigan Public Service Commission, writing earlier this year that the proposals would result in a “massive shift of costs to residential ratepayers” and calling them “extreme and unsubstantiated.”

“Right now, residential rates are on average 80 percent more than industrial rates. We’re the sixth-highest in the country as far as the gap between those two,” said James Clift, policy director for the Michigan Environmental Council. “If they get everything they want in these cases, our residential rates would be 122 percent greater than industrial rates. That would take us up to the No. 2 slot behind only New York.”

Industrial customers typically pay lower rates than residential ones because they are more energy-intensive users with steady demand, Clift said. Historically, the argument has been that if the rates are the same, then industrial users end up subsidizing residential ones.

But Clift said the proposals before the MPSC would shift rates too far.

An advocacy group for large industrial users says the change is necessary to attract business and prevent further subsidization from happening. The proposals largely mirror findings from a state-led workgroup made up of utilities and energy-intensive industries last year that suggested the change.

“They found that the rate structure in Michigan was actually a detriment to attracting new businesses here to locate and create jobs,” said Robert Strong, an attorney with Clark Hill, which is the general counsel for the Association of Businesses Advocating Tariff Equity, or ABATE. “So they wanted to fix it.”

Strong noted the comparatively high rates in Michigan already, which are proposed to increase even more.

“Consequently, we are sort of behind the eight ball in that we already have high rates and they’re going higher,” he said. “We are at a competitive disadvantage with regulated states and competitive states.”

According to state filings, Consumers argued that residential ratepayers would see a mere 2.5 percent rate increase, which would stay below the national average. But Clift said rates will increase even more based on general rate case proposals accounting for capital expenditures for existing plants.

Consumers Energy declined to comment for this story.


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World Bank urges leaders to use oil crash to slash subsidies | Ed King | RTCC.org

World Bank urges leaders to use oil crash to slash subsidies | Ed King | RTCC.org | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Governments should slash oil subsidies as the global price plummets or face a longer term rise in demand and global carbon emissions.

That is the stark warning from the World Bank in its Global Economic Prospects for 2015 publication, released on Wednesday.

“If sustained over the medium-term, low oil prices may encourage a move towards production which is more intensive in fossil fuels or energy more generally,” it says.

“This runs counter to broader environmental goals in many countries.”

Oil plunged below the US$50 per barrel mark on Tuesday, its lowest price since 2009.

The drop has been linked to a marked increase in production from the US, coupled with sluggish economic growth in China and the EU.


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City without people to be built for testing new tech | Bryan Clark | The Next Web

City without people to be built for testing new tech | Bryan Clark | The Next Web | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Have you ever wanted to play SimCity in real life? That’s exactly what a group of investors plans to do in a 15 square mile stretch of desert land in New Mexico starting later this year, Wired reports.

In a futuristic world filled with driverless cars, smart electrical grids, delivery drones and other bleeding-edge tech projects, the major hurdle to real-world rollout is almost entirely tied to testing. It’s hard to approve the widespread use of futuristic tech without knowing just how it’d perform in a real world environment and with many of the same obstacles it would face on a day-to-day basis.

By building this proving ground, the Center for Innovation Testing and Evaluation (CITE) hopes to provide data that proves the safety of this sort of tech, or at least details a roadmap for improvements still needed before a launch at scale for futuristic tech proponents such as Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos.


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Lawmakers to automakers: How are you protecting cars from cyberattacks? | Andrea Peterson | WashPost.com

Lawmakers to automakers: How are you protecting cars from cyberattacks? | Andrea Peterson | WashPost.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The computerized car revolution is here: New cars often contain technology to control or monitor everything from tire pressure to the music you're listening to. Some even come with WiFi hotspots built into the dashboards. And companies like Google are predicting cars that can drive themselves within a generation.

But in era in which cyberattacks have become an almost daily occurrence, some are increasingly concerned about a potential downside to these advancements.

Ten members of the House of Energy and Commerce Committee are questioning how the government and auto-makers are prepping for the potential cybersecurity risks of reliance on software in vehicles.

"Connected cars and advancements in vehicle technology present a tremendous opportunity for economic innovation, consumer convenience, and public health and safety," wrote a group led by Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and ranking Democrat Frank Pallone (N.J.) in letters sent to 17 car manufacturers including Ford, Toyota and General Motors, as well as the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration on Thursday.

"These benefits, however, depend on consumer confidence in the safety and reliability of these technologies," they wrote.

The lawmakers want the agency and automakers to provide details on what they are doing to protect against cyber-vulnerabilities now -- including how they test vehicles for such vulnerabilities while they are being designed and once they are on the road. Letter recipients were asked to respond by June 11.


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MI: Detroit goes after Silicon Valley for driverless cars | Keith Naughton | The Salt Lake Tribune

MI: Detroit goes after Silicon Valley for driverless cars | Keith Naughton | The Salt Lake Tribune | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Detroit put the world on wheels and should be the place that takes the driver out of the driver's seat, according to a coalition of Michigan business leaders and politicians.

The MICHauto group unveiled an initiative Wednesday to promote Detroit and Michigan for development of a new generation of mobility, including self-driving cars. The coalition includes Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford and General Motors Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra.

"If you look at Europe, a lot of people look toward Germany as the place to make things," Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said in an interview. "I want Michigan to be viewed as the Germany of the United States, as the place to make things."

The effort is a response to Silicon Valley's growing automotive influence as companies such as Google and Apple develop driverless vehicles alongside electric-car maker Tesla Motors. Michigan led the United States last year in connected- auto projects with 45, to California's 31, the group said.

"Detroit and Michigan are in the crosshairs of some very talented innovators in places like Silicon Valley," Doug Rothwell, president of Business Leaders for Michigan, a roundtable of top executives, said in a statement. "Michigan has to work quickly and cohesively to maximize our existing automotive resources in next-generation mobility."

Snyder is concerned that his state is losing the public- relations war to Silicon Valley. That could cost Michigan thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in investment if the coming generation of auto development shifts to California.

"Our biggest constraint compared to Silicon Valley is we're crummy at marketing," said Snyder, a Republican, in an April interview in Ann Arbor, Mich. "Much of the perception is Google and their car driving around Silicon Valley. We have exponentially more research going on within a few miles of here."

Snyder, Bill Ford and other business and political leaders are gathered this week at an annual policy conference on Mackinac Island, a vacation destination where cars are outlawed and people travel by horse-drawn carriage.


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China’s investment in renewables soars by a third | Kieran Cooke | Climate News Network

China’s investment in renewables soars by a third | Kieran Cooke |  Climate News Network | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

China invested more than US$89 billion in renewable energy projects in the country in 2014 – a growth of 31% on the previous year, according to a detailed report on the country’s energy sector.

The soaring increase is revealed in a report by the US government’s Energy Information Administration (EIA). But it adds that fossil fuels − particularly coal − still look set to continue to dominate China’s power sector.

Coal is by far the most polluting fossil fuel, and China is the world’s leading emitter of climate-changing greenhouse gases.

Wind power production went up by nearly 40% in the 2012-13 period. Although there are still big gaps in the transmission infrastructure, the aim is to generate 200 gigawatts (GW) of electricity from wind by 2020.


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China: Vincent Callebaut unveils ambitious sustainable mall concept | Adam Williams | GizMag.com

China: Vincent Callebaut unveils ambitious sustainable mall concept | Adam Williams | GizMag.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Regular readers are likely familiar with Vincent Callebaut's futuristic output by now, and the Belgian architect is at it again with a new project that follows in much the same vein as its predecessors. The Wooden Orchids project envisions a large sustainable shopping mall in Jiangxi Province, China, that boasts solar and wind power, geothermal heating, rainwater recycling, and a design that's part-inspired by the orchid.

Wooden Orchids comprises twin buildings which sit very close together and are joined by multiple footbridges. Located on a plot measuring a total of 20,000 sq m (215,278 sq ft), they sport a total usable floorspace of 30,000 sq m (322,917 sq ft). Each building has three main floors, plus a mezzanine and attic space. It's a remarkably complex concept, and draws inspiration from various sources, including orchids, on account of its proximity to a noted local flower garden.

The northernmost building would include cinemas, a public library, a gym and restaurants, while its counterpart would boast 200 shops which promote organic foods, in addition to a farmers market. Customers would be able to visit flower tea gardens and partake in flower therapy, according to the firm. Though ample bicycle parking is available, cars are relegated to large multi-level carparks hidden underground.


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CoCoRo underwater mini-robots school like fish and share knowledge | Ben Coxworth | GizMag.com

CoCoRo underwater mini-robots school like fish and share knowledge | Ben Coxworth | GizMag.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Starting in April 2011, the European Union CoCoRo (Collective Cognitive Robots) research consortium has been developing three varieties of autonomous underwater robots that school together like fish. By doing so, the little bots can share and learn from each others' "knowledge" of their environment, acting as a collective cognitive system that's smarter than any one of its individual parts.

The robots communicate with one another via built-in flashing LEDs, using onboard electronics such as computer vision systems, compasses and accelerometers to find their way around aquatic environments.

Utilizing an algorithm inspired by the clustering behavior of bees (not fish!), they can seek out others of their kind and then settle together around one central base location, becoming aware of the growing size of their group as more robots arrive. Individuals can then leave that cluster to go on their own missions, subsequently returning to share their findings with the group.


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Netherlands: Paleisbrug pedestrian bridge doubles as park in the sky | Stu Robarts | GizMag.com

Netherlands: Paleisbrug pedestrian bridge doubles as park in the sky | Stu Robarts | GizMag.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

A new bridge in the Netherlands is designed to do more than get people from A to B. The Paleisbrug, in the city of 's-Hertogenbosch, is a raised park, pedestrian bridge and cycle-link all in one. Designed by Benthem Crouwel Architects, the bridge joins the city center with its newly-developed Paleiskwartier district, which is home to the city's court building, university buildings, homes and offices.

Much of the surrounding area is said to remain undeveloped, due to having been flooded as a means of defending the city during the Eighty Year War. The bridge's location had the potential to provide excellent views of this now open, green area known as the Gement and, with this in mind, it was designed to be a destination in itself.

The Paleisbrug is 250 m (820 ft) long and 10 m (33 ft) wide, providing 2,500 sq m (26 900 sq ft) of park-like space for flora, fauna and leisure. There are four lanes in total, each 2 m (7 ft) wide, that alternate between flower beds and paving. Plants, trees, paving, furniture and lighting are integrated into the design using folded sheets of weather-proof steel, in which the bridge is also clad. The plants, benches and paths are lit up by LED lighting at night.


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AccessKenya completes fibre rollout in three cities | TeleGeography.com

AccessKenya Group has completed the rollout of its metropolitan fibre network in Nairobi, Nakuru and Thika, ITWeb Africa reports, citing the company’s chief technical officer Raymond Macharia.


The upgrade forms part of AcessKenya’s KES300 million (USD3.0 million) investment programme that will see 18 major towns equipped with fibre connectivity and enhanced bandwidth by 2016.


‘The number of enterprises and county-reliant businesses that need high speed connectivity and other related solutions has been on the rise and this has been exerting a strain on existing resources,’ Macharia said, adding: ‘To meet this demand, we are deploying infrastructure to widen our network footprint as well as increase the bandwidth to reach more corporate customers with reliable connectivity… We have also ensured that the new hardware can now handle these additional demands in data rates of up to 100Gbps.’

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Norway: Telenor and Telekom Austria Group establish 4G roaming connection | TeleGeography.com

Norway’s Telenor Global Services has established a Long Term Evolution (LTE) Roaming peering interconnection with Telekom Austria Group which it has been claimed will benefit mobile network operator (MNO) subsidiaries belonging to both companies by ‘enabling a consistent, high quality LTE roaming experience for their subscribers’.


In a press release confirming the development the duo said that the peering agreement will allow them to expand their 4G global footprint with a potential reach of 220 million subscribers across countries in the Nordics, Central and Eastern Europe, and Asia.

For its part, Telenor noted that the partnership with Telekom Austria Group is one of several peering agreements already established, claiming it would contribute to a complete 4G/LTE coverage for Telenor Global Services MNO customers, giving travellers access to high speed data services when abroad. The new interconnection leverages on the company’s existing GRX peering agreement, as well as each company’s IP eXchange (IPX).


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Lancaster, CA: The Leading Solar City? – Episode 23 of Local Energy Rules | John Farrell | ILSR.org

Lancaster, CA: The Leading Solar City? – Episode 23 of Local Energy Rules | John Farrell | ILSR.org | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Jason Caudle, city manager with the City of Lancaster, CA, talked with John Farrell in April 2015 about his city’s solar boom. With more than 118 MW of solar, both private and public, operating within city limits, Lancaster is well on its way to producing or procuring 530 MW of clean energy by 2020. Hitting that target would make Lancaster one of the world’s first net-zero towns, producing more energy on an average day than the city consumes.


It started with installing solar projects on city-owned buildings such as the baseball stadium and city hall. The lowest upfront cost option for Lancaster was a power purchase agreement, allowing private company SolarCity to build and own solar arrays on city property and sell the energy to the city. Because electricity rates from Southern California Edison (SCE) are so high and the solar resources in the desert outside of Los Angeles are so good, Lancaster paid less for solar energy from SolarCity owned arrays on its property than electricity from SCE.


Although solar will work anywhere, Caudle says—and is particularly economical in the Antelope Valley— Lancaster made it work because city leadership was willing to say this is important. With all their solar ventures, city officials found that it just wasn’t that hard. “It was a story more of financing than it was a story of engineering or construction,” says Caudle.


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Overheating Earth staggers into Last Chance Saloon | Paul Brown | Climate News Network

Overheating Earth staggers into Last Chance Saloon | Paul Brown | Climate News Network | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The text of the agreement on how the world will tackle climate change and set targets that will keep global temperatures from rising more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels is being negotiated in Bonn this week.

The 2°C limit has been set by politicians to prevent the planet overheating dangerously − but the cuts in carbon emissions required to achieve it have so far not been agreed.

It is this gap between the policy goals agreed by world leaders and their lack of action to achieve them that the Bonn conference seeks to address.

The meeting, which opened today, will last for 10 days as working groups grapple with action to reduce carbon emissions, how to finance technology transfer, and how to adapt to sea level rise and other unavoidable consequences of present warming − such as the current heatwave affecting India, where temperatures in some southern states have topped 47°C.


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Cloud gaming at 4K still years away, Nvidia CEO says | Agam Shah | NetworkWorld.com

Cloud gaming at 4K still years away, Nvidia CEO says | Agam Shah | NetworkWorld.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Don’t expect online games to stream to your TV or PC at 4K resolution anytime soon.

While it is possible to stream 4K movies from online services like Netflix to PCs, TVs and set-top boxes, streaming games from the cloud requires many infrastructure changes, said Jen-Hsun Huang, CEO of Nvidia, during a media briefing at Computex.

Nvidia can currently stream 1080p games at 60 frames per second from its Grid online gaming service, but the technology needs to be developed for 4K streaming and a lot of fine-tuning is needed at the server level, Huang said.

“It’s going to be a while,” Huang said.

Many 4K TVs and monitors are already available, and display images at the 3840 x 2160-pixel resolution. Games typically require two-way communications, and servers process bits related to games differently than video streams.

Nvidia currently uses high-end GPUs on the server side for the Grid service to optimize games for Internet connections. The resolution of the game stream, however, depends on the quality of the connection, and streaming 4K games would likely require faster Internet connections.

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Tesla loses fight with dealers to sell its cars in Texas | Dante D'Orazio | The Verge

Tesla doesn't just make unique cars — it has a pretty unique way of selling them, too. The company handles sales directly, meaning there are no dealerships. And as you might expect, powerful auto dealers across the United States are not a fan of that business model. Unfortunately for CEO Elon Musk, it appears he's just lost a political battle in Texas over the right to sell Teslas there.

The Texas State Legislature has failed to vote on two separate bills that would have allowed the electric car company to sell its cars directly to customers. The bills were designed to bypass an older, dealer-backed law on the books that prohibits manufacturers from direct sales. Such laws exist in a number of states, such as West Virginia, Arizona, Connecticut, and Michigan. Musk successfully lobbied to have a similar law reversed in New Jersey, and he was attempting to pull off the same feat in Texas.

According to Bloomberg, Musk has hired as many as 20 lobbyists in Texas, and has made upwards of $150,000 in campaign contributions just this past in support of the effort. But auto dealers wield a great amount of political power, and the measures failed to even see a vote, reports Bloomberg. That means the next time it will have a chance will likely be in two years, when the state legislature will hold its next regular session.


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Google Commits $20 Million To Make The World More Accessible For People With Disabilities | Eleanor Goldberg | HuffPost

Google Commits $20 Million To Make The World More Accessible For People With Disabilities | Eleanor Goldberg | HuffPost | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The technology that enables people with disabilities to lead independent and fulfilling lives is rapidly improving, but not quite fast enough, according to Google.

That’s why the global tech giant is investing $20 million in grants for nonprofits that are working on groundbreaking solutions.

The company on Tuesday introduced the Google Impact Challenge: Disabilities, a competition that invites innovators to pitch their ideas on how to make the world more accessible for people with disabilities. That could involve a system that helps people with mobility issues get from place-to-place more seamlessly, or developing an app that lists the closest accessible restrooms, according to the site.

It will then choose the best concepts and help bring them to scale.

A winning innovation could be something a simple as Liftware, a stabilizing handle that attaches to utensils so that people with hand tremors can eat with ease, according to the Google blog post.

To start, Google has already committed to supporting two cutting edge nonprofits, the Enable Community and World Wide Hearing.


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Ford Pretends To Open Up Its Patents Like Tesla, But Doesn't; Media Falls For It | Mike Masnick | Techdirt

Ford Pretends To Open Up Its Patents Like Tesla, But Doesn't; Media Falls For It |  Mike Masnick | Techdirt | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

As you probably know by now, last summer, Elon Musk announced that he was freeing up all of Tesla's patents. He pointed out that he didn't believe patents made any sense, and they especially didn't make sense in the electric vehicle space where they were clearly holding innovation back. Because some investors still couldn't comprehend this -- and assumed (for months!) that there must be some sort of catch, earlier this year Musk clarified that, yes, he really, really meant it, and Tesla's patents were totally free. No need to obtain a license. No need to pay a fee. No need to talk to or tell Tesla about it -- just go and innovate.

Earlier this week, Ford made an announcement claiming that it, too, was opening up its patents -- but the details show that this is a lot more hype and PR than substance. First, unlike Tesla, it's not all of its patents, but rather a specific portfolio of electric vehicle patents. Second, and much more importantly, it's not open. At all. You still have to license them and you still have to pay. This is just Ford announcing "Hey, we have patents, come pay us to use them." That's not opening up those patents. It's marketing the fact that you need to license them. This is the opposite of what Musk did with Tesla's patents.


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UK Government Goes Full Orwell: Snooper's Charter, Encryption Backdoors, Free Speech Suppression | Mike Masnick | Techdirt

UK Government Goes Full Orwell: Snooper's Charter, Encryption Backdoors, Free Speech Suppression |  Mike Masnick | Techdirt | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The old joke goes "George Orwell's 1984 was a warning, not a 'how to' manual." But that joke is increasingly less funny as the UK really seems to be doing everything it can to put in place Orwell's fictitious vision -- just a few decades later. Right after the election a few weeks ago, we noted the government's plan to push forward with its "extremist disruption orders" (as had been promised). The basic idea is that if the government doesn't like what you're saying, it can define your statements as "extremist" and make them criminal. Prime Minister David Cameron did his best Orwell in flat out stating that the idea was to use these to go after people who were obeying the law and then arguing that the UK needed to suppress free speech... in the name of protecting free speech. Really.

For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone. It’s often meant we have stood neutral between different values. And that’s helped foster a narrative of extremism and grievance.

This government will conclusively turn the page on this failed approach. As the party of one nation, we will govern as one nation and bring our country together. That means actively promoting certain values.

Freedom of speech. Freedom of worship. Democracy. The rule of law. Equal rights regardless of race, gender or sexuality.

We must say to our citizens: this is what defines us as a society.

It's a fairly amazing speech where Cameron can -- within just a few sentences -- both argue for the rule of law and that obeying the rule of law should not keep you out of trouble.

Earlier this week, the Queen gave her traditional "Queen's Speech" which lays out the legislative agenda for the new Parliament, and it went quickly down the Orwellian path as well. Apparently, suppressing free speech and civil liberties will be done in the name of mandatory "social cohesion."


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