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Circulate on Fridays: Micropower grids, more on Tesla’s new car, neural networks and more…

Every Friday, Circulate rounds up a collection of interesting circular economy related stories and articles. Today, we find out why technology companies like Google and Facebook are so interested in neural networks, look at the popularity of Tesla’s affordable electric car, the potential of micropower grids and much more…

“Life’s technologies tend to be elegant, they sip energy, shaves material use and really avoids toxins”, pioneering biomimicry author Janine Benyus, is as eloquent as ever in a neatly produced video posted on Bloomberg this week. The idea that designers can look to natural systems for inspiration when designing the products, services, cities and economies of the future continues to gain traction, influencing new sectors and networks. Biomimicry is an important school of thought when it comes to designing for the circular economy and this video is worth watching for people who are both new and familiar with the concept.

If large tech companies like Facebook and Google are right, then “neural networks” – computer programmes that aim to simulate the human mind – could be the future of computing and development of new technologies. Where traditional computer processors are highly efficient at thinking logically, they reach nowhere near the complexity of the average neuron in the brain, which has over 10,000 different connections. Theoretically, developing computer systems that mimic those structures, could produce technologies that have creative and learning abilities. An obvious example of neural network technology in action are Google’s self-driving cars.

Last week we covered the release of Tesla’s new Model 3, designed to be the affordable electric car (EV), now it is reportedly the biggest one-week launch of any product ever after 325,000 pre-orders were received less than seven days after Elon Musk the vehicle in California, nearly three times as many orders as were anticipated. Circulate on Fridays can’t take all the credit though! The high demand suggests that there’s plenty of “consumer willing” when it comes to the move from combustion engine to electric, and seems to back up a recent report produced by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, which predicted that EVs will make up nearly 40% of all new car sales by 2040.

Setting up the expensive and complex infrastructure required to establish a grid energy system is a significant barrier for many economies in providing electricity, a relatively critical element in development. However, new distributed energy and microgrid technologies are helping to enable new energy networks. It’s an emerging trend that could be significant for a broader transition from an economy run on fossil fuels to one powered by renewables. Barbara Grady covered the topic in GreenBiz this week:

“A few solar panels connected to an inverter, plus a battery no bigger than those found inside an electric vehicle. That’s all it takes for a village in Kenya that never before had electricity to not only light up homes but also enable some businesses to power refrigerators and computers…

Microgrids are localized systems that generate and deliver electricity to a defined geographic area, such as a building, campus or neighborhood. They are transforming remote economies in the developing world, as well as businesses, universities and municipalities in the industrialized world. Microgrids can serve as backup power sources to entities also connected to the grid or can be operated independently, allowing homes or businesses to operate off the grid.”

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The Author

Seb Egerton-Read

Seb Egerton-Read

Seb writes daily content for Circulate across the full spectrum of the website's topics. Previously he has spent five years as a freelance writer for a number of websites and blogs. You can e-mail Seb at seb[at]circulatenews.org