Kurzweil 20170929 - Intel’s new ‘Loihi’ chip mimics neurons and synapses in the human brain
Intel announced this week a self-learning, energy-efficient neuromorphic (brain-like) research chip codenamed “Loihi”* that mimics how the human brain functions. The chip automatically gets smarter over time and doesn’t need to be trained in the traditional way. He sees applications in areas that would benefit from autonomous operation and continuous learning in an unstructured environment, such as automotive, industrial, and personal-robotics areas.

more: https://newsroom.intel.com/editorials/intels-new-self-learning-chip-promises-accelerate-artificial-intelligence/
Intel  Loihi  machine_learning  neural_networks 
september 2017
KurzweilAI 20170327 - Musk launches company to pursue ‘neural lace’ brain-interface technology
Elon Musk has launched a California-based company called Neuralink Corp.

Neural lace would help prevent humans from becoming “house cats” to AI, he suggests. “I think one of the solutions that seems maybe the best is to add an AI layer,” Musk hinted at the Code Conference last year. It would be a “digital layer above the cortex that could work well and symbiotically with you.
Elon_Musk  neural_lace  Neuralink  AI 
april 2017
TechCrunch 20170125 - Elon Musk could soon share more on his plan to help humans keep up with AI
"The fundamental limitation is input/output. We’re already a cyborg, I mean you have a digital or partial version of yourself in the form of your emails and your social media and all the things that you do and you have basically superpowers with your computer and your phone and the applications that are there. You have more power than the president of the united states had 20 years ago. you can answer any question, you can videoconference with anyone anywhere, you can send a message to anyone instantly, you can just do incredible things. But the constraint is input/output. We’re I/O bound – particularly output bound. Your output level is so low, particularly on a phone, your two thumbs sort of tapping away. This is ridiculously slow. Our input is much better because we have a high-bandwidth visual interface to the brain, our eyes take in a lot of data. So there’s many orders of magnitude difference between input and output. Effectively merging in a symbiotic way with digital intelligence revolves around eliminating the I/O constraint, which would be some sort of direct cortical interface […] a neural lace."
Elon_Musk  AI  neural_lace 
january 2017
Reuters 20160418 - UBS blamed in U.S. trial for $2.1 billion in mortgage bond losses
UBS AG went to trial on Monday over $2.1 billion in losses that investors incurred on mortgage-backed securities after the collapse of the U.S. housing market.

Sean Baldwin, the trusts' lawyer, in his opening statement said UBS contractually agreed that the mortgages underlying those securities would meet certain standards. When pervasive defects emerged, the bank refused to buy them back, he said. Baldwin said UBS failed to vet the loans, which it acquired from "shady" lenders that later failed.

Thomas Nolan, a lawyer for UBS, told U.S. District Judge Kevin Castel that the trusts' lawyers were looking at the loans with a "hindsight bias," and the question was whether the loans were seen as defective when they were issued in 2006 and 2007.

The lawsuit follows a related action against UBS by bond insurer Assured Guaranty Ltd over the same mortgage backed securities. UBS in 2013 agreed to pay $358 million to Assured, which was represented by the same lawyers as the three trusts.

According to the lawsuit, 17,082 loans were pooled into three trusts that issued securities entitling investors to payments made by borrowers.

The case is Mastr Adjustable Rate Mortgages Trust 2006-OA2 et al v. UBS Real Estate Securities Inc, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 12-07322.
UBS  MBS  Assured_Guaranty  banks 
april 2016
Bankier 20160401 - Bank BPH będzie prowadził w Polsce działalność hipoteczną i zatrudniał około 150 osób
Bank BPH, po nabyciu przez Alior Bank jego podstawowej działalności, będzie prowadził w Polsce działalność hipoteczną i będzie zatrudniał około 150 osób.

Po podziale w BPH pozostanie działalność hipoteczna, która będzie obejmowała portfel kredytów hipotecznych Banku BPH (w szczególności wszelkie kredyty hipoteczne w polskiej walucie i innych walutach udzielone na rzecz osób fizycznych na cele mieszkaniowe), zobowiązania finansowe wobec podmiotów z grupy GE oraz inne aktywa i pasywa związane z powyższym portfelem kredytów hipotecznych.

[ BPH = PLN 32.11 ]
banks  BPH  GE  kredyty_frankowe 
april 2016
Gazeta 20160401 - Alior Bank przejmuje Bank BPH
Należący do PZU Alior Bank podpisał wstępną umowę zakupu podstawowej działalności Banku BPH od General Electric za 1,225 miliarda złotych.

Alior nabędzie podstawową działalność Banku BPH. GE zachowa portfel kredytów hipotecznych w złotych i walutach obcych o wartości 3,9 miliarda dolarów (ok. 16 mld zł, w tym 12 mld zł w walutach obcych) oraz BPH Towarzystwo Funduszy Inwestycyjnych (aktywa <3 mld zł).

Nabycie działalności Banku BPH zostanie sfinansowane poprzez emisję nowych akcji, z zachowaniem prawa poboru na rzecz obecnych akcjonariuszy Alior Banku.

Zamknięcie transakcji, której przeprowadzenie uzależnione jest między innymi od uzyskania zgód Komisji Nadzoru Finansowego (KNF) oraz Urzędu Ochrony Konkurencji i Konsumentów (UOKiK), planowane jest na czwarty kwartał 2016 roku.

Po połączeniu aktywa Alior Banku osiągną poziom około 60 miliardów złotych, co da mu dziewiąte miejsce w polskim sektorze bankowym.

Około 30% akcji Alior Banku posiada PZU.

[ ALR = PLN 67.83 ]
Alior_Bank  PZU  banks  kredyty_frankowe  GE  BPH 
april 2016
Reuters 20160401 - Tesla unveils $35,000-Model 3 with range of 215 miles
On March 31st, 2016 Tesla unveiled Model 3. The vehicle will go into production in 2017 at a starting price of $35,000. More than 130,000 ordered the car.

Tesla plans to sell 500,000 cars per year by 2020.

GM is on track to beat Tesla to the market with its Chevrolet Bolt electric car, which GM says will launch late this year, offering about 200 miles of electric driving range and a starting price of around $35,000.

A new generation of Nissan Motor Co's Leaf electric car is also expected to offer more driving range at a similar price.

Tesla cars in production:

- Roadster - prototypes introduced in July 2006, production started in March 2008, about 2,450 cars sold
- Model S - introduced in June 2012, more than 100,000 sold till December 2015
- Model X - introduced in Februrary 2012, production began in 2015, in 2015Q4 Tesla produced 507 units

[ TSLA = $229.77 ]
Tesla  automotive  electric_vehicle  Elon_Musk 
april 2016
Strefa Inwestorów 20150916 - Analiza IPO InPost S.A. Czy warto kupić akcje debiutującej spółki?
Zapisy od 16. września.

Maksymalna cena ustalona na 33 zł przy P/E 23.70 (cena w debiucie - 13. października - wyniesie 25 zł).

...spółka wiąże nadzieje z intensywnym rozwojem rynku e-commerce (wzrost około 20% rocznie). Coraz więcej korzysta się ze sklepów wysyłkowych i to właśnie w dostarczaniu paczek spółka widzi największy potencjał rozwoju. Zarząd nie obawia się też nowej konkurencji, gdyż bariery wejścia na rynek są bardzo duże i nowym podmiotom trudno będzie objąć zasięgiem cały kraj.

Najważniejszym ryzykiem jest możliwość utraty kontraktu na obsługę pocztową sądów i prokuratur. Poprzedni kontrakt został podpisany na dwa lata przez Polską Grupę Pocztową (obecnie jest to spółka zależna od InPost S.A.) w grudniu 2013 r. W 2014 roku przesyłki z tego kontraktu stanowiły 38% wolumenu operacji pocztowych.
InPost  Integer.pl  GPW  IPO 
october 2015
FT 20141013 - Bill Ackman’s Pershing Square fizzles on IPO
Shares in hedge fund activist Bill Ackman’s Pershing Square Holdings sank nearly 11 per cent on their stock exchange debut on Monday, dashing his hopes that the market would quickly put a premium valuation on his investing acumen.

By the end of the day, the Amsterdam-listed shares in the closed-end fund – whose holdings reflect those of Mr Ackman’s main US hedge fund – had settled at a 9.9 per cent discount to their net asset value.


In the event, the market’s first day view of Pershing Square compares unfavourably to the 3.6 per cent discount investors currently put on Third Point Offshore Investors, which is run by US activist Dan Loeb and listed in London.

UK-based hedge fund Brevan Howard also runs two listed funds, BH Macro and BH Global, which trade at discounts to their net asset value of 5.2 per cent and 9.9 per cent respectively.


Pershing Square sold $2.73bn of shares in the initial public offering, having originally said it would raise $2bn. The shares were priced at $25 in the IPO but closed at $22.
Pershing_Square  hedge_funds  Bill_Ackman 
april 2015
FT 20150114 - Switzerland unveils draft laws to dismantle bank secrecy
Switzerland’s tradition of bank secrecy, which dates back to the 1930s, has come under mounting international pressure since the financial crisis, as cash-strapped countries around the world try to crack down on tax evasion.

After initially resisting pressure to change its laws, Switzerland has switched tack. In 2013, it signed up to an international convention that sets out the framework for countries to assist each other with requests for tax information. Last year it signed up to an international agreement on automatic information exchange.

In Bern on Wednesday, the government launched a three-month consultation period on two bills that would allow Switzerland to fulfil these international agreements.

As things stand, Switzerland only shares information about foreigners holding offshore accounts in Switzerland if it receives a valid request for information from a foreign tax authority.

If the government’s proposals become law, Switzerland will “spontaneously” inform foreign tax authorities if it comes across information that could be of interest to them — such as property ownership.

On top of this, it will also automatically exchange some information — including an account holder’s name and bank balance, and data about interest and dividend income — with some foreign tax authorities. However, Switzerland has yet to decide with which countries such information sharing will occur.

After the consultations, which run until April 21, are completed, the final proposals must be put before the Swiss parliament, where they could face opposition from some parties. They could also be subject to a popular referendum.

The government said that it hoped that the parliament could discuss the proposals in the autumn, and that this meant that “the legal foundations could come into force from the beginning of 2017, even with a possible referendum. The first automatic exchange of information would then take place in 2018”.
Switzerland  forex  USDCHF 
january 2015
Bloomberg 20150113 - Deutsche Bank Plans Fresh Strategy for Unloved Stock
The co-chief executive officers of Deutsche Bank AG gave a dim assessment of the revenue outlook yesterday in Frankfurt, a sign of the scale of the revamp they may have to undertake as they refresh their strategy by the end of June.

Deutsche Bank is weighing job cuts, winding down business lines at the investment bank and selling assets, including its Postbank consumer-lending unit in Germany, said a person with knowledge of the review who asked not to be identified. No decisions have been made, the person said. Deutsche Bank shares fell 33 percent in the past 12 months, the biggest decline among top global investment banks, as trading revenue decreased and litigation costs soared.

The “mixed outlook” for European growth as well as low interest rates and new regulation will probably continue to affect the company’s business.

Deutsche Bank is valued at about 34 billion euros, or 0.62 times its tangible book, indicating it’s worth less than investors should expect to receive if the company failed and liquidated its assets. That’s the lowest of the top nine global investment banks, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

[ DBK = EUR 24.19 ]
january 2015
Instiutional Investor 20141014 - Pershing Square IPO: Great for Ackman but Investors Have Questions
Pershing Square Holdings went public on the Euronext Amsterdam.

What the publicly traded closed-end fund does is allow Ackman the flexibility to have the courage of his convictions without having to worry that investors will get cold feet.Pershing Square Holdings' $3.07 billion in assets (which includes money that existing investors rolled into the new vehicle) is his to invest as he pleases. Investors in the holding company who don't like what Ackman is doing can sell their shares; they have daily liquidity.

Pershing Square Holdings also offers better fees than most hedge funds, including Pershing Square. According to the prospectus, investors in Pershing Square Holdings will pay a 1.5 percent management fee and a performance fee of up to 16 percent. Although Pershing Square's limited partners also pay a 1.5 percent management fee, they pay a 20 percent performance fee. What might really stick in their craw is that the more limited-partner money Pershing Square has, the less the holding company investors pay.
Bill_Ackman  Pershing_Square  hedge_funds 
january 2015
FT 20150104 - Investor rush to artificial intelligence is real deal
“Technologically, it’s a paradigm shift from putting commands into a box to a time when computers watch you and learn,” says Daniel Nadler, another of the AI hopefuls. His company, Kensho, raised $15m recently in pursuit of an ambitious goal: to train computers to replace expensive white-collar workers such as financial analysts.
“We don’t describe what we’re doing as AI — we call it, ‘automating human-intensive knowledge work’,” he says.

The latest AI dawn owes much to new programming techniques for approximating “intelligence” in machines. Foremost among these is machine learning, which involves training machines to identify patterns and make predictions by crunching vast amounts of data. But like other promising new ideas that inspire a rash of start-ups, there is a risk that many companies drawn to the field will struggle to find profitable uses for the technology.

“A lot of these AI platforms are like Swiss army knives,” says Tim Tuttle, chief executive of Expect Labs, which recently raised $13m. “They can do a lot of things, but it’s not clear what the high-value ones will be.”

Start-ups flocking to the field face some daunting competition. The biggest advances in AI are being made inside big tech groups such as Google, IBM and Facebook, which have invested heavily in the field. These companies are secretive about exactly how much they are committing to the technology, but have come out with public demonstrations that experts say show they are ahead: a Google test that identified cats from YouTube videos, a Facebook system called Deep Face that recognises pictures of people, and IBM’s question-answering system, Watson.

The basic uses for the technology fall into several different areas. Thanks to improved pattern recognition capabilities, identifying images — a notoriously hard problem for computers — has become far easier. Vicarious, one of the most ambitious companies in this area, recently raised $72m, after demonstrating that it can solve Captchas, the visual puzzles that are used by websites to distinguish humans from computers.

The same technology is also being used to help computers “understand” language — a problem known as natural language recognition. That is one of the techniques behind systems such as IBM’s Watson, which queries large bodies of information to arrive at a most likely answer.

A third popular use rests on trying to identify relevance — whether that means personalising online content and other recommendations, or more effectively targeting advertising.

As often with a promising new idea, some of the first applications have been in the financial markets, although the amount of money at stake makes those involved wary of talking.

“If your financial application works, why disclose it and arbitrage it away?” says Babak Hodjat, ‎chief scientist of Sentient Technologies. His company draws massive computing power from data centres to run full-blown simulations of financial markets: by applying “evolutionary algorithms” that try to learn from how markets react in different circumstances, it hopes to develop models for predicting how they will behave in future.

The most attractive industries are those with large volumes of data to crunch and high-value problems to solve, such as healthcare, insurance and ecommerce, Sentient says. Computer security and fraud detection are also high on the list of many AI companies.

There are other costs in making the technology functional in real-world applications, says Mr Purpura at Context Relevant: “The real battle isn’t being fought over the underlying machine learning technology, it’s in building support systems to make it usable.” These ancillary technologies include the data “pipes” needed to funnel large amounts of information, he says, as well as control systems needed to make sure AI operates within acceptable business parameters.
AI  machine_learning  Google  IBM  Facebook 
january 2015
NYT DealBlog 20141124 - A Bearish Hedge Fund Bets Against the Bulls and Still Profits
Universa Investments, a hedge fund founded by Mark Spitznagel, is one of the few firms that is set up with the aim of making money in an economic and financial collapse. In the market turmoil of 2008, Mr. Spitznagel earned large returns.

Universa is saying that its investment strategy has been able to produce consistent gains since then, including a 30 percent return last year, according to firm materials that were reviewed by The New York Times. In comparison, the benchmark Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index in 2013 had a return of 32 percent with dividends reinvested.

In previous media reports, Mr. Spitznagel seemed content with descriptions that his fund had small losses each year as he wagered against the market. The recent fund materials that contain the positive numbers may be marketing materials aimed at selling a type of financial catastrophe insurance to investors who are getting jittery about the stock markets’ gravity-defying rise. The materials show how bearish bets could be paired with broad holdings of stocks — and still produce gains.

The Universa strategy has produced gains of 10 percent this year, slightly less than the stock market overall [S&P500 YTD = 11.86%]. It’s been up every year since 2008, according to the materials.

The footnotes of the materials state that the performance numbers are hypothetical — and may differ from actual results. Universa manages money for clients in separate accounts that may differ from one another.

Universa seems to be saying that its catastrophe insurance is comparatively cheap.

The Universa marketing materials say that its strategy would theoretically result in a 16 percent gain if the S.&P. 500 fell 30 percent.
hedge_funds  Universa  black_swan  risk_management  Mark_Spitznagel 
november 2014
The Guardian 20121221 - Herbalife CEO accused of running 'Ponzi scheme'
America's highest-paid chief executive has been accused of duping some of the world's poorest people out of $3.8bn (£2.4bn) in "the best managed pyramid scheme in the history of the world".

Michael Johnson has been accused of misleadingly implying that his Herbalife empire of self-employed salespeople could all become millionaires selling dieting supplements door-to-door.

Bill Ackman, an activist investor, said he had made it his "patriotic" duty to bring the company down. He claims that 1.9 million Herbalife salespeople from Arizona to Zambia have failed to make money since the company was founded 32 years ago. Each recruit would have paid about $2,000 for supplies and training, which Ackman said meant they had collectively lost $3.8bn.

Last year, Johnson earned $89m.
Herbalife  Pershing_Square  Bill_Ackman  hedge_funds 
july 2014
Financial Post 20140722 - Herbalife Ltd shares soar after Bill Ackman misfires on ‘death blow’
Billionaire investor William Ackman’s latest volley of accusations against Herbalife fell flat on Wall Street on Tuesday, with shares in the nutrition company soaring more than 17%.

Ackman, whose hedge fund Pershing Square Capital Management placed a US$1 billion bet that Herbalife will go bust under regulatory scrutiny, told a conference of investors in New York that the firm’s recruiting methods violate U.S. labor laws by employing drinks makers and babysitters without pay.

He has previously said Herbalife is running a pyramid scheme in the United States and China in which distributors are paid more for finding new recruits than for selling products to end-users – a charge the company has vehemently denied.
Herbalife  Bill_Ackman  hedge_funds  Pershing_Square 
july 2014
ZeroHedge 20140722 - Ackman Has 6 Months Left To Come Up With The Devastating-est HLF Presentation Ever
Bill Ackman's "most important presentation of his career" is not going so well. The 'Death Blow' expectations Ackman created yesterday (that sent the stock down 13%) have been entirely wiped away as a 2-hour presentation, 100s of slides, and nothing really new sent stocks 16% [23%] higher today... It appears time is running out for Mr. Ackman as his massive put position (bleeding value every day that passes) is set to expire in six months... [2015-01-17]

[HLF = $66.65]
Herbalife  Bill_Ackman  Pershing_Square  hedge_funds 
july 2014
FT 20140629 - Hedge fund correlation risk alarms investors
Hedge funds’ correlation with the equity market has risen back to pre-financial crisis highs, raising fears that the $2.7tn industry could again suffer sharp losses in the event of a market slide.

Data compiled by AQR show the three-year rolling correlation of the HFRI Fund Weighted Composite index, a broad industry measure, with equity markets is at a near-record high of 0.93, comfortably above the highs seen before the financial crisis.

Other industry measures suggest correlations are a little lower, at around 0.84, although this is still well above historic norms.

The hedge fund industry’s correlation with equity markets rose sharply in the two years leading up to the financial crisis, and was widely blamed for the 20 per cent losses suffered in 2008, by far the sector’s worst ever year.
hedge_funds  correlation  AQR 
july 2014
Bloomberg 20131106 - Utilities in Pain Selling Renewable Assets at Record Rate
Wind farms and solar parks are changing hands at record rates, signaling both an increased taste for the assets among pension funds and hard times for utilities that are the biggest sellers.

Buyers from insurer Aviva Plc to Danish fund PFA Pension A/S are seeking yields averaging about 6 percent on wind and solar. Utilities such as France’s GDF Suez SA, Iberdrola SA of Spain and Dong Energy AS have unloaded plants to build cash cushions as power prices slumped and competition increased from independent generators.

For pension funds, the returns on renewable energy plants beat those for many government bonds and are backed by contracts to sell power at above-market prices. Ten-year government securities in the U.S. and U.K. are yielding about 2.6 percent.

GDF Suez, hurt by lower demand for gas-fired power in Europe, is cutting capacity in the region to contain costs and expanding into fast-growing economies in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. The French utility has also sold stakes in energy assets in countries including Portugal and Australia to lower debt.

RWE AG said in March it will cut renewable-energy investment by half from next year to reduce debt.

Iberdrola plans to sell 2 billion euros of assets by the end of 2014. Dong in June sold its onshore wind business to PFA Pension and energy company SE.

Iberdrola has already sold 1.1 billion euros of “non-core” assets since the start of 2012, including operating wind farms in France, Germany and Poland.
RES  Spain  Iberdrola  GDF_Suez  Dong_Energy  Denmark  RWE  Poland  Germany 
june 2014
CNN 20140512 - Meet the BAT, an airborne wind turbine
It's 35 feet wide, and inventors call it the BAT (buoyant airborne turbine).

It's an unmanned, helium-filled, cylindrical blimp wrapped around three spinning blades that turn wind into electricity.

Can the BAT, which stands for buoyant airborne turbine, help bring life-saving electricity to an estimated 1 billion people in rural areas where power is unavailable?

Altaeros Energies, launched four years ago by a group of MIT grads, hopes so. The young company is competing with Google and other outfits trying to bring the first viable airborne wind turbine to market.

Google's Makani turbine

The Makani Turbine got its name from the Hawaiian word for wind.

This turbine differs from the BAT because it flies more like an airplane. The plane has propellers on its wing and launches from a nearby ground station tower. While tethered to the tower, the Makani continuously circles in a vertical loop while it generates electricity. When it's finished, the Makani flies itself back to the tower.

Development of the Makani started with inflatable fabric kites. But five years ago, engineers switched to a more reliable rigid airframe made from lightweight carbon fiber.

The commercial turbine now under development has the wingspan of an airliner and the weight of a Mini Cooper, and it can withstand the G-forces of a fighter jet.
RES  wind_farms  USA  Altaeros_Energies  Google  EnerKite  PowerShip 
may 2014
treehuger 20140512 - Floating solar power to supply electricity for Singapore
Singapore may be the first to implement an actual floating solar farm.

Singapore has unique circumstances that make it a great candidate for early adoption of floating solar panels. It is an extremely dense country (#2 in terms of population density) with limited land and even rooftop space, but it has decent water resources on which to plop some solar panels.

It's Singapore's national water agency, the Public Utilities Board (PUB), that is planning to implement the floating solar power system (aka solar farm). The solar farm will be built on the Tengeh Reservoir and will complement rooftop solar power systems on Choa Chu Kang Waterworks that the PUB is also planning to install.
RES  photovoltaics  Singapore 
may 2014
Platts 20140506 - German April solar output up 16% at 3.7 TWh
German solar power output in April was 16% higher year on year and the highest since last August, while wind power output was 7% higher but continued its seasonal decline, according to data from elect...
RES  Germany  photovoltaics  wind_farms  from notes
may 2014
IBM Systems Magazine 201403 - Improved Weather Forecasting Could Boost the Efficiency of Renewable Energy Sources
Q: What data sources are used to power HyRef?
A: To have a far more precise and accurate weather forecast, you must have good input data, so we’re technically data scavengers. We use whatever data we can get our hands on, including real-time access to weather stations, some of which are operated by a diverse set of government agencies. But some of us have tried to be fairly clever about using data that isn’t ordinarily employed for driving weather forecasts. For example, we’re leveraging data from NASA spacecraft. They give us a lot of detailed information about the earth’s surface—such as temperatures, land use, soil types, terrain details—because characteristics of the surface greatly influence the weather.

There are also company-driven private networks that we partner with for data. Those networks exist to provide current conditions, but we’re using them as input into the model to improve forecasts.

For the HyRef deployment with wind farms in China [part of the world’s largest energy initiative combining wind and solar, which is sponsored by the State Grid Jibei Electricity Power Company Limited, a subsidiary of the State Grid Corporation of China] we introduced a very important innovation. In wind farms, particularly newer wind farms, the turbines themselves will have instrumentation. Some of the instrumentation are engineering sensors telling you what different parts of these complex machines are doing, but they also have meteorological sensors, which aren’t necessarily for forecasting weather. They’re there to monitor the performance of the turbines. One of the reasons these can’t ordinarily be used for forecasting is because these large devices have big, moving components—which are noisy—and any measurements are going to be highly contaminated. And then there’s the issue that the sensors are behind the blades, so the wind is coming in, turning the blades and extracting energy, and you’re not measuring the wind. You’re measuring what’s left of the wind, which isn’t going to tell you about the weather that’s coming into the farm.

So the innovation is to take the collection of data from these sensors in real time plus the number of turbines in a wind farm and then look at how they’re varying in time and in geography in order to remove the noise and the contamination to extract a signal about the incoming wind that drives the turbines. This provides better input into the weather model to potentially improve the forecast of the power.

Q: How quickly are forecast models made available?
A: There’s a computational component associated with this, and it requires a supercomputer to produce forecasts fast enough for them to be useful. If we’re trying to forecast a day ahead of time, we want to produce a forecast in an hour or less.
IBM  HyREF  RES  wind_farms  wind_forecasting  China  SGCC 
may 2014
TechReview 20130813 - Better Weather Analysis Could Lead to Cheaper Renewables
If a plant’s operators could more accurately forecast the output of renewable power sources, they’d have less reason to rely on energy storage, which is typically needed now to provide a smooth flow of power into the transmission grid. “In the industry, storage is seen as the next disruptive technology,” says Michael Valocchi, vice president in IBM’s energy and utilities consulting business. “(But) if I can really predict in this manner, it’s not that I don’t need storage, but it makes storage less important.”

Utilities often rely on specialized companies to produce wind and solar forecasts based on weather models and other meteorological data, including anemometers on wind turbines. But wind measurements taken from turbines are often unreliable because energy has already been extracted from the incoming wind, and because vibrations affect readings, says IBM researcher Lloyd Treinish, the chief scientist of IBM’s weather modeling system. For its project in China, IBM analyzed data from all the turbines to come up with a more accurate representation of actual wind speed and direction, he says.

IBM also built a meteorological model specific to this site in northern China and installed video cameras to track the movements of clouds to inform solar forecasts. The entire data set is fed into a supercomputer to generate the forecasts.
RES  IBM  wind_farms  wind_forecasting  China  HyREF  energy_storage 
may 2014
NCAR 20130507 - NCAR powers up renewable energy forecasts
The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), building on a pioneering wind energy forecasting system that saved millions of dollars for Xcel Energy ratepayers in eight states, has entered into a new agreement with the utility for even more sophisticated weather forecasts.

In the next two years, NCAR scientists and engineers will develop custom forecasting systems to predict sudden changes in wind, shut down turbines ahead of potentially damaging icing events, and even predict the amount of energy generated by private solar panels. The systems will be used by Xcel Energy control centers in Denver; Minneapolis; and Amarillo, Texas.

NCAR has entered into a two-year agreement with Xcel Energy to focus on the following areas:

* Forecasting “ramp” events. A new system under development at NCAR can provide utility managers with advance notice of a major change in wind energy over a few hours due to a passing front or another atmospheric event. The system, known as VDRAS (Variational Doppler Radar Analysis System) relies on techniques that combine observations from radars and other tools with computer simulations to create more accurate forecasts for particular wind farms.

* Predicting ice and extreme temperatures. To keep aircraft safe from potentially lethal icing conditions while aloft, NCAR has created state-of-the-art ice forecasting systems that use computer models and specialized algorithms. Applying similar technology, researchers at NCAR and Pennsylvania State University will develop a 48-hour forecasting system at designated wind farms to predict the impacts of freezing rain and fog on wind turbines, which cannot operate when coated in ice. The team also will forecast extreme low and high temperatures, which can cause wind farms to temporarily shut down.

* Generating solar forecasts. Xcel Energy customers who have their own solar panels draw far less energy from the grid while the sun is out, and can even sell excess energy back to the utility. To help Xcel Energy better anticipate when their customers are getting power from their own panels, NCAR will create a solar energy forecasting system, using a combination of computer models and specialized cloud observing tools.
RES  wind_farms  wind_forecasting  NCAR  Xcel_Energy  USA 
may 2014
REW 20130801 - Wind Forecasting with Super-Duper Computer
Iberdrola and the Barcelona Supercomputing Center – Centro Nacional de Supercomputación (BSC-CNS), with the collaboration of the National Centre for Renewable Energies (CENER), aim to create an innovative information technology model with the research & development project.

Both the development of the project and its subsequent application will take place in the facilities of BSC, using software run by MareNostrum, one of the top 30 fastest supercomputers in the world.

MareNostrum has 48,896 Intel processors and a calculation capacity of 94.21 Teraflops - a measure of computing speed equal to one trillion floating-point operations per second.

By more accurately forecasting yields, the Sedar Project (High Resolution Wind Simulation) is expected to pave the way for the construction of wind farms with greater guarantees on investment, its developers say.
RES  Iberdrola  wind_farms  wind_forecasting  MareNostrum  Spain  Sedar_Project 
may 2014
IBM 20130812 - IBM Drives the Future of Renewable Energy with New Wind and Solar Forecasting System
IBM announced an advanced power and weather modeling technology that will help utilities increase the reliability of renewable energy resources. The solution combines weather prediction and analytics to accurately forecast the availability of wind power and solar energy.

The solution, named "Hybrid Renewable Energy Forecasting" (HyRef) uses weather modeling capabilities, advanced cloud imaging technology and sky-facing cameras to track cloud movements, while sensors on the turbines monitor wind speed, temperature and direction. When combined with analytics technology, the data-assimilation based solution can produce accurate local weather forecasts within a wind farm as far as one month in advance, or in 15-minute increments.

By utilizing local weather forecasts, HyRef can predict the performance of each individual wind turbine and estimate the amount of generated renewable energy.

State Grid Jibei Electricity Power Company Limited (SG-JBEPC), a subsidiary company of the State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC), is using HyRef to integrate renewable energy into the grid. This initiative led by SG-JBEPC is phase one of the Zhangbei 670MW demonstration project, the world's largest renewable energy initiative that combines wind and solar power, energy storage and transmission.

The Hybrid Renewable Energy Forecaster represents advancements in weather modeling technology, stemming from other innovations such as Deep Thunder. Developed by IBM, Deep Thunder provides high-resolution, micro-forecasts for weather in a region - ranging from a metropolitan area up to an entire state - with calculations as fine as every square kilometer.

IBM  RES  wind_forecasting  HyREF  China  SGCC  Zhangbei  Deep_Thunder  wind_farms 
may 2014
BBC 20140421 - Will the wind in Spain blow slower on the plain?
For the first time in Spain's history, wind contributed the same proportion (21%) of electricity as nuclear last year, according to Red Electrica de Espana (REE), Spain's national grid. Both now contribute more than any other power source.

Wind alone generated nearly 54,000 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of electricity last year, providing power to about 10 million households, and is second only to Germany in terms of installed capacity.

January was another record month for wind power in Spain, and the industry made the most of its installed capacity, with wind energy production reaching 6,626GWh for the first time ever, 3.1% higher than the previous record set last November.

"Spain benefited from wind-energy-friendly regulation in the 1990s," says Sonia Franco, at Asociacion Empresarial Eolica (AEE), the Spanish wind energy association.

"This gave visionary companies the confidence to invest. About 30bn euros (£25bn; $41bn) has been invested in the sector since the first turbine was erected in 1984," she says.

... government subsidies for renewables were not passed on to consumers in the form of higher electricity prices.

This policy contributed to what Spain calls its "tariff deficit" across the entire power generation sector, thought to amount to 25bn to 30bn euros.

"Installation levels in Spain have been declining sharply [since the government withdrew its support]," says Pierre Tardieu, of the Brussels-based European Wind Energy Association (EWEA).

"There used to be 41,000 wind energy jobs in Spain; now there are only 23,000. The politics of this have been really toxic."

The figures speak for themselves. In 2012, Spain installed 1,110 megawatts (MW) of new wind capacity. By the end of last year, this figure had dropped to just 175MW.

Meanwhile United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) concludes that a sharp fall in the cost of wind turbines and a general improvement in the cost-competitiveness of the sector has enabled a growing number of wind projects globally to be built without any government support at all.

"Lower costs have enabled subsidies for new projects to be reduced, and brought wind and solar much closer to full competitiveness with fossil-fuel alternatives," it states.
RES  RES_incentives  Spain  REE  wind_farms 
april 2014
WSJ 20140203 - Spain Gets Specific on Cuts to Renewable-Energy Subsidies
Spain's government on Monday laid out the details of its plan to cut subsidies for renewable-energy producers, a move those producers say could cause defaults across their industry.

The proposal sets new formulas for calculating an overall reduction in subsidy payments to solar and wind farms and other renewable-power producers that Spain's government has said could amount to about €1.8 billion ($2.43 billion) this year.

The proposal is the latest step in an industry overhaul announced last summer. The cost of running the nation's power grid for years has far exceeded the revenue from sales of power to companies and households, generating an accumulated "tariff deficit" estimated at around €30 billion that ultimately will be passed on to taxpayers. To keep the deficit from growing further, the government is reducing the renewable subsidies and the compensation the electrical system pays to companies that transport and distribute energy.

The new formula, described in more than 1,500 pages of documents, calculates a level of "reasonable profitability" that each type of project can expect during its decadeslong life span. The calculations take into account, for example, how long a wind farm has been generating power and how much in subsidies it has already received. The level of "reasonable profitability" would determine the size of future subsidies the project can receive.

AEE, Spain's wind-energy association, said wind farms representing 37% of the country's installed wind-power capacity would receive no further subsidies under the proposal and would have to derive revenue only from selling electricity at market price. The rest of the wind farms would see their subsidies halved, AEE said in a written statement, and some companies would have trouble paying debts if the proposal passes.
RES  RES_incentives  Spain  wind_farms  AEE 
april 2014
Bloomberg 20130127 - Spain Halts Renewable Subsidies to Curb $31 Billion of Debts
Spain halted subsidies for renewable energy projects to help curb its budget deficit and rein in power-system borrowings backed by the state that reached 24 billion euros ($31 billion) at the end of 2011.

The government passed a decree today stopping subsidies for new wind, solar, co-generation or waste incineration plants.

Spain’s decision is a “first step” to rein in debts, and officials are working on a broader package of measures, Soria said. The nation isn’t planning a levy on hydropower or nuclear plants, nor will it take on power-system liabilities, he said.

Spain was an early mover in developing renewables plants, and support for wind energy helped Iberdrola become the world’s biggest producer of clean power, with plants in the U.S. and Brazil. The industry sustains about 110,000 Spanish jobs, according to the Renewable Energy Producers Association.

Renewables companies fell on the Spanish action. Vestas Wind Systems A/S (VWS), the biggest wind-turbine maker, slid as much as 2.9 percent in Copenhagen. Abengoa SA, a Spanish engineering firm specializing in solar mirrors, dropped as much as 2.2 percent in Madrid and Iberdrola SA (IBE), the biggest renewable energy producer based in Bilbao, declined as much as 1.5 percent.
RES  RES_incentives  Spain  Jose_Manuel_Soria  Vestas_Wind  Abengoa  Iberdrola 
april 2014
TechReview 20140312 - Cheap Solar Power at Night
Solar power has two main problems: it’s expensive, and it’s intermittent, since the output of a solar power plant depends on the time of day and cloud cover. Halotechnics, an early-stage solar-thermal startup, could help solve both problems.

The company has developed new heat-storage materials that promise to not only make solar-thermal power plants more efficient, but also reduce the cost of storing energy from the sun for use when it’s most needed.

The materials, which include new mixtures of salts as well as new glass materials, could be key to making solar-thermal power plants cheap enough—and reliable enough—to compete with fossil fuels on a large scale.

Unlike solar panels—which convert sunlight directly into electricity—solar-thermal plants generate electricity by using a large field of mirrors to concentrate sunlight and produce high temperatures that, in turn, generate steam for a turbine and drive a generator. Such plants cost a little more than ones based on solar panels, which have recently fallen in price, but they do have one advantage: it’s easier and far cheaper to store heat produced by the mirrors in a concentrated solar plant than to store electricity from solar panels. Some solar-thermal power plants are equipped with heat-storage equipment that allows them to generate steam even after the sun goes down.

The materials could help lower the cost for solar power to six cents per kilowatt-hour, the goal of the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative.
RES  photovoltaics  Halotechnics  solar_thermal 
april 2014
Clean Technica 20140413 - World Solar Power Capacity Increased 35% In 2013
With about 37,007 megawatts (MW) of solar PV power installed in 2013, world solar PV power capacity increased about 35% to 136,697 MW.

Whereas Europe had dominated annual growth for years up until 2013 (10 years, to be precise), solar PV growth was much more evenly split last year, and China actually topped the tables.

“While Europe concentrated more than 70% of the world’s new PV installations in 2011 and still around 59% a year later, with more than 10 GW of new capacity installed in 2013, Europe only accounted for 28% of the world’s market.”

Top 3 global countries

* China was the n°1 global market with around 11.3 GW connected to the grid.
* With around 6.9 GW, Japan was the second global biggest market in 2013.
* The US ranked n°3 with 4.8 GW.

Evolution of European markets

* Germany was the top European market with 3.3 GW (down from 7.6 GW in 2012).
* Several European markets were close to the gigawatt mark: Italy (between 1.1 GW and 1.4 GW), UK (in between 1 GW and 1.2 GW), Romania (1.1 GW) and Greece (1.04 GW).
* Other European markets that performed well in the past went significantly down in 2013, resulting from political decisions aimed at reducing the level of support to PV: Belgium (from 600 MW in 2012 to 215 MW in 2013), France (from 1.1 GW to 613 MW), Denmark (from 300 MW to around 200 MW).
* Over the last three years however, outside Germany and Italy, the size of the European PV market has been relatively stable, at around 6 GW per year, thanks to the growth in some countries that has balanced the decline in others.
* Some markets in Europe have an almost untapped PV potential, Hungary, Poland and Turkey for instance. The PV potential in countries like France and Spain is still largely unexploited.

Evolution of Asian markets

* China and Japan have led the dynamism of the Asian PV market (with respectively around 11.3 GW and 6.9 GW).
* Several Asian markets continued to grow at a moderate pace: India (1.1 GW), Korea (442 MW), Thailand (317 MW).

more: http://goo.gl/YKHM2b
RES  photovoltaics  China  Japan  Germany  USA  Italy  Romania  Greece  France  Denmark 
april 2014
The Drum 20140413 - Apple buys renewable energy power plant in Oregon
Apple has reportedly bought a renewable energy power plant in Oregon as it continues to drive forward its commitment to make all its data centres powered entirely with renewable energy.

Local paper Oregon Live has reported that the tech giant has taken over a small hydroelectric project at a Central Oregon site near its new data centre in Prineville.
RES  USA  Apple  small_hydro 
april 2014
SingularityHUB 20140412 - Growing pains felt as world shifts away from incentivized clean energy
While there was an overall decline in investment, there are signs that the sector is reaping the rewards of becoming a more mature industry. Prices for technologies continue to drop, making them increasingly competitive with conventional power sources.

As incentives phased out in Europe and the United States, new installation of renewable energy in the developed world slowed, in some places dramatically. But renewable energy gained steam in the developing world, where distributed generation systems are seen as a more affordable alternative to conventional transmission infrastructure.

The end of long-standing feed-in tariffs in Germany played a major role in the drying up of funding among developed nations. But Japan bucked the trend of the rest of the developed world. Moving aggressively to build non-nuclear energy sources in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, it saw an 80 percent jump in investment, according to the report.

China remained the largest single market for renewable energy, accounting for $54.2 billion of $254 billion total investment. The Asian giant has begun to use more of its own renewable energy technologies, adding roughly 8 gigawatts of solar and 14 gigawatts of wind capacity.
RES  RES_incentives  Germany  Japan 
april 2014
News-Gazette 20140412 - IKEA purchase of wind farm won't delay construction
The purchase of the Hoopeston Wind farm by Swedish furniture retailer IKEA will not delay construction on the 98-megawatt project that's expected to be operational early next year.

Though wind energy seems an odd industry for investment by a home furnishings company, the IKEA Group has already put money into wind farms in eight other countries, including Canada, France, Germany and the United Kingdom, as part of the international retailer's effort to produce by 2020 more renewable energy than the total energy it uses.

IKEA will be full owner of Hoopeston Wind in northern Vermilion County, according to IKEA officials. But the wind farm will still be built and managed by the previous owner, Virginia-based Apex Clean Energy.

The farm is expected to include 49 Vesta-made V100-2.0 wind turbines that will generate up to 380 GWh of energy. That would be the equivalent of 165 percent of the electricity consumed by IKEA's facilities in the United States — 38 stores, five distribution centers, two service centers and one factory.

According to Wilson, the wind farm will not be providing energy to IKEA stores and centers, but is part of the company's effort to take the lead in the development of a low-carbon economy.

IKEA Group has also been investing in solar.

The company has installed 550,000 solar panels on IKEA buildings in nine countries, including solar installations on 90 percent of IKEA locations across 20 states in the U.S. and an integrated geothermal component into the heating and cooling system of an IKEA store in Colorado with another geothermal project underway at a new Kansas City-area store slated to open this fall. Last year, the IKEA Group produced 1,425 GWh of energy from renewable sources, including wind and solar, equivalent to 37 percent of the company's total energy needs.
RES  IKEA  wind_farms  Apex_Clean_Energy  Vestas_Wind  photovoltaics  USA 
april 2014
Bloomber 20140317 - GE Energy to Invest 100s of Millions of Euros in EU Renewables
GE Energy Financial Services, a unit of General Electric Co., expects to invest hundreds of millions of euros in renewable energy across Europe this year.

GE Energy invests in projects individually valued at more than $25 million that utilize proven technologies and produce a running income, Marsden said. The firm’s main focus is western Europe including Ireland, the U.K., France and Germany and it’s also considering the Norwegian and Swedish markets, he said.
RES  GE  EU  Ireland  UK  France  Germany 
march 2014
PennEnergy 20140317 - African Renewable Energy Fund launches with $100MM in committed capital
The African Renewable Energy Fund (AREF), a dedicated renewable energy fund focused on Sub-Saharan Africa closed last week with US $100 million of committed capital to support small- to medium-scale independent power producers (IPPs).

The fund, which will be headquartered in Nairobi, is targeting a final close of US $200 million within the next 12 months to be invested in grid-connected development stage renewable energy projects including small hydro, wind, geothermal, solar, biomass and waste gas.

Initially promoted in a joint initiative by the African Biofuel and Renewable Energy Company (ABREC) and the African Development Bank (AfDB), AREF will be managed by Berkeley Energy Africa Limited (Berkeley Energy), a fund manager focused on developing and investing in renewable energy projects in emerging markets. The fund will target IPPs with an ideal size of between 5 and 50 MW and a commitment per project of between US $10 million and US $30 million, with the capacity to source further funding from co-investors where necessary for a larger investment.

Africa Development Bank is the fund's lead sponsor, bringing US $65 million in an equity investment package from its statutory resources as well as climate finance instruments such as Sustainable Energy for Africa (SEFA) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to leverage commercial and institutional investment. SEFA will additionally fund a Project Support Facility (PSF), which will provide resources to be deployed at an early stage to structure bankable deals.

“Over the past decade, the AfDB has established itself as a prime catalyst for renewable energy investment on the continent and is currently hosting the Africa Hub for the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) initiative. As Africa's largest infrastructure finance partner, we understand the value of supporting both large-scale and small-scale projects as part of our strategy for Africa to promote inclusive and sustainable growth,” said Gabriel Negatu, AfDB Regional Director for the East Africa Regional Resource Center.

The investor group also includes West African Development Bank (BOAD), Ecowas Bank for Investment and Development (EBID), Nederlandse Financierings-Maatschappij voor Ontwikkelingslanden N.V. (FMO), Calvert Foundation, Berkeley Energy and ABREC, who are the vision-bearers of the fund.
RES  Africa  AREF  wind_farms  photovoltaics  AfDB 
march 2014
WSJ 20140313 - Norway to Raise Oil Fund's Exposure to Renewable Energy
Norway Prime Minister Erna Solberg plans to increase the Scandinavian nation's $840 billion oil fund's exposure to renewable energy, reflecting a continuing shift toward using its vast wealth to combat climate change.

Details of the plan will be disclosed April 4.
RES  Norway 
march 2014
CleanTechnica 20140313 - Teaching An Old Wind Turbine New Tricks
Specialists working at Siemens Corporate Technology working with technicians from Technische Universität Berlin and IdaLab GmbH in the ALICE project (Autonomous Learning in Complex Environments) have developed self-optimisation software for wind turbines which will enable turbines to produce one percent more electricity annually under moderate wind conditions.

The software will “teach” turbines how to automatically optimise their operation in response to weather conditions, using sensor data to make changes to their settings based on wind speed and other factors.

Not only will this reduce wear and tear on the turbines, but it will help exploit the existing weather conditions to produce electricity.
RES  Germany  wind_farms  wind_forecasting  Siemens 
march 2014
Gulf Times 20140306 - Renewable energy in Mena set to double next year
The Middle East and North Africa will need more than $50bn in investments by the end of the decade to add as much as 15,000 MW of solar-generating capacity, the Middle East Solar Industry Association and MEED Insight said in a report on January 20.

Clean-energy assets in the Middle East and North Africa will more than double in capacity by the end of next year, the Dii GmbH industry association said.
Solar and wind generation capacity will rise to 3.9 gigawatts in 2015 from more than 1.5 gigawatts now, Paul van Son, chief executive officer of the Munich-based trade association known as Desertec, said in an interview in Dubai March 4.
RES  Africa  Middle_East  Desertec 
march 2014
Bloomberg 20140307 - India Reconsiders Wind Forecasting on Inaccurate Results
An Indian rule requiring wind farms to predict output or face fines has been temporarily suspended as the regulator reconsiders the best way to ensure stability of the grid, which suffered the world’s biggest outage in 2012.

“The mechanism has been put on hold,” said Sunil Jain, chief executive officer at Hero Future Energies Pvt. and president of the Wind Independent Power Producers Association.

The Central Electricity Regulatory Commission last year said it would penalize wind farms that failed to predict their day-ahead generation within a 30 percent band. Developers including Tata Power (TPWR) Co. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s ReNew Wind Power Pvt. protested the directive, saying it was impossible to comply with and that fines would wipe out profits in an industry that has drawn about $10 billion of investment since 2011.

“Not a single project has been able to produce data within the margins,” Jain said in an interview in New Delhi this week. “It defeats the purpose. It’s too inaccurate.”

The industry is asking for the rules to be modified so that a centralized, state-level load dispatcher can compile more accurate, region-wide predictions, which is how scheduling is done in Europe, Jain said.
RES  India  wind_forecasting  wind_farms  Tata_group  ReNew_Wind_Power  Goldman_Sachs 
march 2014
Bloomberg 20140307 - Japan May Set Higher Offshore Wind Subsidy, Reduce Solar Tariff
Japan plans to reduce incentives for solar power and introduce a higher tariff for offshore wind than onshore turbines to encourage installations.

The offshore wind tariff would be set at 36 yen (35 cents) a kilowatt-hour [$350/MWh] for 20 years, according to a report by a panel advising the trade ministry. Onshore wind would get a separate rate, of 22 yen [$213.9/MWh], unchanged from fiscal 2013. The solar tariff would decline 11 percent to 32 yen [$311/MWh].

Wind-turbine makers such as Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (7011) Ltd. and Vestas Wind Systems A/S (VWS) as well as construction companies such as Kajima Corp. may benefit from the new tariff in a country that lacks open land for onshore installations. Japan has just 40 megawatts of offshore capacity compared with 3,689 megawatts in the U.K. and 1,272 megawatts in Denmark, according to data compiled by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

The recommended tariffs require approval by Trade Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and would affect applications from April 1. Sales tax, which will be raised from 5 percent to 8 percent from that date, will be added to all tariffs.

Japan, seeking to become a leader in floating offshore wind technology, is conducting pilot projects in Fukushima and Nagasaki. The Fukushima project, which began with a 2 megawatt turbine last year near the site of a nuclear disaster in 2011, plans to add two more with 7 megawatts of capacity each.
RES  Japan  offshore_wind_farms  photovoltaics  Vestas_Wind  Kajima_Corp  RES_incentives 
march 2014
BNEF 20131114 - Rwanda can deliver 100% electricity access using renewable energy
A combination of hydropower, solar and geothermal power allow the country to achieve 100% electricity access by 2020 using renewable energy alone.

The small land-locked African country of Rwanda could see 100% of its citizens served with renewable electricity by 2020, according to a White Paper published today by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

In less than seven years Rwanda could turn this situation around and achieve 100% access to 100% clean electricity, according to the new research. The Rwanda 100% Clean Access plan would require $2.9bn of capital investment in generating capacity and just under $2bn in the grid – compared with an estimated $3.4bn for the 935MW of fossil and clean capacity already in the pipeline. Under the current plans, transmission for just 50% electrification would cost $1.6bn.
RES  Rwanda  photovoltaics  Africa 
march 2014
RzP 20131126 - RWE rezygnuje z budowy morskiej farmy wiatrowej w Wielkiej Brytanii
Niemiecki koncern RWE wycofał się z planów budowy największej na świecie morskiej farmy wiatrowej u wybrzeży Wielkiej Brytanii. Przyczyną mają być względy techniczne, ale także sprzeciw mieszkańców nadbrzeżnych rejonów hrabstwa Devon - donoszą brytyjskie media.

Farma wiatrowa Atlantic Array planowana u południowo-zachodnich wybrzeży Wielkiej Brytanii miała mieć docelową moc 1200 MW i kosztować nawet 4 mld funtów.

W oficjalnym oświadczeniu koncern RWE poinformował o problemach technicznych, które sprawiają, że realizacja projektu byłaby nieopłacalna przy obecnych warunkach rynkowych.

Według brytyjskich mediów równie ważnym czynnikiem mógł być jednak sprzeciw mieszkańców hrabstwa Devon, którzy obawiali się, że budowa 240 turbin u wybrzeży hrabstwa doprowadzi do trwałych zmian w lokalnym ekosystemie. Podobne obawy wyrażali także przedstawiciele organizacji ekologicznych.
RES  RWE  UK  wind_farms  offshore_wind_farms  Atlantic_Array 
march 2014
The Guardian 20140302 - The perovskite lightbulb moment for solar power
Materials researchers in Oxford, led by Dr Henry Snaith, have recently shown that they can make simple perovskite solar cells with efficiencies pushing 20%.

This is big news, because 20% makes them competitive with existing commercial silicon solar cells while being much cheaper to make in high volumes. They are also more suitable for incorporating into roofing materials and glass panels than silicon and so have the clear potential of being as fundamental to our city architecture as steel, concrete and asphalt. In other words, they could well be the materials that will make it possible to collect the 1% of solar energy we need as a nation, at a cost that can compete with fossil fuels.
RES  photovoltaics  UK 
march 2014
Gigaom 20131204 - 6 things you should know about the market for big batteries
Billions of public and private funds have flowed into battery companies in recent years, thanks to the 2009 stimulus package, as well as interest from venture capitalists. But many battery startup developers have either delayed their manufacturing plans (LG Chem), shifted their marketing focus (Leyden Energy), filed for bankruptcy or gotten scooped up by larger and better-funded companies (A123 Systems and Ener1).

California’s launch of a program that requires its utilities to use energy storage is supposed to energize the storage market. Germany started an incentive program in May 2012 to pair storage with rooftop solar. Japan also started to promote energy storage projects, along with renewable energy, after being stung by the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011.

Lithium-ion batteries have had a head start given their common use in consumer electronics. But supersizing them for storing electricity and connecting them to solar panels and the grid require a whole set of sensors, power electronics and software. There also are experiments with using different materials for various components of lithium-ion batteries.

Lead acid batteries are cheaper, and research efforts remain to improve the amount of energy that they can pack into a given size to make them competitive against lithium-ion batteries. Flow batteries are bulky, with their two tanks of liquid chemicals, but they are supposed to be easier to size up and down, and can be a cheap option for the power grid. Then there are all those non-battery energy storage technologies, like compressed air, fly wheels and even gravel and gravity, which won’t be coming to your neighborhood or under the hood.
RES  energy_storage  A123_Systems  Ener1  LG_Chem  Leyden_Energy  California  Japan  Germany  flow_batteries 
march 2014
Forbes 20140228 - Energy Storage: California's New Green Tech Battleground
The state is just starting to carry out a program that requires utilities to use energy storage to help them manage the increasing amount of solar and wind energy flowing into the grid. The three big investor-owned utilities are to collectively buy or own 1,325 megawatts of storage by 2020. Utilities could buy services from owners of the storage equipment installed at homes and businesses. They also could choose from a variety of energy storage technologies, not just batteries.

California utilities have to get 33% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020. As a result, gigawatts of solar power plants have been completed or are under construction or development.

On top of that, the state’s incentive program to encourage rooftop solar for homes and businesses has led to nearly 2 gigawatts of installations. These installations don’t count toward that 33% mandate.
RES  energy_storage  California  photovoltaics 
march 2014
RzP 20140220 - Prąd może być jeszcze droższy
Ceny uprawnień do emisji dwutlenku węgla zdrożały od początku roku o 40 proc., do dzisiejszych 6,9 euro za tonę, a od kwietniowego dołka z ub.r. koszt ich zakupu poszedł w górę aż o 140 proc. Powód? Wzmożony popyt związany z ostatnimi decyzjami w zakresie polityki klimatycznej Unii Europejskiej. To m.in. wyznaczony na 40 proc. cel redukcji emisji CO2 do 2030 r., a także oczekiwanie na rozpoczęcie procesu wycofania części uprawnień z rynku.

UE zdecydowała, że w tym roku z unijnego rynku carbon zniknie ok. 400 mln uprawnień CO2, w 2015 – 300 mln, a w 2016 – 200 mln. Powrócą one dopiero w latach 2019–2020 (w transzach 300 mln i 600 mln).

Proces wycofywania rozpocznie się prawdopodobnie w marcu.
RES  carbon_emissions  EU 
february 2014
El Paiz 20140219 - Iberdrola to cut investment in Spain in wake of energy sector reforms
The chairman of Spanish power utility Iberdrola, Ignacio Sánchez Galán, on Wednesday lashed out at the government’s energy policy and announced that his company “will make a testimonial reduction in its investments in Spain in the period 2014-2013” and not invest any more in developing its domestic renewables business, at least until 2016.

Galán said during the three-year period Iberdrola plans to invest 9.6 billion euros, but will concentrate its efforts on Britain, the United States, Mexico and Brazil. Investment in Spain will be reduced to 15 percent of the total. “Iberdrola feels more British, Mexican and American than Spanish,” he said.

The investment plan calls for an increase in renewable energy capacity of 1,200 megawatts, 36 percent of which should come from Britain, plus 31 percent in the United States and 18 percent in Mexico.

The government has cut the premium rates it pays for electricity produced using renewable resources. A number of investors in the renewable sector, including a company controlled by the Abu Dhabi government [Masdar], have initiated international arbitration proceedings against the Spanish government over the cuts to premiums. However, the Supreme Court has ruled that the cuts do not infringe investors' right to legal security.
RES  Spain  Iberdrola  Masdar  UAE  RES_incentives  Brazil  Mexico 
february 2014
Psychopharmacology 20021101 - Cognitive enhancing effects of modafinil in healthy volunteers
Modafinil, a novel wake-promoting agent, has been shown to have a similar clinical profile to that of conventional stimulants such as methylphenidate.

We were therefore interested in assessing whether modafinil, with its unique pharmacological mode of action, might offer similar potential as a cognitive enhancer, without the side effects commonly experienced with amphetamine-like drugs.

Modafinil significantly enhanced performance on tests of digit span, visual pattern recognition memory, spatial planning and stop-signal reaction time. These performance improvements were complemented by a slowing in latency on three tests: delayed matching to sample, a decision-making task and the spatial planning task.

Subjects reported feeling more alert, attentive and energetic on drug. The effects were not clearly dose dependent, except for those seen with the stop-signal paradigm. In contrast to previous findings with methylphenidate, there were no significant effects of drug on spatial memory span, spatial working memory, rapid visual information processing or attentional set-shifting. Additionally, no effects on paired associates learning were identified.

These data indicate that modafinil selectively improves neuropsychological task performance.
modafinil  neurochem  ritalin  memory  health 
february 2014
PR 20140205 - EDP Renewables Adds GE's Wind PowerUp* Technology to Increase Output for GE Wind Fleet
EDP Renewables (EDPR) will use GE's Wind PowerUp*, a GE Predictivity solution, to increase the power output of 402 GE 1.5-77 wind turbines located at five U.S. wind farms.

"GE's PowerUp software will allow us to improve the power curve and increase the annual energy production of these 402 wind turbines," said Brian Hayes, executive vice president, EDP Renewables.

The wind farms that will be installing PowerUp are Blue Canyon V wind farm in Oklahoma, the Meadow Lake III wind farm in Indiana and the Top Crop I, Top Crop II and Railsplitter wind farms in Illinois. When PowerUp is activated, a GE software program performs a complete before and after wind farm power performance analysis, validating the performance improvement. By adjusting performance dials, including speed, torque, pitch, aerodynamics and turbine controls, PowerUp is able to improve the power output of each unit and the overall wind farm.

PowerUp is part of GE's brilliant wind platform, which harnesses the power of the Industrial Internet to analyze tens of thousands of data points on a wind farm every second, driving higher power output and creating new revenue streams for customers. It is an ecomagination qualified product.
RES  EDPR  wind_farms  PowerUp  GE  power_curve  Brian_Hayes  wind_forecasting 
february 2014
WSJ 20140212 - The $2.2 Billion Bird-Scorching Solar Project
A giant solar-power project officially opening this week in the California desert is the first of its kind, and may be among the last, in part because of growing evidence that the technology it uses is killing birds.

U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz is scheduled to speak Thursday at an opening ceremony for the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating Station, which received a $1.6 billion federal loan guarantee.

The $2.2 billion solar farm, which spans over five square miles of federal land southwest of Las Vegas, includes three towers as tall as 40-story buildings. Nearly 350,000 mirrors, each the size of a garage door, reflect sunlight onto boilers atop the towers, creating steam that drives power generators.

Utilities owned by PG&E Corp. and Edison International have agreed to buy electricity generated from the Ivanpah plant under 25-year contracts, according to NRG.
RES  photovoltaics  USA  California  NRG_Energy  BrightSource_Energy  Google 
february 2014
Bloomberg 20140207 - Solar Water Pumps Wean Farmers From India’s Archaic Grid
India has a novel idea: Wean farmers from archaic power lines and expensive diesel fuel to run their water pumps with solar energy.

The government is looking to swap 26 million groundwater pumps for more efficient irrigation models powered by the sun.

Companies targeting the market include BlackRock Inc (BLK).- backed SunEdison Inc. (SUNE), Asia’s top irrigation-equipment maker Jain Irrigation Systems Ltd. (JI), Claro Energy Pvt., whose investors include Standard Chartered Plc Managing Director Arun Singhal, and the solar unit of the Tata group, India’s biggest conglomerate.

“The potential is huge,” Tarun Kapoor, joint secretary at India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, said in an interview. “Irrigation pumps may be the single largest application for solar in the country.”
RES  photovoltaics  India  BlackRock  SunEdison  Tata_group  Claro_Energy 
february 2014
Businessweek 20140115 - Illumina's New Low-Cost Genome Machine Will Change Health Care Forever
A long-awaited breakthrough in sequencing—an affordable test—is at hand. As of last year, the going rate to get your genome sequenced was about $10,000. Now it will be closer to $1,000. At the center of the excitement is Illumina (ILMN), a publicly traded biotech company based in San Diego with a market capitalization of $15 billion. Founded in 1998, the company invented and acquired its way to the top of the gene-sequencing-machine market. It’s estimated that about 90 percent of all human genomes ever sequenced have been done on Illumina’s machines. This year the company should report sales of more than $1.6 billion.

On Jan. 14, Illumina reduced the cost of sequencing by a factor of 10 when it unveiled the HiSeq X (pronounced “high seek ten”). The machine, about the size of a large photocopier, is basically the first DNA-crunching supercomputer. It can knock out 20,000 human genomes per year. Assuming it’s running at full capacity and including all costs—the purchase price, plus labor and materials (the reagents and other chemicals)—the machine can sequence an entire genome for $1,000.

The first human genome required $3 billion and 13 years to sequence. Ten years later, with the HiSeq X, that time has fallen to about 24 hours.
DNA  health  Illumina  sequencing  HiSeq_X 
january 2014
WSJ 20140107 - IBM Struggles to Turn Watson Computer Into Big Business
IBM Chief Executive Virginia "Ginni" Rometty has told executives she hopes Watson will generate $10 billion in annual revenue within 10 years, according to an October 2013 conference-call transcript reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. She set that target after the executive in charge of Watson said its business plan would bring in $1 billion of revenue a year by 2018. That would make Watson the fastest IBM business unit to reach the $1 billion milestone.

But Watson had total revenue of less than $100 million as of late October 2013.

Watson's key distinction from other analytical software is its ability to "learn." Feed it medical cases, and Watson will rank possible treatments by "confidence score." During training, doctors tell Watson when it makes a bad recommendation, and the supercomputer learns from its mistakes.

IBM is developing versions of Watson that can match cancer patients to clinical drug trials or recommend an investment strategy after reviewing a customer's portfolio.

Watson is having more trouble solving real-life problems than "Jeopardy" questions, according to a review of internal IBM documents and interviews with Watson's first customers.

For example, Watson's basic learning process requires IBM engineers to master the technicalities of a customer's business—and translate those requirements into usable software. The process has been arduous.

Citigroup Inc. has been collaborating with IBM since March 2012 to develop a version of Watson that can recommend financial products to consumers. It hasn't been launched yet. A Citigroup spokeswoman said the bank is "continuing to identify and test uses for Watson."
IBM  Watson  Citigroup 
january 2014
DW 20131108 - EU states approve 'backloading’ fix to rescue bloc's carbon emissions trade
A majority of EU governments have backed a rescue plan for the bloc’s cap-and-trade system for carbon dioxide emissions. The plan aims to boost the price of allowances to make climate-saving investments more profitable.

A majority of European Union members approved a proposal to delay an auction of allowances in the bloc's Emissions Trading System (ETS).

The plan, which was rejected only by Poland and Cyprus, foresaw postponing the auction of 900 million euros worth of emissions certificates scheduled to be sold off over the next seven years.

In the past few years, a glut of an estimated 2 billion carbon allowances has swamped the European ETS market, resulting in a sharp fall in the carbon pricebelow 5 euros ($6.7) per ton of CO2.
carbon_emissions  ETS  EU  energy 
january 2014
cnet 20131228 - OK, Glass: Show me what's next for Google
A late summer or early fall release wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility as an I/O announcement.

That would also fit in line with comments that Google has made about wanting to get Glass's price down below $600. The components apparently cost around $210. A new high-end smartphone without a contract runs around $600, if Google can hit a price tag under $300 it would make Glass significantly more appealing.
Google  Google_Glass  wearable_computer 
december 2013
Economist 20131012 - How to lose half a trillion euros
On June 16th something very peculiar happened in Germany’s electricity market. The wholesale price of electricity fell to minus €100 per megawatt hour (MWh). That is, generating companies were having to pay the managers of the grid to take their electricity.

It was a bright, breezy Sunday. Demand was low. Between 2pm and 3pm, solar and wind generators produced 28.9 gigawatts (GW) of power, more than half the total. The grid at that time could not cope with more than 45GW without becoming unstable. At the peak, total generation was over 51GW; so prices went negative to encourage cutbacks and protect the grid from overloading.

The trouble is that power plants using nuclear fuel or brown coal are designed to run full blast and cannot easily reduce production, whereas the extra energy from solar and wind power is free. So the burden of adjustment fell on gas-fired and hard-coal power plants, whose output plummeted to only about 10% of capacity.


Vicious trends

The other influence was the shale-gas bonanza in America. This displaced to Europe coal that had previously been burned in America, pushing European coal prices down relative to gas prices.

At the same time, carbon prices crashed because there were too many permits to emit carbon in Europe’s emissions-trading system and the recession cut demand for them. This has reduced the penalties for burning coal, kept profit margins at coal-fired power plants healthy and slashed them for gas-fired plants.

Gérard Mestrallet, chief executive of GDF Suez, the world’s largest electricity producer, says 30GW of gas-fired capacity has been mothballed in Europe since the peak, including brand-new plants. The increase in coal-burning pushed German carbon emissions up in 2012-13, the opposite of what was supposed to happen.

energy  electricity  natural_gas  utilities  Germany  carbon_emissions  GDF_Suez 
december 2013
Forbes 20131214 - What The Heck Will Google Do With These Scary Military Robots?
And now Google–yes, of course we’re talking about Google–has bought a military robot company call Boston Dynamics. Not just any robot maker this time–after all, it has already quietly bought seven others over the past year, apparently to provide former Android chief Andy Rubin another chance at a moonshot project. No, unlike the other robot makers, this company makes machines by the names of BigDog, Atlas, and Cheetah that can variously outrun Usain Bolt and hurl cinderblocks 17 feet.

So, we’ve got the potential for killer robots that know where you live and can outrun you when they find you. What’s not to like?

All jokes about Skynet, Terminators, and Robocops aside, the latest acquisition raises a serious question about what Google has in mind. It looks for all the world like it’s pursuing yet another seemingly crazy side project that has nothing to do with its mission to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. It’s now trying out self-driving cars, home package delivery, wearable computers, and anti-aging technologies.
Google  robotics 
december 2013
NYT 20131204 - Google Puts Money on Robots, Using the Man Behind Android
Over the last half-year, Google has quietly acquired seven technology companies in an effort to create a new generation of robots.

Among the companies are Schaft, a small team of Japanese roboticists who recently left Tokyo University to develop a humanoid robot, and Industrial Perception, a start-up here that has developed computer vision systems and robot arms for loading and unloading trucks. Also acquired were Meka and Redwood Robotics, makers of humanoid robots and robot arms in San Francisco, and Bot & Dolly, a maker of robotic camera systems that were recently used to create special effects in the movie “Gravity.” A related firm, Autofuss, which focuses on advertising and design, and Holomni, a small design firm that makes high-tech wheels, were acquired as well.

The company is tight-lipped about its specific plans, but the scale of the investment, which has not been previously disclosed, indicates that this is no cute science project.

At least for now, Google’s robotics effort is not something aimed at consumers. Instead, the company’s expected targets are in manufacturing — like electronics assembly, which is now largely manual — and competing with companies like Amazon in retailing, according to several people with specific knowledge of the project.

Unlike Google’s futuristic X lab, which does research on things like driverless cars and the wearable Google Glass device, the robotics effort — moonshots aside — is meant to sell products sooner rather than later. It has not yet been decided whether the effort will be a new product group inside Google or a separate subsidiary, Mr. Rubin said.

The Google robotics group will initially be based here in Palo Alto, with an office in Japan.
Google  robotics  Japan 
december 2013
Computerworld 20131114 - IBM to offer Watson supercomputer as cloud development platform
IBM is preparing to give third parties access to its Watson supercomputer with the aim of spurring the growth of applications that take advantage of the system's artificial intelligence capabilities.

IBM has been applying Watson's machine learning -- or "cognitive computing" -- technology to domains such as health care, but now the company is ready to share Watson with the broader world.

Watson has "come a long way" since the Jeopardy! competition, High said. IBM decided to focus on health care initially because of the industry's "particularly challenging" linguistic qualities. "We thought if we could master that, it would open the door for other domains," he said.

Watson is also now a dramatically smaller piece of hardware. The Jeopardy! implementation involved a 2,900 core system with 15TB of RAM. But now, a basic Watson configuration has been between 16 and 32 cores with 256GB of RAM, according to High. IBM can chain these smaller Watson boxes together as needed for greater scale, he added.
Watson  IBM  Jeopardy  DeepQA 
november 2013
FT 20131114 - IBM’s Watson artificial intelligence to get new homes with rivals
IBM has opened up its Watson artificial intelligence technology for use by other software developers, potentially paving the way for a new generation of online services capable of responding to their users in smarter and more natural ways.

In a move that could bring the hardcore computing science to mass consumer markets, IBM said that other developers would be able to “plug into” Watson, drawing on its analytical power to inject an extra level of intelligence into their own applications.

Echoing the “Intel inside” branding that turned the chipmaker into a household name, applications that use IBM’s most advanced cognitive computing technology will be branded as “Powered by Watson”.

Users would pay for the technologies based on the number of queries they put through Watson and the amount of storage they used in the system.
Watson  IBM  AI  text_mining  natural_language_processing 
november 2013
Bloomberg 20131113 - Apple’s $10.5B on Robots to Lasers Shores Up Supply Chain
Apple Inc. is putting a record $10.5 billion to work in new technology -- from assembly robots to milling machines -- that consumers will never see.

To get a jump on rivals like Samsung Electronics Co. and lay the groundwork for new products, Apple is spending more on the machines that do the behind-the-scenes work of mass producing iPhones, iPads and other gadgets. That includes equipment to polish the new iPhone 5c’s colorful plastic, laser and milling machines to carve the MacBook’s aluminum body, and testing gear for the iPhone and iPad camera lens, said people with knowledge of the company’s manufacturing methods, who asked not to be identified because the process is private.

“Apple has so much cash that they can invest in cutting-edge, world-class machinery that is typically used for aerospace and defense.”
Apple  manufacturing  robotics 
november 2013
IEEE Spectrum 20131107 - First 3-D-Printed Metal Gun Shows Tech Maturity
The world's first 3-D–printed metal gun aims to prove a point about the reliability of 3-D printing technology. But its makers don't plan on revolutionizing the manufacture of firearms by making the process available in every household.

The metal pistol made by Solid Concepts, a 3-D printing service based in Austin, Texas, represents a working 3-D–printed version of the famed 1911 pistol originally designed by John Browning. Solid Concepts created almost all parts of the classic gun through direct metal laser sintering (DMLS), an industrial 3-D printing process used to make metal parts in aerospace manufacturing and for surgical implants. (The gun's springs were made separately.)

The 3-D–printed pistol proved both sturdy and accurate during mounted and handheld firing tests showcased in a video posted on 6 November. Solid Concepts says it can 3-D print unique gun parts for any "qualifying customer" in five days—a service made legally possible by the fact that the company holds a Federal Firearms License.

But the 3-D–printed weapon that Solid Concepts built can't be replicated by any DIY gunsmith attempting to do so with a cheaper variety of 3-D printer costing less than $10,000—industry-grade DMLS machines cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. That's an important point that Solid Concepts emphasized at the very beginning of its blog post about its achievement.
3D_printing  weapon  gun  Solid_Concepts  DMLS 
november 2013
Medical Daily 20131020 - Dad Creates 3-D Printed Prosthetic Hand For Son With Missing Fingers
3-D printing can be expensive, but when compared to the typical cost of a prosthetic implant, it can be a simple, effective way to create homemade medical devices at a fraction of the price. Homemade 3-D printing for medical uses is what Paul McCarthy, the father of 12-year-old without fingers on his left hand, has done.

McCarthy bought a $2,000 printer to complete his project, but the materials for the hand only cost about $10.

The design for the prosthetic hand, which was put up for free online, came from the collaboration of South African Richard Van As and Washington-based Ivan Owen.

Van As, a right-handed man who had lost four of his fingers on his right hand in a woodworking accident, connected with Owen with the hopes of developing a 3-D printed prosthetic for himself at home, as he wanted something inexpensive. After successfully working together on the project, they proceeded to collaborate on designing and building mechanical hands, or “Robohands,” for children born without fingers. The mechanical hand they developed for a 5-year-old named Liam cost less than $150, a marked difference from the typical $10,000 price tag for just one prosthetic finger.

3-D printers have grown to become more useful in the medical world, both among homemade, amateur designers and biomedical companies experimenting with new uses for the 3-D printing process. Back in March, a patient was able to have 75 percent of his skull restored with a 3-D printed implant. Engineers at Oxford Performance Materials in Connecticut created the 3-D skull after scanning the man’s skull and designing it precisely based on those scans. The skull was printed out layer by layer.

Other companies like Organovo are able to create 3-D tissue models for research and drug applications, and aim to eventually create tissues for actual transplants. Researchers at the University of Michigan likewise created a 3-D printed tracheal splint for an infant born with tracheobronchomalacia, a condition of having weak windpipes, and sought approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
3D_printing  health  Richard_Van_As  Ivan_Owen  Organovo 
november 2013
NYT 20131029 - Deutsche Bank’s Trading Pain
Deutsche Bank’s third-quarter hit in fixed-income trading could presage a painful loss in market share. The German bank suffered a 48 percent fall in third-quarter debt sales and trading revenue — as bad as any peer. And things could get tougher still.

Deutsche Bank still has the third-biggest fixed-income trading franchise in the industry, on a rolling four-month basis. The unit rakes in about 10 percent of the overall revenue pool.

A regulatory focus on gross leverage positions may make it harder for Deutsche to stay in the top three of fixed-income traders. Deutsche wants to cut 250 billion euros of assets from its balance sheet. In the third quarter alone, the bank achieved 15 percent — 38 billion euros — of this, mainly by managing its derivative contracts more efficiently. But its repurchase agreement business, or repo book, still constitutes over 10 percent of its total balance sheet, and is especially bloated in the United States.
Deutsche_Bank  fixed_income  repo 
october 2013
NYT 20131024 - Credit Suisse to Streamline and Shrink
The bank said it planned to move nonstrategic lines into its business units, so that the bank’s management could focus on areas it believes will be core product lines in the future. Credit Suisse and its larger rival UBS have shed loans and other debt in recent years to meet Swiss regulatory rules, while also bolstering their capital reserves.

Credit Suisse said it would simplify its interest-rate trading products and cut back its more capital-intensive activity, in hopes of reducing the bank’s exposure to riskier assets by $7 billion by 2015. It said it would also shift fixed-income businesses it is exiting to the nonstrategic portion of the investment bank.
Credit_Suisse  interest_rate_trading 
october 2013
FT 20131013 - Var calculation a ‘time bomb’
The widespread use of the “value at risk” (Var) methodology to measure mutual funds’ exposure to risk is a “time bomb” that could cause a severe market crash, according to the investment director of a European asset management house.

Var, which attempts to measure the probability of a portfolio suffering a significant loss, is one of the two measures Ucits funds must use to gauge their risk, alongside the “commitment approach”, which measures leverage.

Jeremy Monk, Investment Director at Prague-based Akro Investicni Spolecnost, feared the widespread use of Var could lead to a repeat of the 1987 stock market crash, when the S&P 500 fell by 33 per cent.

The severity of that crash was partly blamed on the now widely discredited concept of portfolio insurance.

In the wake of an initial 10 per cent stock market slide, this led fund managers to attempt to switch en masse out of “risky” equities and into “safe” assets, prompting a vicious cycle of selling.

Mr Monk argued that Var worked in a similar way, in that if volatility rises as markets fall, fund managers would be forced to sell equities, exacerbating the initial sell-off.

“Both portfolio insurance and Var limits are reassuringly dressed up as somehow controlling risk [but] significantly, both ignore the practical difficulties in dealing during times of market stress,” said Mr Monk, a former portfolio manager at the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and M&G.

“Both theories force selling when markets drop. To all practical purposes, the Var limit is portfolio insurance by a different name.”
VaR  risk_management  bubble  volatility  JPMorgan 
october 2013
NYTimes 20131014 - The Rapid Advance of Artificial Intelligence
In May I.B.M. went a significant step farther by announcing a general-purpose version of its software, the “I.B.M. Watson Engagement Advisor.” The idea is to make the company’s question-answering system available in a wide range of call center, technical support and telephone sales applications. The company says that as many as 61 percent of all telephone support calls currently fail because human support-center employees are unable to give people correct or complete information.

Watson, I.B.M. says, will be used to help human operators, but the system can also be used in a “self-service” mode, in which customers can interact directly with the program by typing questions in a Web browser or by speaking to a speech recognition program.

That suggests a “Freakonomics” outcome: There is already evidence that call-center operations that were once outsourced to India and the Philippines have come back to the United States, not as jobs, but in the form of software running in data centers.


Amnon Shashua, an Israeli computer scientist, has modified his Audi A7 by adding a camera and artificial-intelligence software, enabling the car to drive the 65 kilometers, or 40 miles, between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv without his having to touch the steering wheel.

In 2004, Darpa held the first of a series of “Grand Challenges” intended to spark interest in developing self-driving cars. The contests led to significant technology advances, including “Traffic Jam Assist” for slow-speed highway driving; “Super Cruise” for automated freeway driving, already demonstrated by General Motors and others; and self-parking, a feature already available from a number of car manufacturers.

Recently General Motors and Nissan have said they will introduce completely autonomous cars by the end of the decade. In a blend of artificial-intelligence software and robotics, Mobileye, a small Israeli manufacturer of camera technology for automotive safety that was founded by Mr. Shashua, has made considerable progress. While Google and automotive manufacturers have used a variety of sensors including radars, cameras and lasers, fusing the data to provide a detailed map of the rapidly changing world surround a moving car, Mobileye researchers are attempting to match that accuracy with just video cameras and specialized software.
AI  IBM  Watson  automotive  driveless_car 
october 2013
FT 20131007 - Hedge fund DE Shaw shuts doors to new investors
One of the most profitable hedge funds has closed its doors to new clients, calling time on the industry’s ability to square vast inflows of money with the promise of market-beating returns.

DE Shaw’s Oculus and Heliant funds were closed earlier this year and its flagship multi-strategy fund, Composite, was closed at the end of the summer.

Oculus, DE Shaw’s flagship vehicle, made clients 20 per cent last year and 18 per cent in 2011.

DE Shaw’s move means that of the largest six hedge funds, only two, the UK’s Man Group and the US firm Och-Ziff, are still accepting cash into their flagship funds.

Many traditional hedge fund strategies have become far less profitable due to quantitative easing, bank deleveraging and a tail-off in corporate dealmaking.

Since 2009, the average hedge fund has eked out a meagre gain on its investments of only 15 per cent, according to data provider HFR.

Total assets managed by hedge funds have grown from $1.4tn in 2008 to $2.4tn at the last count.

DE Shaw is mainly known for its style of using mathematical and statistical modelling to spot investment opportunities – a legacy left by founder David Shaw, a mathematician who resigned from the day-to-day running of the firm in 2002. Mr Shaw now focuses on research into computational biochemistry and is a scientific adviser to US President Barack Obama.
DE_Shaw  quantitative_trading  Oculus  Heliant  Composite 
october 2013
FT Alphaville 20130926 - I see your millisecond study, and raise you my millisecond study
A report by Chicago-based market research firm Nanex argued that trade data showed that asset prices in New York and Chicago moved at exactly 2pm last Wednesday, when the Federal Reserve released its decision on monetary policy.

That’s not possible, Nanex concluded, unless the data (released in Washington from the Fed) was transmitted to servers located in Chicago because there are milliseconds of latencies involved with passing along that information. It also raised the possibility that the data leaked to market participants early, allowing about $800m in futures contracts to trade milliseconds before the rest of the market learned of the decisions.

...some speed traders, certainly the kinds of places that live and die by the millisecond speeds at which they are operating, felt the Fed was wasting its time taking the Nanex claims seriously. And on Wednesday, one of them wanted their claims questioning the accuracy of the Nanex data to be heard.

The typically low-key Virtu Financial, a dominant high-frequency trading firm that flexes its sophisticated technology to trade anything from stocks to currencies, put up its own study of the events of that day.

"In a study of trades made in the fractions of a second after the market-moving decision by the central bank, Virtu Financial concluded that the information was not obtained unfairly by traders, but that it was possibly disseminated a millisecond before it should have been. …

[Chris Concannon is an exec at Virtu.] Mr Concannon said: “The market lit up in New York before the market in Chicago received the information, which is not what Nanex is saying.” The Virtu study also said that signals sent from Washington can be received by systems in Chicago faster than Nanex had calculated because some trading firms rely on radio or microwave signals rather than fibre optics."

more 1: http://www.nanex.net/aqck2/4434.html
more 2: http://www.nanex.net/aqck2/4436.html#Update2
high_frequency_trading  Nanex  FOMC  Virtu_Financial 
september 2013
PCMag 20130925 - Inside Wall Street's High-Frequency Trading Technology Arms Race
When it comes to software and algorithms, the statistical arbitrage models used are pretty simple. "Because latency is so critical you can't do too much," explains Lauer. High-frequency traders take a massive amount of market data and generally use a parallel processing cluster to analyze it. Technologies such as Hadoop with a MapReduce structure are very popular in the industry. High-frequency traders look for mathematical structure and perform time-series analysis, looking for something they can forecast. A very popular program several years ago looked at supply and demand imbalances in the order book and simply attempted to forecast what the next tick (upward or downward movement in the price of a security) would be. Thanks to the business model of the exchanges, all you needed to be able to do was break even on a trade and you could collect a rebate. Multiply that rebate by tens or hundreds of times a second, (let alone doing better than breaking even on a trade) and you're talking real money, real fast.


"I still think it's insane," says Lauer, who quit HFT because of his ethical concerns. "I think it's the craziest thing that massive amounts of capital—billions of dollars—are being put into shaving milliseconds off transmission times between sites. Find somebody who can explain the social utility that's being created by reducing New York/Chicago transit times by two milliseconds. Or New York to London. It doesn't exist. But there's still money to be made, and that's the fundamental economic disconnect in high-frequency trading, which leads me to classify it as a polluting enterprise, because if they're making money off this, there's a negative externality somewhere that is driving that money to them. It's a socialized cost."
high_frequency_trading  latency  Hadoop  statistical_arbitrage 
september 2013
BBC 20130919 - Google spin-off Calico to search for answers to ageing
Google has formed a company named Calico, which will be led by Apple chairman Arthur Levinson.

Google co-founder Larry Page said it would focus on "health and wellbeing, in particular the challenge of ageing and associated diseases".

There were few details about how the firm would tackle the issues, but experts think that it is likely that it will use Google's vast databases to search for solutions.

"Google is exceptionally well placed to get involved through their understanding of consumer activity in the delta between big data and information," said Ovum analyst Joe Dignan.

Mr Page has high ambitions for the spin-off.

"Illness and ageing affect all our families. With some longer term, moonshot thinking around healthcare and biotechnology, I believe we can improve millions of lives," he said in a blog post.
Google  Calico  health  aging 
september 2013
Bloomberg 20130919 - JPMorgan Fined For Losing Money
JPMorgan was fined $920 million by a bunch of regulators for, oh, y'know, stuff. The stuff arises out of the fact that a while back JPMorgan employed a whale who lost a lot of JPMorgan's money trading credit derivative indices, all while Jamie Dimon was going around saying unfortunate things like "this is a tempest in a teapot" and "our net income for 2Q2012 was $5.4 billion." Whoops, no, it was $4.9 billion, after the Whale's hidden losses were exposed. The third quarter was rather worse, and all in all JPMorgan lost $6.2 billion on its whaling expedition.

JPMorgan's net income in 2012, after those losses, was $21.3 billion. The $6.2 billion loss was less than 2 percent of the assets in JPMorgan's Chief Investment Office, and less than 0.2 percent of JPMorgan's total assets.
JPMorgan  risk_management  London_Whale  SEC  FCA 
september 2013
ZDNet 20130913 - JP Morgan to fork out $4B to improve compliance, risk management
JP Morgan Chase & Co has unveiled plans to put up another US$4 billion and 5,000 employees to resolve compliance and risk issues, following several probes by regulatory authorities.

The American banking and financial services provider will dedicate US$1.5 billion to manage risks and comply with regulations, while US$2.5 billion will be set aside for litigation purposes in the second half of 2013.

It will also add 3,000 new hires in risk controls and another 2,000 across the bank's business lines to work on compliance issues.

The move comes amid increased scrutiny from U.S. regulators following JP Morgan's admission last year it lost US$2 billion in a trading error. Estimates later put losses incurred by the trader, known as the "London Whale", to as much as US$6.2 billion.

It prompted regulators to launch investigations into the country's largest bank in areas ranging from mortgage-bond sales to overseas hiring practices.

According to the WSJ, JP Morgan has been subjected to more regulatory enforcement actions than any other U.S. bank and faces at least seven investigations by the Justice Department. Since 2008, the bank has racked up over US$18 billion in legal cost, bigger than any other bank in the country, the report said, citing stats from FBR Capital Markets.
JPMorgan  risk_management  London_Whale 
september 2013
Risk.net 20130910 - Wall Street trading software not adequately tested, experts warn
Recent high-profile technical glitches within financial institutions are due to an aggressive culture of pushing through new technology without testing it first, industry experts warn. Failures in software at Goldman Sachs and the New York Nasdaq stock exchange in August have led to accusations that Wall Street is pushing through software that may not be ready for use – leaving compliance departments to catch up.

The Nasdaq shut down trading for three hours on August 22 after an IT problem disrupted the transmission of price information to some of its customers. The day before, an IT failure at Goldman Sachs' options trading desk led it to flood several options exchanges with huge numbers of erroneous orders: the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating.

On September 9, the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) approved a concept release on risk controls and system safeguards for automated trading environments. The regulator warned that existing safeguards had fallen behind: "Traditional risk controls and safeguards that relied on human judgment and speeds, and which were appropriate to manual and/or floor-based trading environments, must be re-evaluated in light of new market structures," the CFTC said, citing the Nasdaq failure and other incidents as evidence of the risks inherent in automated trading.

see also:
algorithmic_trading  operational_risk  SEC  Goldman_Sachs  CFTC  flash_crash 
september 2013
Risk.net 20130906 - FX now a $5.3 trillion per day market, says BIS
Average daily turnover in the global foreign exchange market has reached $5.3 trillion, up from $4 trillion in 2010, according to the latest triennial survey from the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), with the UK continuing to comprise the largest slice of the business.

Net average daily turnover in the UK forex market – compiled by the Bank of England – was $2.73 trillion in April 2013, up 47% from the $1.85 trillion recorded in April 2010.

The US continues to be the second most active centre, followed by Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong, Switzerland and France.

The survey reflects a snapshot of market activity during one month, and coincided with an announcement of an aggressive new asset purchase programme by the Bank of Japan. Activity in US dollar/yen globally jumped as a result, with average daily turnover increasing by 72% compared with April 2010, to $978 billion. The currency pair accounted for 18% of all forex trades during the month, an increase of 4 percentage points compared with 2010.

Euro/dollar remained the most popular currency pair, comprising 24% of forex market turnover, but that represents a decline of nearly 4 percentage points from 2010. All in all, the dollar was the most traded currency, with 87% of trades incorporating a dollar leg.

One of the most notable findings was the identity of counterparties in the foreign exchange market. Trades with other financial institutions – defined as non-reporting banks, security dealers, hedge funds, pension funds, mutual funds, insurance companies and central banks – accounted for $2.8 trillion in average daily turnover, an increase of 48% compared with 2010. Conversely, business with non-financial institutions fell by nearly 5 percentage points and now only makes up 9% of the global forex turnover.
forex  UK  BIS  quantitative_easing  USDJPY  Japan  EURUSD 
september 2013
FT 20130909 - A plan to finish fixing the global financial system
While globally systemically important banks are on course to meet new international Basel III requirements almost five years before deadline, having raised more than $500bn of capital, these aggregates mask uneven progress. Some banks still require significant repair, which should proceed without delay. Where banking systems have rebuilt capital, access to credit in the real economy has returned.

Greater transparency, simplicity and consistency should prevent banks gaming the new system. But, to this end, supervisors need to make good the pledge by G20 leaders to agree the rest of Basel III, including the leverage ratio, and to tackle large differences in risk weights across banks. Financial institutions also need to improve risk disclosures further and setters of accounting standards have been asked to agree a common standard for loan impairment this year.

In addition, we are committed to ending too-big-to-fail. We have publicly identified globally systemic banks and insurers, and will subject them to higher capital requirements, more intensive supervision and credible resolution regimes.

We must ensure failing banks can be resolved or recapitalised while maintaining continuity of essential services.

...the $600tn derivatives market is being reformed. Steps to boost transparency through platform-trading and trade-reporting requirements, along with minimum capital and margin requirements and the introduction of central counterparties, are essential.
Basel_III  Basel_Accord  risk_management 
september 2013
Science 2.0 20130908 - Sirt1 Study Finds Aging May Really Be In Your Head
A new paper seeks to peer into the fog with some clarity. The authors say they have identified the mechanism by which a specific sirtuin protein called Sirt1 operates in the brain to bring about a significant delay in aging and an increase in longevity associated with a low-calorie diet. They show how Sirt1 prompts neural activity in specific areas of the hypothalamus of the brain, which triggers dramatic physical changes in skeletal muscle and increases in vigor and longevity.

"In our studies of mice that express Sirt1 in the brain, we found that the skeletal muscular structures of old mice resemble young muscle tissue,” said Shin-ichiro Imai, MD, PhD, of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. “Twenty-month-old mice (the equivalent of 70-year-old humans) look as active as five-month-olds. We found that only the mice that overexpressed Sirt1 in the brain (called BRASTO) had significant lifespan extension and delay in aging, just like normal mice reared under dietary restriction regimens."

Mice are characteristically most active at night. The BRASTO mice also experienced better or deeper sleep, and both males and females had significant increases in longevity.

The median life span of BRASTO mice in the study was extended by 16 percent for females and 9 percent for males. Translated to humans, this could mean an extra 13 or 14 years for women, making their average life span almost 100 years, Shin said. For men, this would add another seven years, increasing their average life span to the mid-80s.
health  Sirt1  aging  sirtuin  caloric_restriction 
september 2013
FT Alphaville 20110713 - Repairing risk-weightings … with ratings
What to do to fix the RWA perception problem, then?

There are some ‘soft’ solutions, according to BarCap. Things like introducing a peer review, of sorts, where local regulators would examine and approve each other’s RWA figures. Or you could have a single regulator do it, say for instance the European Banking Authority or even the Basel committee. You could also provide more disclosure on probability of default calculations, one of the key inputs for RWAs.

But then there are the harder solutions… Things like squaring leverage ratios with RWAs. At the moment the leverage ratio has Pillar 2 status, which is code for not very important. BNP Paribas, for instance, has a Basel III Core Tier 1 ratio of 10 per cent, but a much weaker leverage ratio of 4 per cent, which suggests to BarCap that the bank is “clearly relying on lower risk weightings.” Combining RWAs with the leverage ratio in some way could create a more holistic view of capital adequacy, BarCap says.

Basel II provides banks with three options for calculating RWAs – the Standardised Approach, the Foundation Internal Ratings Based Approach (FIRB) and the Advanced Internal Ratings Based Approach (AIRB). One radical option to restore credibility to the entire RWA calculation might be to move banks back to the Standardised Approach. This requires banks to place their exposure into one of 18 risk buckets depending on the external credit rating.

Doing that would add 30 per cent, or about €2,000bn to European bank RWAs and lower Core Tier 1 ratios by 2.3 per cent, according to BarCap.
risk_management  RWA  leverage_ratio  AIRB  IRB  FIRB 
september 2013
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