The Latitude

The Latitude

Dispatches from the new frontiers of climate technology. The Latitude features coverage of the business and tech trends that are reshaping energy and decarbonization, straight from the Latitude Media newsroom.

Episodes

April 12, 2024 11 mins
In Australia, one in three homes hosts a rooftop solar system. And 20% of those systems are attached to batteries. In February, a major grid outage put those systems to the test.  Extreme weather caused a series of grid failures in the state of Victoria. And with coal plants tripping offline, solar capacity helped keep the blackouts from cascading further. So what does the incident tell us about how solar PV can help grid operators...
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There are two critical ingredients fueling the AI boom: energy and chips.  And NVIDIA, one of the most important companies in AI, is looking to be a power player in both. NVIDIA was founded in the early 1990s as a chip maker for gaming. It has since evolved into a $2 trillion behemoth building the most sought-after graphics processing units for training AI. Now, the company is making moves to deploy its technology in equipment at t...
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The US green hydrogen industry is at a critical juncture.  After months of input and debate, the government put out draft rules for tax credits at the end of last year – setting firm requirements for matching new, local renewables to hydrogen production. It was seen by many as a big step for ensuring that green hydrogen is actually green. But across the industry, the reaction was more mixed – even among those who want to make the i...
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February 28, 2024 9 mins
Data center energy use is spiking around the world. The International Energy Agency says that demand could double in the next two years, as artificial intelligence workloads soar. This increase in demand is alarming environmentalists and clean power advocates, who say AI is making decarbonization harder.  But many experts in the data center industry see it differently. They say data centers are actually an energy efficiency success...
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As cities around the U.S. ramp up their renewable energy goals, they’re sometimes at odds with the utilities that serve them. Some have tried to break away and form their own utilities. Others are creating community choice aggregators to negotiate clean power supply for residents. The city of Ann Arbor is trying something different – building microgrid projects to serve local load without the help of the utility.  The effort could ...
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We have 60 gigawatts of virtual power plant capacity in the US. But that needs to triple in the next decade to support a zero-carbon grid – while also meeting a surge in peak demand. There are lots of different models for building VPPs that link together solar, batteries, EV chargers, and smart thermostats. Sunrun and PG&E tested a model this summer that uses solar and batteries to create a “permanent load shift” to offset the even...
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Wind and solar projects are relatively simple to build compared with thermal power plants. But there’s a lot of technological innovation going into how those renewable plants are designed, constructed and optimized – driven by robots, artificial intelligence, and data science. Can these technologies help offset higher labor costs, rising financing costs, and supply chain constraints? In this edition: Editor Lisa Martine Jenkins pre...
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The world needs a lot of critical minerals. By the middle of the century, we could be looking at a six-fold increase in demand for lithium, copper, cobalt, nickel, and magnesium to make enough batteries and renewables to decarbonize the global economy. That means a lot of mining. And it also means we need a lot of geologists to help find new resources. But will a looming shortage of geologists in the US put supply security at risk?...
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Elon Musk has called lithium “the new oil.” Demand for critical minerals is booming alongside the surge in global battery production. And countries are racing to control as much mining and processing of lithium, cobalt, nickel, manganese, and graphite quickly as possible. There’s also a race among companies that are exploring artificial intelligence to discover new deposits of critical minerals. It’s yet another area where AI could...
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It’s been another tumultuous year for the clean energy sector in the stock market.  Even with strong tailwinds from the Inflation Reduction Act, many public companies took a hit this year – thanks to investor concerns over high interest rates, supply chain constraints, uncertainty over policy implementation, and a rush back into oil & gas stocks. So what does it mean for cleantech investors in 2024? Today: Editor Lisa Martine Jenki...
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America’s first commercial plant for capturing CO2 directly from the air is online.  It marks the start of an industrial race in direct-air capture – or DAC – an industry that needs to succeed in tandem with a tripling of clean generation to slash global emissions. The US has emerged as a leader in the promotion of DAC in the hopes of radically dropping costs. And the success of this new plant will be an important indicator of the ...
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December 14, 2023 7 mins
The concentrating solar power industry – also known as solar thermal – has been defined by bankruptcies, failed projects, and high costs. But is it finding new life? Crystalline silicon photovoltaics won the race for solar power generation long ago. But there’s a vital market it can’t serve cheaply: industrial steam. And now out of bankruptcy, GlassPoint is hoping that solar thermal can find a competitive edge in the massive market...
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Transmission backlogs. Land constraints. Local pushback. They’re all causing headaches for developers of wind, solar, and battery projects. And that’s making brownfields more attractive for renewables – and a range of novel, industrial-scale storage and carbon-removal projects. An Italian company is planning a compressed carbon dioxide storage project on the site of an old coal plant in the Midwest. It’s a first-of-a-kind. And it m...
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November 9, 2023 10 mins
The market for engineered carbon removal is starting to resemble, well, a real market.  Tax credits. Billions in government support. Corporate buyers. A wide range of startups that are picking up investment and working toward commercial deployment. They’re all helping push forward the use of machines to remove carbon from the atmosphere. But the path to gigaton scale is not yet clear. And there’s a big gap between promises and real...
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November 1, 2023 11 mins
Green hydrogen is a critical resource for cleaning up industry and heavy trucking.  With tens of billions of government and corporate dollars plowing into the space – electrolyzer companies are preparing for a ramp up in sales and project developments to help turn renewable electrons into hydrogen molecules. But they’re also hitting a snag: without much demand for more expensive green hydrogen, electrolyzer makers are caught in a h...
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Top tech companies are on a quest to run their massive data centers around the clock with clean power. It’s not an easy task, but they’ve been making progress. The energy efficiency of large data centers has radically improved over the last two decades. And tech players have been buying renewables at breakneck speed. But a new source of computational demand is complicating those efforts: artificial intelligence. Today: Editor Lisa ...
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Electric grids are increasingly being saturated with weather-dependent renewables. At the same time, power systems are also getting challenged by intensifying and unpredictable extreme weather. So can weather prediction models rise to the challenge? The answer may be in machine learning. Today: how artificial intelligence could make weather modeling much more powerful – and limit the use of fossil fuels as a backup to renewables. L...
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Renewables are now super cheap and abundant. We could install nearly a half terawatt of new wind and solar capacity this year – more than the entire capacity of China. But with that surge comes a set of very pointed questions: what do we do with all those clean electrons on grids that don’t always value them – and can’t always handle them? Today: how to make good use of all the new renewable electrons hitting the grid.  Latitude Me...
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September 30, 2023 2 mins
Hi Climavores listeners: we're announcing a change to this feed. Going forward, this show will be called The Latitude. Solar, wind, and batteries have all surged around the world. We’re set to install 400 gigawatts of renewables in the next five years — equivalent to the capacity of China. But emissions still have not peaked globally. This leaves us with an obvious question: what are the new frontiers of technology that will revers...
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In this last episode of the season, Tamar and Mike discuss what they’ve learned over the past six months and debate whether there’s hope for solving the food and climate problem (spoiler alert: they both say, “Yes, if….).  They discuss techno optimists who see the rise in food and ag tech innovations as an overall win for the climate, but admit that technology can only slow climate change if people embrace it. In this episode, Mike...
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