Tesla and SolarCity CEO Elon Musk's today announced a deal to acquire Silevo, a solar panel firm based in Silicon Valley. Musk explained the decision in a blog post:
SolarCity was founded to accelerate mass adoption of sustainable energy. The sun, that highly convenient and free fusion reactor in the sky, radiates more energy to the Earth in a few hours than the entire human population consumes from all sources in a year. This means that solar panels, paired with batteries to enable power at night, can produce several orders of magnitude more electricity than is consumed by the entirety of human civilization. [Solar City]
To get there, though, solar energy needs two things — both of which Musk wants to address himself. First, mass energy storage. The sun shines when it's sunny. Storage is necessary for cloudy days and nights. Musk is addressing this with the Tesla Gigafactory, mass battery-manufacturing facilities that Musk projects will drive down lithium-ion battery costs 30 percent in the first year alone. And second, solar needs economies of scale. That's why Musk has acquired Silevo, with the intention to build Gigafactories for solar panel manufacturing:
We are in discussions with the state of New York to build the initial manufacturing plant, continuing a relationship developed by the Silevo team. At a targeted capacity greater than 1 GW within the next two years, it will be one of the single largest solar panel production plants in the world. This will be followed in subsequent years by one or more significantly larger plants at an order of magnitude greater annual production capacity. [Solar City]
But that's just the start:
Even if the solar industry were only to generate 40 percent of the world’s electricity with photovoltaics by 2040, that would mean installing more than 400 GW of solar capacity per year for the next 25 years. We absolutely believe that solar power can and will become the world’s predominant source of energy within our lifetimes, but there are obviously a lot of panels that have to be manufactured and installed in order for that to happen. The plans we are announcing today, while substantial compared to current industry, are small in that context. [Solar City]
Of course, solar energy costs were rapidly falling even before this. But this kind of focused project is likely to keep that momentum going for a while yet. It is looking more and more likely that we will soon live in a world where renewable energy is cheaper than fossil fuels. John Aziz
A massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal Saturday, leveling historic structures, causing widespread damage, and killing at least 1,457.
The quake struck around noon about 50 miles from the capital, Kathmandu. The death toll is expected to rise as rescuers pick through the rubble in search of survivors.
"We never imagined that we would face such devastation," Minister of Information and Communications Minendra Rijal said.
The quake also triggered a fatal avalanche on Mount Everest that killed at least a dozen climbers while injuring or trapping several more. From Romanian climber Alex Gavan:
Huge disaster.Helped searched and rescued victims through huge debris area.Many dead.Much more badly injured.More to die if not heli asap.
— Alex Gavan (@AlexGAVAN) April 25, 2015
The U.S. said it would send a disaster response team and pledged $1 million in aid. Jon Terbush
An internal review of NBC anchorman Brian Williams' reporting has found several more alleged exaggerations, according to multiple reports. The New York Times on Friday reported NBC found a half-dozen such instances; CNN and The Washington Post later upped the tally to 10 and 11, respectively.
In February, NBC suspended Williams as it launched an investigation following his apology for embellishing details of his wartime reporting from Iraq. When completed, the investigation is expected to form the basis of NBC's decision to keep or cut ties with Williams. Jon Terbush
President Obama and Bill Nye sat down Friday for an Earth Day chat in the Everglades where they discussed America's lagging interest in, and understanding of, science.
After discussing ways to get American kids excited about science again, the conversation turned to Washington's inability to reach a consensus on climate change. And on that front, Obama lamented the way some lawmakers are "being part of the climate-denier clubs and basically stiff-arming what we know are facts — and not rebutting them with other facts, but rebutting them with anecdote or just being dismissive."
'"Oh, I'm not a scientist,'" Nye chimed in, mocking the standard defense climate change skeptics employ when pressed on their beliefs. —Jon Terbush
A massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked Nepal on Saturday, causing substantial damage and killing at least 1,000 people, according to government estimates. Via the BBC, here's some footage of the quake and the immediate aftermath. —Jon Terbush
Hawaii on Friday passed a bill that would raise the legal smoking age to 21 while also banning the sale and purchase of electronic cigarettes for anyone under that age limit. If Democratic Gov. David Ige signs the bill — he has yet to indicate whether he will — Hawaii would become the first state in the nation to raise its smoking age to 21.
"The activities we've engaged in over the years to manage smoking — our additional efforts in education, the raising of cigarette taxes — this is a continuation of those policies," Democratic state Senator Rosalyn Baker told Reuters. Jon Terbush
Baltimore's police commissioner on Friday conceded that officers made mistakes in their handling of Freddie Gray, the unarmed black man who died last weekend of a severe spinal injury while in custody.
"We know that police employees failed to get him medical attention in a timely manner," Commissioner Anthony Batts said, adding that 30 investigators are probing the incident.
"If someone harmed Freddie Gray, we will have to prosecute him," Batts said.
As they have all week, demonstrators took to Baltimore's streets Friday to protest the incident. Jon Terbush
After a 40th anniversary screening of the cult classic Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the five surviving members of the Monty Python comedy troupe — John Cleese, Michael Palin, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, and Terry Jones — reunited live on stage on Friday for a special Q&A at the Tribeca Film Festival.
The Q&A was moderated by Last Week Tonight host John Oliver, a longtime Monty Python fan who quickly embraced the anarchic spirit of the evening. As he asked the panel about their career-long commitment to a "healthy disregard for authority," John Cleese wandered around the stage, grabbed Oliver's question sheet, and stuffed his microphone into his mouth, as the rest of the Monty Python members repeatedly switched seats in an impromptu game of musical chairs.
When the Monty Python members did settle down, they spoke engagingly (and often coarsely) on a wide variety of subjects, including the filming of Holy Grail, their 2014 series of live shows at London's 02 stadium, and the state of comedy in general. "I think we don't talk enough about this awful political correctness," complained Cleese. "I do a lot of… I don't know if they're really racist jokes, but jokes like, 'Why do the French have so many civil wars? Answer: Because they like to win one now and again."
"I used to do these jokes, and then I would say, 'There were these two Mexicans,' and the room would freeze. And I would say, 'Why's everybody gone quiet? We did jokes about Swedes, and Germans, and Canadians, and the French. What's the problem about the Mexicans? Are they not big enough to look after themselves?' I find a lot of that very condescending."
The group also recalled the 1989 funeral of deceased Monty Python member Graham Chapman, during which Cleese delivered a legendarily irreverent eulogy. "Graham's whole ceremony was like that, because we were laughing and then crying, and then laughing and crying. It was as though the emotion was sort of flowing through us, instead of getting blocked, like it usually does in England," said Cleese. "When I was writing it, I got that idea, and I thought, 'No, I can't do that.' And then I thought, 'That's exactly what Graham would like.' Because one thing Graham could not stand was what he called mindless good taste."
John Oliver brought the evening to a close by praising Monty Python one last time. "We've established there's nothing less funny than sincerity, but you're the f----ing greatest," he said, to an enthusiastic standing ovation. Scott Meslow