Bitwise contract stokes Bakersfield’s tech, economic diversification hopes

Plans for building up Bakersfield’s small computer software industry recently took a big step forward — despite the COVID-19 pandemic and in a way because of it — with the city’s finalization of a $750,000 contract with Fresno-based tech hub Bitwise Industries. Under a deal struck late last month, the company will begin offering 14-week evening classes, typically taught online two nights per week for three hours at a time, to city residents who have suffered economically as a result of the pandemic.

Some details have not been disclosed, such as how and when Bitwise will begin the classes and how it intends to recruit and screen student candidates. The end goal is to expose 400 people to careers in technology and produce at least 130 new entry-level jobs: 50 in software development and 80 in more general fields of business. “The city of Bakersfield is very excited about this program and we’re looking forward to our continuing partnership with Bitwise Industries,” city spokesman Joseph Conroy said. “We believe this job training program will be a success and a great opportunity for our community.”

Bitwise was already working on an expansion into Bakersfield, having purchased two buildings along 18th Street near the Padre Hotel, when COVID-19 arrived. The pandemic slowed the company’s efforts to rehabilitate the properties and turn them into a sleek local home for its Geekwise computer programming academy, new offices for its Shift3 Technologies software development company and flexible work spaces for lease. When the pandemic hit, Bitwise moved classes online and began offering them to California communities anxious to create new jobs to replace those lost to the lockdown.

Local leaders already familiar with the company’s accomplishments — more than 8,000 Geekwise students served since 2013, many of them poor or otherwise disadvantaged — saw a way to help rebuild and diversify Bakersfield’s economy.  The city had received $33.5 million from the state as part of the $2 trillion federal CARES Act. The catch was that the money had to be spent on pandemic recovery efforts and the city had to allocate the funds by the end of 2021. The City Council signed off in mid-November. On Dec. 28, just three days before deadline, Bitwise signed and returned the city’s contract offer.

The company said in a letter to the city in October it would offer a training menu ranging from specific disciplines like quality and assurance testing, web application development and security to more widely applicable skills like sales, product tech support and customer relationship management. “Bitwise is very excited about the job training program with the city of Bakersfield,” spokewoman Katherine Verducci said by email. “Our workforce development programs have impacted the lives of thousands of people in the Central Valley. Partnerships like the one with Bakersfield allow us to reach more people who can benefit from programs like ours.”

https://www.bakersfield.com/news/bitwise-contract-stokes-bakersfields-tech-economic-diversification-hopes/article_01e99bca-5148-11eb-a648-4bedc0d623c9.html

Large energy storage project would create new reservoir above Isabella Lake

A $3 billion pumped-water energy storage project has been proposed along Isabella Lake that would help even out power delivery from California solar and wind farms at a volume and longevity dwarfing the large battery installations envisioned for eastern Kern. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is reviewing a Walnut engineering company’s plan to create a new reservoir above the lake then use pumps and underground pipes to turn it into a rechargeable dam and hydroelectric generator putting out a whopping 2,000 megawatts of power for up to 12 hours at a time.

Optimistically, the project could open within six years but remains in such an early stage that its environmental impacts haven’t been studied and its eventual owners or operators haven’t been identified, said the head of the company behind the proposal, Power Tech Engineers Inc., whose principals have experience with similar projects elsewhere. President Victor Rojas suggested the installation might serve best as a government asset even as it would serve electric utilities and their customers.

He said the U.S. Department of Energy has expressed interest in covering up to 70 percent of the project’s cost. The agency did not respond to an email Monday afternoon requesting confirmation of an offer of financial backing. Also, a FERC official reviewing Power Tech’s proposal could not be reached for comment. Pumped-storage hydroelectric, as such projects are known, is among many forms of energy storage under consideration as California looks to provide clean, renewably sourced power even when solar and wind installations aren’t generating electricity.

Gravity-powered projects like Power Tech’s proposal offer benefits and drawbacks different from the kind of batteries proposed to be sited alongside massive solar arrays planned for eastern Kern. Pumped-water storage offers huge scale and lifetime of maybe 100 years but it cannot instantaneously produce power and it disrupts large areas of habitat. Batteries immediately deliver when called on but have a relatively short life — generally less than two decades — and can’t provide electricity for more than a few hours at utility scale. For size comparison, 8minute Solar Energy’s 400-megawatt, more than $1 billion Eland photovoltaic array proposed in eastern Kern would come with 1,200 megawatt-hours of energy storage — just 5 percent the capacity of Power Tech’s pumped-water project.

Kern River Master Dana Munn, who oversees water storage and flow at Isabella Lake, expressed concern Power Tech’s project would interfere with the flow of water from the lake down the river. “A power plant will go on and it’ll essentially cause a fluctuation in the river,” he said. Rojas disputed that interpretation, saying the project would use a “closed-loop” design that shouldn’t affect the lake or the river much once it is equipped with between 30,000 and 40,000 acre-feet of water.

Membrane would be installed beneath the water’s downward flow to reduce water loss to percolation, he said, and there would be a covering above, possibly including solar panels, to limit evaporation. Rojas said three alternative sites are under consideration for siting the upper reservoir. If the “small lake” that would be created is deemed to have too great an impact on animals and plants there now, he said, “we’ll look somewhere else.” But his hope is that the benefit becomes clear. “Without projects like this the renewable energy solution won’t be possible,” he said. “We have to have a way to store the energy when the sun is not shining (and) the wind is not blowing.” He added that informational workshops for the public will be scheduled later allowing people to learn more about the project. He said Power Tech’s engineers, formerly with the Los Angeles Department of Water and power, have designed pumped-water energy projects in Castaic and elsewhere.

Rosemead-based utility Southern California Edison and the nonprofit California Independent System Operator, which operates the state’s power grid, said separately they were not familiar with Power Tech’s proposal but that they support a diverse mix of energy-storage projects. Pacific Gas and Electric Co. declined to comment on the project.

https://www.bakersfield.com/news/large-energy-storage-project-would-create-new-reservoir-above-isabella-lake/article_a79ff7ee-4955-11eb-a6d5-5b06b053bb14.html

Tesla opens world’s largest Supercharger station

Tesla has been quickly expanding its Supercharger network lately and it just reached another milestone by opening the world’s new largest Supercharger station. It is located between two of Tesla’s biggest markets. Tesla’s fleet is growing at a fast pace and the automaker is adding more electric vehicles to the road than any other automaker. At the same time, the company is trying to keep up its infrastructure, like service centers, mobile service fleet, and charging infrastructure in order to support its growing fleet. Tesla’s charging infrastructure mainly consists of the Supercharger network, arguably one of the company’s greatest assets.

Recently, Tesla announced that it deployed its 20,000th charger in the Supercharger network. Now we’ve learned that Tesla has just opened a new Supercharger station that has become the new largest Supercharger station in the world:A few months ago, we reported on Tesla building the new Supercharger station in Firebaugh, California. We learned that Tesla was planning 56 Supercharger stalls at the new station — likely making it the largest Supercharger station in the world. Tesla has a few Supercharger stations with 50 stalls in China, but 56 is a new record. At 56 Superchargers, this new station will be six times bigger than Tesla’s average Supercharger station. It is located between the Bay Area and Los Angeles — two of Tesla’s biggest markets in the world. There is also a convenience store and a restaurant at the location that Tesla owners can patronize while they are charging.

Tesla has also built solar canopies to provide shade to the vehicles while also helping power the Supercharger station. The automaker has been promising to deploy more solar power capacity at Superchargers, but the rollout has been somewhat slow. CEO Elon Musk has been saying that Tesla will accelerate the deployment with the rollout of the Supercharger V3 stations, which started last year.

https://electrek.co/2020/11/14/tesla-opens-worlds-largest-supercharger-station/

Nautilus: transforming the data center industry

Nautilus Data Technologies is a global pioneer in water-cooled data centers and is leading a global transformation to ultra-efficient, high-performance and environmentally sustainable operations in the data center sector.

James Connaughton is the CEO at Nautilus. Having joined the organisation in March 2016, he has overseen the implementation of the world’s first water-cooled and water-borne data center with Nautilus. “There are two essential features,” explains Connaughton. “The first and most important feature is cooling with naturally cold water, which is how all other major infrastructure sectors address the large amounts of heat generated by their systems. These include, for example, thermal power plants, ships, industrial processing facilities, and paper mills. Only data centers, generate heat at a similar industrial scale, still use massive and unsustainable air-cooling systems. The second feature is mobility–the ability to prefabricate the data center in large modules, and either assemble them onto a barge and deliver it fully ready to go, or transport the modules to a prepared site for rapid assembly. Placing essential infrastructure on barges—such as energy barges and water treatment barges–is a well-established model for enabling rapid and flexible access to such infrastructure in fast growing and emerging markets. The opportunity and need is equally strong today when it comes to providing access to digital infrastructure to those who currently lack it.”

Connaughton believes data centers are the newest and most important component of critical infrastructure that sustains and enriches the lives of people around the world. “Data centers now stand alongside power generation, drinking-water plants, waste-water plants, roads and other critical infrastructure that allows society to function and create good outcomes for people,” he explains. “Access to the water molecule and the electron has long been vitally important. Worldwide access to the photon for data delivery is the next essential piece.” Over the past two years, Connaughton has overseen the development of the company’s first full-scale commercial facility, which provides six megawatts of water-cooled data center capacity on a barge. He strives for an innovative approach across all his operations. “We’ve been on the arc of creative invention and cleverly practical engineering to make that a reality,” says Connaughton. “The first part of our company’s life has focused on building a functional prototype, and then using that experience to make the thousands of decisions of what not to do against the several hundred decisions of what to do in bringing a full scale facility into being. We’re really excited to be commissioning that data center in California in just a few weeks time.”

Nautilus is planning to develop facilities in North America, Europe and Asia, and has been contacted by potential partners to pursue projects in the Middle East, Africa, and South America. “Once our data center in North Carolina is up and running, we look forward to onboarding a great set of anchor customers,” says Connaughton. “We will show the world the ultra-efficiency, high-performance, and the strong sustainability of our approach. After that, we are ready to rapidly move into other locations to “productize” the technology and we look forward to partnering through joint ventures and technology licensing so that we can get this important technology out into the world as quickly as possible.”

https://www.technologymagazine.com/brochure/nautilus-transforming-data-center-industry

Visalia tech converts dairy air into low-emission fuel

VISALIA – A Visalia company has successfully converted cow manure into a renewable natural gas. California Bioenergy, LLC (CalBio), based in Visalia, announced on Sept. 24 it had successfully achieved the first renewable natural gas (RNG) production from manure stored at dairy farms in Kern County.

“This technology will de-carbonize transportation fuels in the state,” CalBio CEO N. Russ Buckenham said. “When you run a heavy duty truck on RNG, it’s 90% cleaner than running that truck on diesel. And there are a lot of diesel trucks running up and down Highway 99. It’s a terrific benefit to cleaning the air and cleaning the sky.”

Manure stored on dairy farms results in the release of methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas, which causes the Earth’s atmosphere to trap in heat, a major component of climate change. The biomethane projects capture the methane into digesters, which works similar to your stomach, to convert solids into gas. The biogas is then sent to a centralized processing facility where it will be refined into RNG and injected into local utility SoCalGas’ pipeline. The RNG is then marketed as an alternative fuel for heavy-duty trucks and buses, and eventually off-road and farm equipment.

Last month’s announcement marks a significant milestone for CalBio, which has been at the technological forefront of converting dairy waste into renewable fuel since 2006. That’s when Buckenham, a technology engineer, partnered with Neil Black, a leader in environmental sustainability, to begin developing biodigester technologies for dairies. In 2013, CalBio launched the largest dairy digester in the state near Bakersfield in Kern County, the first project attempting to make the technology viable on a commercial scale.In the joint venture between CalBio, Chevron and dairy farmers, the Visalia company brought technology and operational experience to help build digesters and methane capture projects to convert this methane to a beneficial use as RNG. Chevron provided funding for digester projects across three geographic clusters in Kern, Tulare and Kings counties in additional to money invested by the dairies. As they are completed, these projects will mitigate the dairies’ methane emissions and reduce greenhouse emissions from livestock. Also last month, the Tulare County Board of Supervisors approved an underground pipeling connecting a dairy cluster in north Visalia with Southern California Gas Company’s (SoCalGas) utility pipeline. The clusters of digesters have been awarded California Department of Food and Agriculture grants, which must be augmented with additional capital to complete the projects.

Most of California’s large dairies are making plans to install digesters to capture biogas from their cow manure but are looking for a cleaner way to utilize this fuel. Biogas captured from cow manure contains approximately 65% methane, which has a 25 times greater impact on global warming than CO2 emissions and accounts for 105 of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, but is also a useful, renewable fuel. CalBio is directly involved in half of the 123 dairy digester projects in operation or development across the state. Ninety-four percent of those projects are at San Joaquin Valley dairies, 55 of which are in Tulare County. According to DairyCares.com, a single cow can generate enough renewable fuel to drive a car across the country. Five cows are enough to power a house for an entire year.

“These projects bring so many win-wins—they help create local jobs, improve local air quality by producing renewable natural gas for use in low-NOX emission fleets, and reduce dairy methane emissions,” Buckenham said. CalBioGas began the joint venture with Chevron last summer when it secured funding from the energy company to build infrastructure for dairy biomethane projects in California’s San Joaquin Valley, adding to the investment from dozens of dairy farmers. Chevron will also provide services to bring this product into the California vehicle fuels market.

Andy Walz, president of Chevron Americas Products, said the milestone demonstrates the company’s effort to increase renewables and to invest in lower-carbon technologies. “This is an exciting milestone that speaks to the capabilities and can-do attitude of our partners—CalBio and dairy farmers—to bring this RNG to the California vehicle fuels market,” Walz said. “Chevron is increasing RNG in support of our business and is making targeted investments and establishing partnerships, as we evaluate many emerging sources of energy and the role they will play in our portfolio. And as a proud California company, we are pleased that local communities in the state will benefit from this investment.”

CalBio is a leading developer of dairy digesters for generating renewable electricity and vehicle fuel in California. Founded in 2006, CalBio has worked closely with the dairy industry and state agencies to develop programs to help the state achieve its methane reduction goals while delivering a new revenue source to California dairies. For more information, visit: www.calbioenergy.com.

https://thesungazette.com/article/news/2020/10/21/visalia-tech-converts-dairy-air-into-low-emission-fuel/

Setton Academy for Industrial Robotics and Technology coming in 2021

Setton Farms has announced it will build a school in Terra Bella that will focus on industrial robotics and technology. The new school will be called Setton Academy.

In 2019, Setton Pistachio established a 501c(3) non-profit to develop and operate an industrial technology school. After a lengthy permitting process, the school was approved, and construction on Setton Academy began in summer 2020. DAYCO Construction and Industrial Design and Construction (IDC) are assisting with construction and materials. The school will be equipped with robotic and computer vision cells, as well as software development workstations for a hands-on laboratory experience.

“The school is a 501c(3),” said Setton Farms General Manager Lee Cohen “It’s an educational foundation that the family has set up to provide modern educational instruction in advanced industrial electronics and industrial robotics. We think that it’s a very effective way to change the trajectory of kids’ lives locally in Terra Bella.

“We are targeting students that are 18 to 23 year old high school graduates who we hope to basically give the requisite skills to change the trajectory of their lives to go into a pathway of industrial automation, which in today’s job market is very, very lucrative, high paying and very much in demand. The goal is really to go after the local kids who really wouldn’t have an opportunity like this.”

Once up and running, the Setton Academy will provide short certificate style courses that allow students to advance their education in industrial electronics, robotics and computer vision. The hands-on, module-based curriculum will be designed to focus on industrial automation control, robotics, computer vision and CAD design, and will allow students to learn at their own pace. The curriculum will cover subjects that match skills required in the broad industries throughout the Valley. All of the modules will be taught by industry professionals in a variety of methods ranging from live, hands-on instruction, to step-by-step videos and other interactive media modes.

“The school is going to be very modest and small,” said Cohen. “We’re going to try to take less than 30 students a year. If we can change the lives of 10, 20, 30 kids a year, over 10 years we’ll really have made a big difference in Terra Bella, and I think that’s the goal. The non-profit is going to be focused on providing access to these kids, providing very simplified and well designed curriculum, so that we can really utilize the state of the art of modern industrial robotics and technology, which really now is very accessible to these kids, because everyone of these kids probably has a smartphone and knows how software works, and I think the modern state of industrial automation is more accessible to them these days because of that.”

The goal of Setton Academy is its graduates acquire the necessary industrial technology and robotics skills to bring immediate value and productivity for employers who utilize production automation. If the school can achieve its goals, it could potentially change the pathway of its graduates’ lives from a minimum-wage, low-skill trajectory into a highly paid, high-skill, high-growth job trajectory.

“I think across the Valley, certainly in Agriculture, there’s of course ways of automation due to the difficult operating environment and higher costs across every aspect,” said Cohen. “I think nationally we will resort to automation to offset those costs in the long run, and I believe that, probably at this point in time, there aren’t enough educational institutions that are focusing on the people who will be operating, managing, interacting and designing this wave of automation that will be progressing through the Valley. I think it’s very within reach of all of these kids, absolutely. We just have to put together the right curriculum, the right delivery, the right program. So what we’re doing is bringing the education locally in town. They can walk to us. That’s the objective; this local education delivering really very market focused principles of education.”

Future goals for Setton Academy include developing a network of hiring companies that will source automation operators directly from the school.

“We are encouraging the community to get involved,” said Cohen. “We are looking for community members who can sit on a committee or some kind of advisory council. We want the community completely involved in this.”

The school is aiming to be completed by the summer of 2021.

https://www.recorderonline.com/news/setton-academy-coming-in-2021/article_bf4b6b5a-ff48-11ea-8a87-4f3360aea47c.html?utm_medium=social&utm_source=email&utm_campaign=user-share

 

Robots spotted roaming Modesto streets

Residents have been noticing some strange sights in Modesto over the past few days.

Small robotic machines have been going up and down the streets of a northeast neighborhood. One side of the robot says “Hungry? I can help.”

On Friday, six robots were seen cautiously navigating crosswalks and traffic, getting long glances from drivers.

The robots are from Starship Technologies, a company based out of San Francisco. The company said it is testing its navigational systems and did not release any other details.

https://www-kcra-com.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/www.kcra.com/amp/article/robots-spotted-roaming-modesto-streets/34082194

California High-Speed Rail Authority approves alignment for Central Valley Wye section

THE California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) has confirmed its choice of alignment for the 80.5km Central Valley Wye section of the Merced – Fresno high-speed line, following the unanimous approval of an environmental impact report for the section by the authority’s board.

California-HS

The section comprises two elements. A west-east alignment follows State Highway 152 from the the terminus of the previous section from San Jose and Gilroy at Carluccio Road to Madera where the high-speed line continues to Fresno. The south-north element runs alongside Road 11 west of Chowchilla to an intersection with the Union Pacific line from where the high-speed line will run north to Merced. This is the final section of the route to be approved after all other sections in May 2012.

The decision commits CHSRA to minimise impact of the project on the communities and local environment, and enables the authority to begin land purchases for the section. The decision was made as part of a three-part process, in which CHSRA certified the environmental analysis under state law, formally confirmed its choice of alignment from a shortlist of four options, and approved the environmental analysis and route under federal law.

The section was subsequently placed under more detailed consideration to address the concerns of local residents about the potential impact of the junction on their communities. The State Highway 152/Road 11 alignment was previously confirmed as the preferred option by CHSRA in January 2017, following preliminary assessments which suggested that the route offered the best balance between achieving the project’s objectives, reducing environmental impact and satisfying the concerns of communities and stakeholders. The alignment was also seen to be the most cost-effective option at $US 3.6bn.

Following this initial assessment, the alignment was submitted for an in-depth environmental analysis. The Merced – Fresno line is part of Phase 1 of California’s high-speed rail project, which will connect San Francisco to Anaheim. Phase 2 will extend the line north to Sacramento and south to San Diego. Around 1287km of line is planned for the project when completed.

Phase 1 is estimated to cost around $US 98.1bn, up from $US 64.2bn in 2016. The phase is currently expected to open for operation in 2029, having been delayed by four years from its previous launch date in 2025. No launch date for Phase 2 has been set. “Today’s approval represents another major milestone for this project as we have now completed the environmental reviews for the entire 275km stretch between Merced and Bakersfield,” says Mr Brian Kelly, CEO of CHSRA.

https://www.railjournal.com/regions/north-america/california-high-speed-rail-authority-approves-alignment-for-central-wye-valley-section/

High-Speed Rail Nears 1,100 Daily Workers at Central Valley Job Sites, California High-Speed Rail Authority Reports

The California High-Speed Rail Authority (Authority) is now averaging a daily record of nearly 1,100 workers dispatched to construction sites throughout the Central Valley. This milestone comes as the country celebrates Labor Day and the contributions of the American worker.

“The Authority is proud to keep hardworking men and women on the job and in the field during this worldwide pandemic,” said Authority CEO Brian Kelly. “These individuals are more than ‘essential.’ Each day, these skilled workers are out building for California and the nation’s future, and their contribution is invaluable.”
In partnership with local trade unions, the State Building and Construction Trades Council and the Fresno Regional Workforce Development Board, the Authority is proud to work alongside such skilled laborers. Electricians, cement masons, steel workers and others are helping bring the nation’s first high-speed rail system to life while contributing to the local economy across five counties.

“The High-Speed Rail Authority continuously lives up to its promise by providing opportunities to disadvantaged communities,” said State Building and Construction Trades Council of California President Robbie Hunter. “As more construction sites open, the opportunities grow for our growing workforce and apprentices eager to make high-speed rail a reality.”

Since the beginning of the high-speed rail project, the Authority has worked to ensure jobs created on the project benefit disadvantaged areas through the execution of a Community Benefits Agreement. The agreement includes a Targeted Worker Program that requires 30 percent of all project work hours be performed by individuals who come from disadvantaged communities where household income ranges from $32,000 to $40,000 annually.

Each of the project’s design-builders is implementing the Targeted Worker Program. Out of the more than 4,300 workers dispatched to the project, 226 reported living in Madera County, 1,791 living in Fresno County, 128 living in Kings County, 406 living in Tulare County, and 580 in Kern County. “It’s neat to be part of one of the biggest projects in California,” said Nicholas Godbey, a laborer working on an overpass at Davis Avenue in Fresno County. “I work with great people every day and I take a lot of pride in being a laborer. There’s not many who can say they are part of building high-speed rail.”

The Authority currently has 119 miles under construction within three construction packages. Design-builder contractors Tutor-Perini/Zachry/Parsons, Dragados-Flatiron/Joint Venture, and California Rail Builders have 32 active construction sites with more expected to open in the coming months. This work totals more than $4.8 billion in construction commitments.

https://goldrushcam.com/sierrasuntimes/index.php/news/local-news/25191-high-speed-rail-nears-1-100-daily-workers-at-central-valley-job-sites-california-high-speed-rail-authority-reports

California High-Speed Rail Authority releases video promoting project, jobs creation

Work is booming on more than 32 active construction sites across the Central Valley. As we move forward building the nation’s first high-speed rail system, we are proud to announce that more than 4,000 construction jobs have been created, with more than 73% of the workers dispatched to our various construction sites reported living in the Central Valley.

We expect to keep the momentum this summer by completing and opening several overcrossings along Construction Package 1 and 2-3. Watch our latest Construction Update video to see the work in action and to get the latest on construction anytime, visit BuildHSR.com.

http://www.oc-breeze.com/2020/07/15/184751_california-high-speed-rail-authority-releases-video-promoting-project-jobs-creation/