Archive for May, 2020
In some ways, podcasts are among the most quarantine-proof forms of entertainment right now. Maybe some bigger hosts have been forced to move their microphones and wall padding to a home office, or they're now hiding in closets for better sound quality (but not as an anxious reaction to terrifying and confusing news headlines).
But that doesn't mean all podcasts currently in production are a perfect fit for a nerd's listening diet, whether because they're too flippant or too doom-and-gloom. In my case, at least, I seek a mix of emotional support, comfort, and normalcy in my regular podcast library. Hence, I'm recommending the five podcasts below as my favorites if you're looking for that much-needed connection to the outside world. (These are in addition to other podcasts I've previously recommended at Ars.)
My latest selections tell uplifting stories; they feature friends talking about things they love; and while they've had to adapt to keep their hosts safe from COVID-19, they've held onto the joy and optimism that drew me to them in the first place. All of these podcasts have new, regularly updated episodes in common, and all of them revolve around research and science.
There's been a lot of discussion about how areas that are seeing explosive renewable growth can manage the large amount of intermittent electricity sources. But these mostly focus on regions with mature electric grids and a relatively static growth in demand. What would happen if you tried to grow renewables at the same time you're trying to grow a grid?
A EU-US team of researchers decided to find out what a good renewable policy might look like in West Africa, an area similar in size to the 48 contiguous US states but comprised of 16 different countries. Some of these nations already get a sizable chunk of their power from renewables in the form of hydropower, but they are expected to see demand roughly double in the next decade. Although renewables like solar and wind are likely to play a role purely based on their price, the researchers' analysis suggests that a smart, international grid can balance hydro, wind, and solar to produce a far greener grid.
Hydro as a giant battery
The new work has a mix of focuses. It's run against the backdrop of the expectation that West Africa's demand for electricity will explode over the next decade. Right now, the region has nearly 400 million inhabitants who consume a bit over 100 terawatt-hours a year (compared to the United States' 4,000TW-hr). By 2030, that demand is expected to be more than 200TW-hr—a fourfold increase from where demand was in 2015.