How to meet the demand of EV infrastructure and maintain a stable grid

As electric vehicles (EVs) become the new standard, charging infrastructure will become a commonplace detail blending into the landscape, available in a host of places from a range of providers: privately run charging stations, the office parking lot, home garages and government-provided locations to fill in the gaps. We need a new energy blueprint for the United States in order to maintain a stable grid to support this national move to EV charging.

The Biden administration announced 500,000 charging stations to be installed nationally and additional energy storage to facilitate the shift to EVs. Integrating all of this new infrastructure and transitioning requires balancing the traffic on the grid and managing increased energy demand that stretches beyond power lines and storage itself.

The majority of EV infrastructure pulls its power from the grid, which will add significant demand when it reaches scale. In an ideal situation, EV charging stations will have their own renewable power generation co-located with storage, but new programs and solutions are needed in order to make it available everywhere. A range of scenarios for how renewables can be used to power EV charging have been piloted in the U.S. in recent years. Eventually, EVs will likely even provide power to the grid.

These technological advances will happen as we progress through the energy transition; regardless, EV infrastructure will heavily rely on the U.S. grid. That makes coordination across a range of stakeholders and behavior change among the general public essential for keeping the grid stable while meeting energy demand.

The White House’s fact sheet for EV charging infrastructure points to a technical blueprint that the Department of Energy and the Electric Power Research Institute will be working on together. It is critical that utilities, energy management and storage stakeholders, and the general public be included in planning — here’s why.

Stakeholder collaboration

Charging infrastructure is currently fragmented in the U.S. Much of it is privatized and there are complaints that unless you drive a Tesla, it is hard to find charging while on the road. Some EV owners have even returned to driving gas-powered vehicles. There’s reason to be hopeful that this will rapidly change.

ChargePoint and EVgo are two companies that will likely become household names as their EV networks expand. A coalition made up of some of the largest U.S. utilities — including American Electric Power, Dominion Energy, Duke Energy, Entergy, Southern Company and the Tennessee Valley Authority — called the Electric Highway Coalition, announced plans for a regional network of charging stations spanning their utility territories.

Networks that swap out private gas stations for EV charging is one piece of the puzzle. We also need to ensure that everyone has affordable access and that charging times are staggered — this is one of the core concerns on every stakeholder’s mind. Having charging available in a range of places spreads out demand, helping keep power available and the grid balanced.

Varying consumer needs including location and housing, work schedules and economic situations require considerations and new solutions that make EVs and charging accessible to everyone. What works in the suburbs won’t suit rural or urban areas, and just imagine someone who works the night shift in a dense urban area.

Biden’s plan includes, “$4 million to encourage strong partnerships and new programs to increase workplace charging regionally or nationally, which will help increase the feasibility of [plug-in electric vehicle] ownership for consumers in underserved communities.” Partnerships and creative solutions will equally be needed.

An opportunity to fully engage technologies we already have

“Fifty percent of the reductions we have to make to get to net-zero by 2050 or 2045 are going to come from technologies that we don’t yet have,” John Kerry said recently, causing a stir. He later clarified that we also have technologies now that we need to put to work, which received less air time. In reality, we are just getting started in utilizing existing renewable and energy transition technologies; we have yet to realize their full potential.

Currently, utility-scale and distributed energy storage are used for their most simplistic capabilities, that is, jumping in when energy demand reaches its peak and helping keep the grid stable through services referred to as balancing and frequency regulation. But as renewable energy penetration increases and loads such as EVs are electrified, peak demand will be exacerbated.

The role that storage plays for EV charging stations seems well understood. On-site storage is used daily to provide power for charging cars at any given time. Utility-scale storage has the same capabilities and can be used to store and then supply renewable power to the grid in large quantities every day to help balance the demand of EVs.

A stable power system for EVs combines utilities and utility-scale storage with a network of subsystems where energy storage is co-located with EV charging. All of the systems are coordinated and synchronized to gather and dispatch energy at different times of the day based on all the factors that affect grid stability and the availability of renewable power. That synchronization is handled by intelligent energy management software that relies on sophisticated algorithms to forecast and respond to changes within fractions of a second.

This model also makes it possible to manage the cost of electricity and EV demand on the grid. Those subsystems could be municipal-owned locations in lower-income areas. Such a subsystem would collect power in its storage asset and set the price locally on its own terms. These systems could incentivize residents to power up there at certain times of the day in order to make charging more affordable by providing an alternative to the real-time cost of electricity during peak demand when using a home outlet, for example.

Behavior change

The greatest challenge for utilities will be how to manage EV loads and motivate people to stagger charging their vehicles, rather than everyone waiting until they are home in the evening during off-peak renewable generation periods. If everyone plugged in at the same time, we’d end up cooking dinner in the dark.

While there’s been talk of incentivizing the public to charge at different times and spread out demand, motivators vary among demographics. With the ability to charge at home and skip a trip to the “gas station” — or “power station,” as it may be referred to in the future — many people will choose convenience over cost.

The way we currently operate, individual energy usage seems like an independent, isolated event to consumers and households. EVs will require everyone — from utilities and private charging stations to consumers — to be more aware of demand on the grid and act more as communities sharing energy.

Thus, a diverse charging network alone won’t solve the issue of overtaxing the grid. A combination of a new blueprint for managing energy on the grid plus behavior change is needed.

Rezilion raises $30M help security operations teams with tools to automate their busywork

Security operations teams face a daunting task these days, fending off malicious hackers and their increasingly sophisticated approaches to cracking into networks. That also represents a gap in the market: building tools to help those security teams do their jobs. Today, an Israeli startup called Rezilion that is doing just that — building automation tools for DevSecOps, the area of IT that addresses the needs of security teams and the technical work that they need to do in their jobs — is announcing $30 million in funding.

Guggenheim Investments is leading the round with JPV and Kindred Capital also contributing. Rezilion said that unnamed executives from Google, Microsoft, CrowdStrike, IBM, Cisco, PayPal, JP Morgan Chase, Nasdaq, eBay, Symantec, RedHat, RSA and Tenable are also in the round. Previously, the company had raised $8 million.

Rezilion’s funding is coming on the back of strong initial growth for the startup in its first two years of operations.

Its customer base is made up of some of the world’s biggest companies, including two of the “Fortune 10” (the top 10 of the Fortune 500). CEO Liran Tancman, who co-founded Rezilion with CTO Shlomi Boutnaru, said that one of those two is one of the world’s biggest software companies, and the other is a major connected device vendor, but he declined to say which. (For the record, the top 10 includes Amazon, Apple, Alphabet/Google, Walmart and CVS.)

Tancman and Boutnaru had previously co-founded another security startup, CyActive, which was acquired by PayPal in 2015; the pair worked there together until leaving to start Rezilion.

There are a lot of tools out in the market now to help automate different aspects of developer and security operations. Rezilion focuses on a specific part of DevSecOps: large businesses have over the years put in place a lot of processes that they need to follow to try to triage and make the most thorough efforts possible to detect security threats. Today, that might involve inspecting every single suspicious piece of activity to determine what the implications might be.

The problem is that with the volume of information coming in, taking the time to inspect and understand each piece of suspicious activity can put enormous strain on an organization: it’s time-consuming, and as it turns out, not the best use of that time because of the signal to noise ratio involved. Typically, each vulnerability can take 6-9 hours to properly investigate, Tancman said. “But usually about 70-80% of them are not exploitable,” meaning they may be bad for some, but not for this particular organization and the code it’s using today. That represents a very inefficient use of the security team’s time and energy.

“Eight of out ten patches tend to be a waste of time,” Tancman said of the approach that is typically made today. He believes that as its AI continues to grow and its knowledge and solution becomes more sophisticated, “it might soon be 9 out of 10.”

Rezilion has built a taxonomy and an AI-based system that essentially does that inspection work as a human would do: it spots any new, or suspicious, code, figures out what it is trying to do, and runs it against a company’s existing code and systems to see how and if it might actually be a threat to it or create further problems down the line. If it’s all good it essentially whitelists the code. If not it flags it to the team.

The stickiness of the product has come out of how Tancman and Boutnaru understand large enterprises, especially those heavy with technology stacks, operate these days in what has become a very challenging environment for cybersecurity teams.

“They are using us to accelerate their delivery processes while staying safe,” Tancman said. “They have strict compliance departments and have to adhere to certain standards,” in terms of the protocols they take around security work, he added. “They want to leverage DevOps to release that.” He said Rezilion has generally won over customers in large part for simply understanding that culture and process and helping them work better within that. “Companies become users of our product because we showed them that, at a fraction of the effort, they can be more secure.” This has special resonance in the world of tech, although financial services and others that essentially leverage technology as a significant foundation for how they operate, are also among the startup’s user base.

Down the line, Rezilion plans to add in remediation and mitigation into the mix to further extend what it can do with its automation tools, which is part of where the funding will be going, too, Boutnaru said. But he doesn’t believe it will ever replace the human in the equation.

“It will just focus them on the places where you need more human thinking,” he said. “We’re just removing the need for tedious work.”

In that grand tradition of enterprise automation, then, it will be interesting to watch which other automation-centric platforms might make a move into security alongside the other automation they are building. For now, Rezilion is forging out an interesting enough area for itself to get investors interested.

“Rezilion’s product suite is a game changer for security teams,” said Rusty Parks, senior MD of Guggenheim Investments, in a statement. “It creates a win-win, allowing companies to speed innovative products and features to market while enhancing their security posture. We believe Rezilion has created a truly compelling value proposition for security teams, one that greatly increases return on time while thoroughly protecting one’s core infrastructure.”

Tesla wants to sell electricity in Texas

Elon Musk’s Tesla is looking beyond electric vehicles, solar panels and energy storage and wants to now supply electricity directly to customers, according to an application filed with Texas electricity regulators earlier this month. Energy Choice Matters first reported on the application.

The application, filed with the Public Utilities Commission of Texas on August 16, is a request to become what’s called a “retail electric provider” under its subsidiary Tesla Energy Ventures. On the deregulated, idiosyncratic Texas power market, REPs generally purchase wholesale electricity from power generators and sell it to customers. Over 100 REPs currently compete on the open market.

The company also filed separate applications for several utility-scale batteries in the Lone Star state: a 250-megawatt battery situated near its Gigafactory outside Austin, and a 100 MW separate project outside Houston. These projects are unrelated to the company’s efforts to become an electric provider, but taken as a whole, they reveal an ambitious roadmap for Tesla’s energy businesses.

Imagine: Tesla could not only sell electricity to customers, but it could also broker customers selling their excess energy – generated from Tesla Powerwall or Solar panel products, of course – back to the grid. It’s certainly one way to fulfill Musk’s vision of turning every home into a distributed power plant.

The latest request to the PUC comes just six months after an unprecedented winter storm shut down large parts of Texas’ power grid for days, leaving millions without power during a string of sub-freezing days. A handful of REPs shut down after the storm, which jammed wholesale electricity prices up to $9,000 per megawatt-hour (the seasonal average is around $50).

Musk, who moved many operations to Texas from California, including SpaceX’s sprawling facility in Boca Chica, criticized the state’s grid operator on Twitter at the time:

He said the company was not “earning that R” – referring to the R in the acronym, which stands for Electric Reliability Council of Texas.

Tesla Energy Ventures told PUC regulators that it would use Tesla’s existing energy division to help drive sales, including leveraging the company’s mobile app and website. “Specifically, [Tesla Energy Ventures] will target its existing customers that own Tesla products and market the retail offer to customers through the mobile application and Tesla website,” the application says. “In addition to the Tesla mobile application and Tesla website, the applicant’s existing ‘Tesla Energy Customer Support’ organization will be trained to provide support and guidance to customers in customer acquisition efforts.”

Ana Stewart is listed as president of Tesla Energy Ventures. She’s been with Tesla since 2017 as the director of regulatory credit trading. Prior, she worked at Tesla-acquired SolarCity.

The application is listed under docket number 52431.

Siga secures $8.1M Series B to prevent cyberattacks on critical infrastructure

Siga OT Solutions, an Israeli cybersecurity startup that helps organizations secure their operations by monitoring the raw electric signals of critical industrial assets, has raised $8.1 million in Series B funding.

Siga’s SigaGuard says its technology, used by Israel’s critical water facilities and the New York Power Authority, is unique in that rather than monitoring the operational network, it uses machine learning and predictive analysis to “listen” to Level 0 signals. These are typically made up of components and sensors that receive electrical signals, rather than protocols or data packets that can be manipulated by hackers.

By monitoring Level 0, which Siga describes as the “richest and most reliable level of process data within any operational environment,” the company can detect cyberattacks on the most critical and vulnerable physical assets of national infrastructures. This, it claims, ensures operational resiliency even when hackers are successful in manipulating the logic of industrial control system (ICS) controllers.

Amir Samoiloff, co-founder and CEO of Siga, says: “Level 0 is becoming the major axis in the resilience and integrity of critical national infrastructures worldwide and securing this level will become a major element in control systems in the coming years.”

The company’s latest round of funding — led by PureTerra Ventures, with investment from Israeli venture fund SIBF, Moore Capital, and Phoenix Contact — comes amid an escalation in attacks against operational infrastructure. Israel’s water infrastructure was hit by three known cyberattacks in 2020 and these were followed by an attack on the water system of a city in Florida that saw hackers briefly increase the amount of sodium hydroxide in Oldsmar’s water treatment system. 

The $8.1 million investment lands three years after the startup secured $3.5 million in Series A funding. The company said it will use the funding to accelerate its sales and strategic collaborations internationally, with a focus on North America, Europe, Asia, and the United Arab Emirates. 

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Crypto community slams ‘disastrous’ new amendment to Biden’s big infrastructure bill

Biden’s major bipartisan infrastructure plan struck a rare chord of cooperation between Republicans and Democrats, but changes it proposes to cryptocurrency regulation are tripping up the bill.

The administration intends to pay for $28 billion of its planned infrastructure spending by tightening tax compliance within the historically under-regulated arena of digital currency. That’s why cryptocurrency is popping up in a bill that’s mostly about rebuilding bridges and roads.

The legislation’s vocal critics argue that the bill’s effort to do so is slapdash, particularly a bit that would declare anyone “responsible for and regularly providing any service effectuating transfers of digital assets” to be a broker, subject to tax reporting requirements.

While that definition might be more straightforward in a traditional corner of finance, it could force cryptocurrency developers, companies and even anyone mining digital currencies to somehow collect and report information on users, something that by design isn’t even possible in a decentralized financial system.

Now, a new amendment to the critical spending package is threatening to make matters even worse.

Unintended consequences

In a joint letter about the bill’s text, Square, Coinbase, Ribbit Capital and other stakeholders warned of “financial surveillance” and unintended impacts for cryptocurrency miners and developers. The Electronic Frontier Foundation and Fight for the Future, two privacy-minded digital rights organizations, also slammed the bill.

Following the outcry from the cryptocurrency community, a pair of influential senators proposed an amendment to clarify the new reporting rules. Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) pushed back against the bill, proposing an amendment with fellow finance committee member Pat Toomey (R-PA) that would modify the bill’s language.

The amendment would establish that the new reporting “does not apply to individuals developing block chain technology and wallets,” removing some of the bill’s ambiguity on the issue.

“By clarifying the definition of broker, our amendment will ensure non-financial intermediaries like miners, network validators, and other service providers—many of whom don’t even have the personal-identifying information needed to file a 1099 with the IRS—are not subject to the reporting requirements specified in the bipartisan infrastructure package,” Toomey said.

Wyoming Senator Cynthia Lummis also threw her support behind the Toomey and Wyden amendment, as did Colorado Governor Jared Polis.

“Picking winners and losers”

The drama doesn’t stop there. With negotiations around the bill ongoing — the text could be finalized over the weekend — a pair of senators proposed a competing amendment that isn’t winning any fans in the crypto community.

That amendment, from Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Mark Warner (D-VA), would exempt traditional cryptocurrency miners who participate in energy-intensive “proof of work” systems from new financial reporting requirements, while keeping those rules in place for those using a “proof of stake” system. Portman worked with the Treasury Department to author the cryptocurrency portion of the original infrastructure bill.

Rather than requiring an investment in computing hardware (and energy bills) capable of solving increasingly complex math problems, proof of stake systems rely on participants taking a financial stake in a given project, locking away some of the cryptocurrency to generate new coins.

Proof of stake is emerging as an attractive, climate-friendlier alternative that could reduce the need for heavy computing and huge amounts of energy required for proof of work mining. That makes it all the more puzzling that the latest amendment would specifically let proof of work mining off the hook.

Some popular digital currencies like Cardano are already built on proof of stake. Ethereum, the second biggest cryptocurrency, is in the process of migrating from a proof of work system to proof of stake to help scale its system and reduce fees. Bitcoin is the most notable digital currency that relies on proof of work.

The Warner-Portman amendment is being touted as a “compromise” but it’s not really halfway between the Wyden-Toomey amendment and the existing bill — it just introduces new problems that many crypto advocates view as a fresh existential threat to their work.

Prominent members of the crypto community including Square founder and Bitcoin booster Jack Dorsey have thrown their support behind the Wyden-Lummis-Toomey amendment while slamming the second proposal as misguided and damaging.

The executive director of Coincenter, a crypto think tank, called the Warner-Portman amendment “disastrous.” Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong echoed that language. “At the 11th hour @MarkWarner has proposed an amendment that would decide which foundational technologies are OK and which are not in crypto,” he tweeted. “… We could find ourselves with the Senate deciding which types of crypto will survive government regulation.”

Unfortunately for the crypto community — and the promise of the proof of stake model — the White House is apparently throwing its weight behind the Warner-Portman amendment, though that could change as eleventh hour negotiations continue.

Tech leaders can be the secret weapon for supercharging ESG goals

Environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors should be key considerations for CTOs and technology leaders scaling next generation companies from day one. Investors are increasingly prioritizing startups that focus on ESG, with the growth of sustainable investing skyrocketing.

What’s driving this shift in mentality across every industry? It’s simple: Consumers are no longer willing to support companies that don’t prioritize sustainability. According to a survey conducted by IBM, the COVID-19 pandemic has elevated consumers’ focus on sustainability and their willingness to pay out of their own pockets for a sustainable future. In tandem, federal action on climate change is increasing, with the U.S. rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement and a recent executive order on climate commitments.

Over the past few years, we have seen an uptick in organizations setting long-term sustainability goals. However, CEOs and chief sustainability officers typically forecast these goals, and they are often long term and aspirational — leaving the near and midterm implementation of ESG programs to operations and technology teams.

Until recently, choosing cloud regions meant considering factors like cost and latency to end users. But carbon is another factor worth considering.

CTOs are a crucial part of the planning process, and in fact, can be the secret weapon to help their organization supercharge their ESG targets. Below are a few immediate steps that CTOs and technology leaders can take to achieve sustainability and make an ethical impact.

Reducing environmental impact

As more businesses digitize and more consumers use devices and cloud services, the energy needed by data centers continues to rise. In fact, data centers account for an estimated 1% of worldwide electricity usage. However, a forecast from IDC shows that the continued adoption of cloud computing could prevent the emission of more than 1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide from 2021 through 2024.

Make compute workloads more efficient: First, it’s important to understand the links between computing, power consumption and greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels. Making your app and compute workloads more efficient will reduce costs and energy requirements, thus reducing the carbon footprint of those workloads. In the cloud, tools like compute instance auto scaling and sizing recommendations make sure you’re not running too many or overprovisioned cloud VMs based on demand. You can also move to serverless computing, which does much of this scaling work automatically.

Deploy compute workloads in regions with lower carbon intensity: Until recently, choosing cloud regions meant considering factors like cost and latency to end users. But carbon is another factor worth considering. While the compute capabilities of regions are similar, their carbon intensities typically vary. Some regions have access to more carbon-free energy production than others, and consequently the carbon intensity for each region is different.

So, choosing a cloud region with lower carbon intensity is often the simplest and most impactful step you can take. Alistair Scott, co-founder and CTO of cloud infrastructure startup Infracost, underscores this sentiment: “Engineers want to do the right thing and reduce waste, and I think cloud providers can help with that. The key is to provide information in workflow, so the people who are responsible for infraprovisioning can weigh the CO2 impact versus other factors such as cost and data residency before they deploy.”

Another step is to estimate your specific workload’s carbon footprint using open-source software like Cloud Carbon Footprint, a project sponsored by ThoughtWorks. Etsy has open-sourced a similar tool called Cloud Jewels that estimates energy consumption based on cloud usage information. This is helping them track progress toward their target of reducing their energy intensity by 25% by 2025.

Make social impact

Beyond reducing environmental impact, CTOs and technology leaders can have significant, direct and meaningful social impact.

Include societal benefits in the design of your products: As a CTO or technology founder, you can help ensure that societal benefits are prioritized in your product roadmaps. For example, if you’re a fintech CTO, you can add product features to expand access to credit in underserved populations. Startups like LoanWell are on a mission to increase access to capital for those typically left out of the financial system and make the loan origination process more efficient and equitable.

When thinking about product design, a product needs to be as useful and effective as it is sustainable. By thinking about sustainability and societal impact as a core element of product innovation, there is an opportunity to differentiate yourself in socially beneficial ways. For example, Lush has been a pioneer of package-free solutions, and launched Lush Lens — a virtual package app leveraging cameras on mobile phones and AI to overlay product information. The company hit 2 million scans in its efforts to tackle the beauty industry’s excessive use of (plastic) packaging.

Responsible AI practices should be ingrained in the culture to avoid social harms: Machine learning and artificial intelligence have become central to the advanced, personalized digital experiences everyone is accustomed to — from product and content recommendations to spam filtering, trend forecasting and other “smart” behaviors.

It is therefore critical to incorporate responsible AI practices, so benefits from AI and ML can be realized by your entire user base and that inadvertent harm can be avoided. Start by establishing clear principles for working with AI responsibly, and translate those principles into processes and procedures. Think about AI responsibility reviews the same way you think about code reviews, automated testing and UX design. As a technical leader or founder, you get to establish what the process is.

Impact governance

Promoting governance does not stop with the board and CEO; CTOs play an important role, too.

Create a diverse and inclusive technology team: Compared to individual decision-makers, diverse teams make better decisions 87% of the time. Additionally, Gartner research found that in a diverse workforce, performance improves by 12% and intent to stay by 20%.

It is important to reinforce and demonstrate why diversity, equity and inclusion is important within a technology team. One way you can do this is by using data to inform your DEI efforts. You can establish a voluntary internal program to collect demographics, including gender, race and ethnicity, and this data will provide a baseline for identifying diversity gaps and measuring improvements. Consider going further by baking these improvements into your employee performance process, such as objectives and key results (OKRs). Make everyone accountable from the start, not just HR.

These are just a few of the ways CTOs and technology leaders can contribute to ESG progress in their companies. The first step, however, is to recognize the many ways you as a technology leader can make an impact from day one.

Industrial cybersecurity startup Nozomi Networks secures $100M in pre-IPO funding

Nozomi Networks, an industry cybersecurity startup that aims to shield critical infrastructure from cyberattacks, has raised $100 million in pre-IPO funding. 

The Series D funding round was led by Triangle Peak Partners, and also includes investment from a number of equipment, security, service provider and go-to-market companies including Honeywell Ventures, Keysight Technologies and Porsche Digital. 

This funding comes at a critical time for the company. Cyberattacks on industrial control systems (ICS) — the devices necessary for the continued running of power plants, water supplies, and other critical infrastructure — increased both in frequency and severity during the pandemic. Look no further than May and June, which saw ransomware attacks target the IT networks of Colonial Pipeline and meat manufacturing giant JBS, forcing the companies to shut down their industrial operations.

Nozomi Networks, which competes with Dragos and Claroty, claims its industrial cybersecurity solution, which works to secure ICS devices by detecting threats before they hit, aims to prevent such attacks from happening. It provides real-time visibility to help organizations manage cyber risk and improve resilience for industrial operations.

The technology currently supports more than a quarter of a million devices in sectors such as critical infrastructure, energy, manufacturing, mining, transportation, and utilities, with Nozomi Networks doubling its customer base in 2020 and seeing a 5,000% increase in the number of devices its solutions monitor. 

The company will use its latest investment, which comes less than two years after it secured $30 million in Series C funding, to scale product development efforts as well as its go-to-market approach globally. 

Specifically, Nozomi Networks said it plans to grow its sales, marketing, and partner enablement efforts, and upgrade its products to address new challenges in both the OT and IoT visibility and security markets. 

A Tesla Megapack caught fire at the Victorian Big Battery facility in Australia

A 13-tonne Tesla Megapack caught fire on Friday morning at a battery storage facility in south-east Australia. The blaze occurred during testing at between 10 and 10.15am local time, according to Victorian Big Battery. The regional fire service said a specialist fire crew had been dispatched to the site in Geelong, Victoria. Firefighters were using a hazmat appliance designed for hazardous chemical spills and specialist drones to conduct atmospheric monitoring, according to Fire Rescue Victoria.

The site was evacuated and there were no injuries, Victorian Big Battery said in a statement. It added that the site had been disconnected from the power grid and that there will be no impact to the electric supply. French energy company Neoen, which operates the facility, and contractor Tesla are working with emergency services to manage the situation.

As a result of the fire, a warning for toxic smoke has been issued in the nearby Batesford, Bell Post Hill, Lovely Banks and Moorabool areas, reports The Sydney Morning Herald. Residents were warned to move indoors, close windows, vents and fireplace flues and bring their pets inside.

The Victorian Big Battery site, a 300 MW/450 MWh battery storage facility, is viewed as key to the Victorian government’s 50 percent renewable energy target by 2030. It follows the success of Neoen and Tesla’s 100 MW/129 MWh battery farm in Hornsdale in South Australia, which was completed ahead of schedule and has resulted in multi-million dollar savings for market players and consumers. Both sites essentially provide a regional power backup for when renewable energy is not available, effectively filling the gap when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing.

In February, Neoen announced that the Victorian Big Battery would utliize Tesla’s megapacks — utility-sized batteries produced at the company’s Gigafactory — and Autobidder software to sell power to the grid. Victorian Big Battery has a contract with the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO). As part of the pact, the site will provide energy stability by unlocking an additional 250 MW of peak capacity on the existing Victoria to New South Wales Interconnector over the next decade of Australian summers.

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on Engadget.

Tesla’s solar and energy storage business rakes in $810M, finally exceeds cost of revenue

Tesla’s primary source of revenue comes from the sale of its electric vehicles, but its latest quarterly earnings report showed growth in its energy storage and solar business.

The demand picture will get even sunnier for the division if the company can access enough chips for its energy storage products, according to Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

Tesla on Monday reported $801 million in revenue from its energy generation and storage business — which includes three main products: solar, its Powerwall storage device for homes and businesses, and its utility storage unit Megapack — but that’s just a sliver of the nearly $12 billion in total revenue. Small as it is, the division is selling more energy storage and solar. Revenue from this division grew 62% from the previous quarter and more than 116% from the same quarter in 2020. Tesla doesn’t separate solar and energy storage revenue.

More importantly, the cost of revenue for its solar and energy storage business was $781 million, meaning that for the first time the total cost of producing and distributing these energy storage products was lower than the revenue it generated. That’s good news.

As one might expect, total deployments also rose. Tesla installed 1,274 megawatt-hours of energy storage in the second quarter of 2021, a 205% increase from the same period last year. Similarly, the amount of solar energy deployed in the second quarter of this year was 85 MWh, up 214% from Q2 2020. As a side note: Tesla’s total solar and energy storage deployments were essentially flat when comparing Q2 2019 and Q2 2020 numbers, likely due to the pandemic’s general halting of business.

The important nugget is revenue growth. In 2019, Tesla reported $369 million in revenue from solar and storage. Revenue was stagnant in Q2 2020, with $370 million from that business. This quarter was more than double what Tesla brought in during the same quarters of 2019 and 2020.

What changed? Besides COVID-19, Tesla points to several Megapack projects coming online and growing popularity in its combined solar and Powerwall product. (Tesla no longer allows customers to order Powerwall without a solar installation.) According to a configurator on Tesla’s website, one Megapack is about $1.2 million before taxes. In some states, Tesla says the earliest deliveries will be in 2023.

Tesla’s energy storage business is facing headwinds, however. Musk said demand for both the Megapack and the Powerwall both exceed supply, and a backlog is growing. The company is unable to meet that demand because of the global chip shortage, he said.

Tesla uses the same chips in its Powerwall as it does in its vehicles, and Musk said vehicles are the priority while supply is low.

“As that significant shortage is alleviated, then we can massively ramp up Powerwall production,” Musk said during an earnings call. “I think we have a chance of hitting an annualized rate of a million units of Powerwall next year — maybe, on the order of 20,000 a week. Again dependent on cell supply and semiconductors. … As the world transitions to a sustainable energy production, solar and wind are intermittent, and by their nature really need battery packs in order to provide a steady flow of electricity. And when you look at all the utilities in the world, this is a vast amount of backup batteries that are needed.”

Musk said in the long term, Tesla and other suppliers would need to produce a combined 1,000 to 2,000 gigawatt-hours per year in order to keep up with energy storage demands. Musk said the company has asked its cell suppliers to double their supply in 2022, a goal that Musk caveated would be dependent on supply chain issues. The company’s current strategy is to overshoot cell supply and route it outward to its energy storage products, but as in the case of chip shortages, vehicle production would be prioritized, according to Musk.

Battery cell plans

While much of the battery cell discussion focused on its 4680 cell that is in development, Musk also touched on Tesla’s intentions to power some of its products with cheaper lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) batteries. Specifically, he said there’s a good chance that all stationary storage could move to iron-based batteries and away from nickel-manganese-cobalt (NMC) and nickel-cobalt-aluminum batteries.

“I think probably will see a shift, my guess is probably to two-thirds iron, one-third nickel,” Musk said of Tesla’s plans. “And this is actually good because there’s quite a bit of iron in the world, an insane amount of iron. But there’s much less nickel and there’s way less cobalt.”

The one-third of batteries that will remain nickel-based will be used for its longer-range electric vehicles. All of its other EVs would also move to LFP batteries, which is already the case in its vehicles assembled in China.

Leap, a ‘social learning’ platform aimed at over 55s, raises a $3.1M Seed round

Leap, a platform for people over 55 to learn via social interaction, has raised $3.1M funding in a seed round led by European early-stage investor Creandum, and SF-based South Park Commons. Also participating was Learn Start/Learn Capital, alongside angels Michelle Kennedy (Peanut founder), Sahil Lavingia, and Tim Tuttle.

Leap members gather online to collectively “learn, connect and grow together,” says the company, via small online groups built around shared interests. Users connect over audio and video, in groups of between five and ten. The current beta features conversations and classes hosted by specially recruited members.

Leap was founded by Swedish entrepreneur Caroline Ingeborn, former CEO of Toca Boca, a Swedish app development studio that builds learning apps for kids, and Vishal Kapur, former CTO and co-founder of Screenhero, which was acquired by Slack in 2015. The two founders met through South Park Commons, an intentional learning community that practices many of the concepts applied in Leap.


In a statement, Caroline Ingeborn said: “When I looked at other online offerings created for this demographic, I didn’t feel that they particularly encouraged meaningful connections. Groups described as ‘small’ were often bursting at the seams, and experiences often felt flimsy and random. In most instances, it felt like we were all just alone, together. It motivated me to create something far more tailored and intimate.”

Fredrik Cassel, General Partner at Creandum: “Leap is targeting an interesting segment of society: retirees – the wealthiest and fastest-growing demographic who have been largely overlooked by tech developers. It is a generation of people with considerable time, energy, and spending power that have smartphones at their fingertips. The diverse founding team convinced us with their determination and unique experiences to build a product that is truly engaging.”