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Tackling Climate Change with Machine Learning

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

Climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing humanity, and we, as machine learning experts, may wonder how we can help. Here we describe how machine learning can be a powerful tool in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and helping society adapt to a changing climate. From smart grids to disaster management, we identify high impact problems where existing gaps can be filled by machine learning, in collaboration with other fields. Our recommendations encompass exciting research questions as well as promising business opportunities. We call on the machine learning community to join the global effort against climate change.


Obama fostered big changes in energy, cuts in pollution but did so quietly

The Japan Times

HANGZHOU, CHINA – Mostly unnoticed amid the political brawl over climate change, the United States has undergone a quiet transformation in how and where it gets its energy during Barack Obama's presidency, slicing the nation's output of polluting gases that are warming Earth. As politicians tangled in the U.S. and on the world stage, the U.S. slowly but surely moved away from emissions-spewing coal and toward cleaner fuels like natural gas, nuclear, wind and solar. The shift has put the U.S. closer to achieving the goal Obama set to cut emissions by more than a quarter over the next 15 years, but experts say it is nowhere near enough to prevent the worst effects of global warming. The overlooked changes took center stage Saturday in China. Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping entered the world's two worst polluters into a historic agreement to ratchet down heat-trapping pollution.


SoftBank Vision Fund and Saudi Arabia to create world's largest solar power firm

The Japan Times

NEW YORK/RIYADH – SoftBank Group Corp.'s Vision Fund will invest in a solar-power generation company in Saudi Arabia, creating the world's biggest solar producer, as it steps up its involvement in the kingdom, its chief executive said Tuesday. The project is expected to have the capacity to produce up to 200 gigawatts (GW) by 2030, SoftBank's CEO Masayoshi Son told reporters in New York. That would add to around 400 GW of globally installed power capacity and is comparable to the world's total nuclear power capacity of around 390 GW as of the end of 2016. The initial phase of the project for 7.2 GW of solar capacity will cost $5 billion, with $1 billion coming from SoftBank's Vision Fund and the rest from project financing, Son said. The final investment total for the 200 GW of generation, including the solar panels, battery storage and a manufacturing facility for panels in Saudi Arabia, will eventually total around $200 billion, he said.


California's wildfire threat could be an opportunity for clean-energy microgrids

Los Angeles Times

To the untrained eye, the shipping containers clustered on the outskirts of Borrego Springs don't look like an innovative clean-energy technology that could help California cope with wildfires. But these containers, in the remote desert of eastern San Diego County, are packed with lithium-ion batteries -- and they're part of one of the world's most advanced microgrids. It combines solar panels, diesel generators, energy storage and something called an ultracapacitor to power Borrego Springs, even when electricity isn't flowing through the single transmission line that connects the town to the main power grid. "I believe this is the only microgrid in the world that does what this does," said Steven Prsha, an engineer for San Diego Gas & Electric, as he wrapped up a tour last month. The technology SDG&E is demonstrating in this rural town could serve as a lifeline to homes and businesses in fire-prone areas.


Green power runs up against desert conservation in California

Los Angeles Times

California lawmakers' grand ambitions to fight climate change are running into a familiar obstacle: the parochial concerns of local governments and property owners. The latest battle over state needs vs. local control is being fought in San Bernardino County, where the Board of Supervisors voted last month to ban solar and wind farms across vast stretches of rural desert communities. The decision was cheered by residents who have complained that the proliferation of large renewable energy projects threatened to wipe out their scenic vistas and upend the fragile desert ecosystem. San Bernardino County's ban comes just as California is supposed to be dramatically ramping up its renewable energy usage as part of the state's effort to slash the carbon emissions that promote climate change. Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill requiring utility companies to get 60% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030, and 100% from zero-carbon sources by 2045.