Thomas Edison Admires Floating Solar Stations

Who says you must install solar panels on a house roof, or in big open fields in the desert; or perhaps on reclaimed landfills and brownfield sites? Why not float the renewable energy systems on water?

There are obvious advantages to doing this; such as, but not limited to:

  • No land areas taken up with panels
  • Cool water can help remove heat from the panels-making for better efficiencies
  • Less surface evaporation of water, especially in arid areas
  • Light reflection off water surface could increase panel performance by 5-15%
  • Decommissioning of plant much less disruptive than land based installations
  • Reduces algae growth on water surfaces.

China is a leader in this technology, as well as being a worldwide “monster producer” of solar panels. They have built the largest floating solar power plant in the world, 40 MW of renewable energy production comprised of 120,000 panels.

China’s largest floating solar station—40 MW in size

China’s largest floating solar station—40 MW in size

According to a report compiled by the International Renewable Energy Agency, Asia accounted for more than two-thirds of the worldwide increase in renewable energy generating capacity in 2017. It is likely many new types of solar applications, like floating systems, will be seen in the coming years. China, Japan, and India were among the top-most contributors to this increase.

What if you installed a floating solar plant atop a lake behind a dam? Could this help increase the output of the dam? Maybe you could use it to pump water back from the dam’s outlet to help refill the lake for use again later as electrical demand increased? Water evaporation is a dam’s enemy, so reducing that evaporation is desirable. Same with locating a solar plant atop a drinking water supply—less evaporation.

Japanese water based solar station at 13.7 MW

Japanese water based solar station at 13.7 MW

California is also experimenting with floating solar stations. Experts believe 20-30 percent of the state’s energy needs could be derived by harnessing that state’s suitable lake locations.

Edison on solar energy – “I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that. I wish I had more years left.”

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

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Edison-Artificial Intelligence (AI) Primer

Background
Computers entered the work-a-day world about 50 years ago, at a time when data was to be crunched, sorted, and operated upon. Then our machines became better and our programming more sophisticated, allowing us to begin processing information along with data. Computer modeling and forecasting emerged.

Today we find ourselves processing knowledge. It’s all around us, manifested as Apps, web bots, avatars, algorithms and such; and in physical form as driverless cars, robots, GPS, travel route planning, autonomous drones, smart bombs/ military equipment. This is the province of AI, where our machines process knowledge, a high order thinking function. It’s not about crunching, computing, merging and sorting data/information, but about processing knowledge—such as strategies, scenarios, contingencies, gaming…etc.; and the ultimate holy of holies….wisdom. It is not the information revolution we are in, but more accurately, the knowledge revolution.

What could be possible?
A quick look at where the AI wave could take us:

  • Detecting minute patterns in scientific and engineering analyses could lead to new discoveries and innovative new products. Likewise, minute changes in human behavior can provide insight into long-term social changes.
  • The Internet of Things, enhanced with deep learning capability, would seamlessly link sensors, data, information and knowledge together to greatly improve the operating efficiencies of utility services, communication networks, traffic control, airline monitoring and scheduling…etc.
  • Autonomous robots could take on new roles in society, such as helpers for the handicapped and mobility challenged; avatars and tutors for early school-age children and classrooms; and, serve as companions and monitors for dementia afflicted senior citizens, and surgery recovering patients.
An AI powered human “friend” and companion

An AI powered human “friend” and companion

  • Intelligent systems could process a variety of applications for such things as bank loans, job selection, contractor selection….etc.
  • Intelligent systems could be applied to making financial decisions either on a personal or fund level—learning and observing from many years of data and trends; making recommendations and perhaps even executing trades.
  • AI systems could be used to learn the buying habits of customers/groups of customers that could be used to stimulate the development of new/improved products and services, or provide personalized recommendations for internet shoppers.
  • Smart systems could help doctors better diagnose unusual medical conditions, avoid medicine conflicts, and warn of potential future complications.

Impacts of an AI world
This is what scares folks not prepared for this kind of workplace. It is not about right answers anymore, but rather about deep thinking and learning, decision-making, asking the important questions, strategic planning and such. Maybe it is not a coincidence why the modern workplace is no longer interested in the SAT/GRE/GPA scores of potential new hires—why the soft skills of prospective employees is important to them. The knowledge revolution will require a new mindset…one of continuous learning, leadership, teamwork and communications.

The workplace ante has been seriously raised. It is not about what you know, but what you can do with what you know; how fast you can do this; and how effectively you can capture that knowledge process and teach machines to do this as well. The use and application of AI is the next step in the usefulness of humans in the workplace; a new definition of human capital, and triggering a renewed look at what is intellectual property?

Edison understood this in rudimentary form, when he developed his R&D lab concept, a process to turn raw ideas (data and information) into new products (knowledge); with the mantra of continuous learning and improvement of that knowledge. He fully appreciated that failure was an essential part of his machine learning—his human, organic machine….the product development team! Edison knew he had to compete in the marketplace based on higher order thinking skills.

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Don’t worry about some malignant AI based code taking over the world or enslaving our computers and society…turning us into mindless drones. Worry about whether our educational infrastructure [and parents] understand what the business world will require of students; and if our educators will be brave enough to change the way teachers and students are taught.

Editor’s Deep Dive

Thomas Edison said, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

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Thomas Edison – An American in Paris

Dateline: Paris, France
Event: Universal Exposition
Year: 1889

The Back Story
August, 1889 finds the great inventor in need of rest and respite from: the stress of opening a massive new laboratory (1887-West Orange); the great growing pains of the new electrical industry; many business matters needing attention; exciting new areas for exploitation; recovery from a lab accident and burns; and a “double-super-secret” project underway in Room 5 in the invention factory. Edison is tired and finally listens to his wife to take some time off–a long holiday and a tour of Europe, starting with attending the Universal Exposition in Paris and later visiting Germany and London.

Paris in Late Summer
With his very young and lovely wife Mina at his side, and herself sporting a magnificent new $3,000+ gown, the Edison’s are the toast of the great city, with many dinners in his honor, awards bestowed upon his now graying mantle, and many well-wishers and dignitaries anxious to meet the great inventor. Edison, never one to enjoy formal dinners, weathers the storm with much support from his captivating and socially adroit wife.

Edison Paris exhibition

Edison Paris exhibition

His display of electrical products bedecked in red, white and blue lights illuminates a full acre of exposition space; and features a complete central lighting station. Much to the delight of 30,000 visitors, Edison phonographs are a big hit as well.

This large painting by Abraham Archibald Anderson was obtained in Paris, and now hangs in the grand staircase of the Edison Glenmont mansion. Mr. Anderson served as a friend and interpreter for Mr. Edison while in Paris.

This large painting by Abraham Archibald Anderson was obtained in Paris, and now hangs in the grand staircase of the Edison Glenmont mansion. Mr. Anderson served as a friend and interpreter for Mr. Edison while in Paris.

A tour of the new Eiffel Tower was a special highlight for the Edison family, as a special guest of Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, the designer and tower engineer. Coincident with Edison in Paris, famous American wild-west entertainers Colonel William F. Cody and Buffalo Bill happened to be visiting the great city, adding to the jubilant air of the late summer weather. Edison also found time to visit The Louvre (not to his general liking) and Louis Pasteur at the famous Pasteur Institute, fully appreciating the new “germ theory” advanced. A firm acolyte of basic research, Pasteur nevertheless took delight at how Edison made practical and important advances from basic science.

The Eiffel Tower-built in 1889-an original sketch, an advertisement for the exposition, and photo today.

The Eiffel Tower-built in 1889-an original sketch, an advertisement for the exposition, and photo today.

Next Stops…Germany and London
On to Berlin to meet with the famous scientist Hermann von Helmholtz, industrialist Werner von Siemens, and others, with time allotted to attend a scientific conference then in session. In London, Edison visits the landmark Edison central station at Holborn, using direct current generators delivering 110 volts of load serving voltage. Bittersweet this was, as it was apparent in London that other notable electrical designers were making rapid advances in AC power.

A Super Secret Pleasure Awaits
Arriving home in early October, a relaxed Thomas Edison is delighted to learn of the progress of the super-secret experiments conducted by trusted associates John Batchelor and W. K. L. Dickson, with a new, strange-looking building constructed on the eastern side of the West Orange complex.

That strange-looking building that greeted Edison upon his return from Paris---the original Black Maria, the world’s first motion picture studio.

That strange-looking building that greeted Edison upon his return from Paris—the original Black Maria, the world’s first motion picture studio.

There in the demonstration space was what appeared to be an optical lantern of sorts connected to a phonograph, and aimed at a projection screen. A flickering hand-cranked image of Dickson appeared, which eerily uttered “Good morning, Mr. Edison, glad to see you back”. This was the first operable motion picture camera…not just silent pictures, but with sound. Such sensational media would not be witnessed regularly in movie theaters until the late 1920s, but Edison and his team had shown it possible decades earlier. Welcome back indeed Mr. Edison!

Thomas Edison said, “If we all did the things we are really capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves …”

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

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