Feb 282014
 

solar bike chargerAnother month, another slew of solar innovations! This month, while we’re continuing our ongoing “solar everywhere” theme of explore the many places where solar can go beyond the roof, we’re also seeing an emerging trend: electric vehicles of all kinds. While not specifically solar-powered in most cases, it is only the tiniest of leaps to get from an electric vehicle to a solar-powered electric vehicle. So bear with us: Although it seems like we’re straying from our self-imposed mission, this is how the pieces all come together.

Solar bike charger: To start off our roundup and underline our point, let’s look at the new Spark solar charging station (pictured above at left) designed by electric-bike manufacturer Xkuty. Inhabitat reports that the Spark recharging station “doubles as a parking unit and it adapts to almost any environment — it can be easily integrated into houses, buildings and shared spaces.” Sadly, at this point the Xkuty One e-bike — and it’s fancy new charger — are only for sale in Europe.

solar-bikeFord’s electric bike: The Ford Motor Company is also getting into the electric bike game, showing of the new Ford Supercruiser electric bike. Created by Pedego Electric Bikes and licensed and branded by Ford, the Supercruiser is a seven-speed e-bike with a 600-watt motor that goes up to 20 miles per hour, and can carry you between 15-30 miles per charge, depending on your size and how much you pedal. As cool as it looks and as great as it sounds, the price tag will likely give you pause: According to ElectricBikeReview.com, the Supercruiser will set you back $3,595. That’s enough to get you a a down payment and eight months of a lease on a Nissan Leaf — or just about the sweetest non-electric bike you can imagine.

electric snow sledThe Electric Snow-Sled: Speaking of sweet rides, Gas2 writes about the MTT-136 an electric sled that doubles as so much more:

The MTT is seen throughout much of the demo video connected to a sled-type platform pulling along its passengers at an undefined, but adequate looking pace. As fun as this looks, what I find more intriguing are the multitude of other uses Martel has found for his invention. The MTT-136 is seen operating on dry land as well as snow, opening up a plethora of additional uses. He pulls logs, goes down stairs, cuts through knee deep snow and pushes a car (a Pontiac Montana in neutral on snow) to show what his creation can do.

Although the MTT-136 is still seeking funders to move it to production, it looks cool and hyper-practical, particularly given the snow that has steadily dumped on most of the country this winter.

kenguru EVThe Wheelchair-friendly Electric Car: Over at Grist, Holly Richmond points us to the The Kenguru, a very small electric vehicle designed specifically for people in wheelchairs. Originally conceived of by a Hungarian engineer, the Kenguru found a second home — and, more importantly, investors — in Texas, and is going into production this year. Richmond writes: “The EV’s sticker price is about $25,000, but thanks to mobility and clean energy tax incentives, buyers may not have to pay nearly that much. The cars, which are even smaller than a Smart Car, are made in America, feature LED lights, and can go up to 25 miles per hour (they’re designed for local use, with an estimated range of 60 miles). Batteries power two 2-kW motors in the back, and the Kenguru takes about eight hours to charge.”

solar healthcare suitcaseSolar-Powered Healthcare Kit: We’ve seen a number of solar-powered tools aimed at the developing world, all of which promise to make great strides in improving quality of life and potentially helping to improve the environment in those regions. Ecopreneurist tells the story of the Solar Suitcase, a healthcare kit that aims to provide more reliable light for hospitals and field medical workers where lights are either currently lacking or too intermittent to be reliable. The Suitcase, built by the nonprofit WE CARE Solar, includes 40 to 80 watts of solar panels, a lead-acid battery, medical-quality LED lights, a universal cell phone charger, a battery charger for double- or triple-A batteries, outlets for up to 12 DC devices, and the maternity unit comes with a fetal heartrate monitor. So far, WE CARE has distributed 300 Suitcases to 25 countries, but is seeking donations to provide more units to the Phillippines, Nepal and Tanzania.

traffic robotThe Congolese Solar-Powered Traffic Robot: Let’s file this under “you just couldn’t make this up:” The capital of Congo, Kinshasa, has installed two giant solar-powered robots to serve in lieu of traffic police, directing cars, bikes and pedestrians, using embedded cameras to identify and later fine any drivers that ignore the laws. Commenting on the impact the robots have had so far, one Congolese driver told CCTV Africa, “As a motorcyclist I’m very happy with the robot’s work. Because when the traffic police control the cars here there’s still a lot of traffic. But since the robot arrived, we see truly that the commuters are respectful.”

traffic robot 2

The post Solar Everywhere: Electric Bikes, Sleds and Cars, the Solar Robot & More appeared first on Solar Power.

Feb 282014
 

solar bike chargerAnother month, another slew of solar innovations! This month, while we’re continuing our ongoing “solar everywhere” theme of explore the many places where solar can go beyond the roof, we’re also seeing an emerging trend: electric vehicles of all kinds. While not specifically solar-powered in most cases, it is only the tiniest of leaps to get from an electric vehicle to a solar-powered electric vehicle. So bear with us: Although it seems like we’re straying from our self-imposed mission, this is how the pieces all come together.

Solar bike charger: To start off our roundup and underline our point, let’s look at the new Spark solar charging station (pictured above at left) designed by electric-bike manufacturer Xkuty. Inhabitat reports that the Spark recharging station “doubles as a parking unit and it adapts to almost any environment — it can be easily integrated into houses, buildings and shared spaces.” Sadly, at this point the Xkuty One e-bike — and it’s fancy new charger — are only for sale in Europe.

solar-bikeFord’s electric bike: The Ford Motor Company is also getting into the electric bike game, showing of the new Ford Supercruiser electric bike. Created by Pedego Electric Bikes and licensed and branded by Ford, the Supercruiser is a seven-speed e-bike with a 600-watt motor that goes up to 20 miles per hour, and can carry you between 15-30 miles per charge, depending on your size and how much you pedal. As cool as it looks and as great as it sounds, the price tag will likely give you pause: According to ElectricBikeReview.com, the Supercruiser will set you back $3,595. That’s enough to get you a a down payment and eight months of a lease on a Nissan Leaf — or just about the sweetest non-electric bike you can imagine.

electric snow sledThe Electric Snow-Sled: Speaking of sweet rides, Gas2 writes about the MTT-136 an electric sled that doubles as so much more:

The MTT is seen throughout much of the demo video connected to a sled-type platform pulling along its passengers at an undefined, but adequate looking pace. As fun as this looks, what I find more intriguing are the multitude of other uses Martel has found for his invention. The MTT-136 is seen operating on dry land as well as snow, opening up a plethora of additional uses. He pulls logs, goes down stairs, cuts through knee deep snow and pushes a car (a Pontiac Montana in neutral on snow) to show what his creation can do.

Although the MTT-136 is still seeking funders to move it to production, it looks cool and hyper-practical, particularly given the snow that has steadily dumped on most of the country this winter.

kenguru EVThe Wheelchair-friendly Electric Car: Over at Grist, Holly Richmond points us to the The Kenguru, a very small electric vehicle designed specifically for people in wheelchairs. Originally conceived of by a Hungarian engineer, the Kenguru found a second home — and, more importantly, investors — in Texas, and is going into production this year. Richmond writes: “The EV’s sticker price is about $25,000, but thanks to mobility and clean energy tax incentives, buyers may not have to pay nearly that much. The cars, which are even smaller than a Smart Car, are made in America, feature LED lights, and can go up to 25 miles per hour (they’re designed for local use, with an estimated range of 60 miles). Batteries power two 2-kW motors in the back, and the Kenguru takes about eight hours to charge.”

solar healthcare suitcaseSolar-Powered Healthcare Kit: We’ve seen a number of solar-powered tools aimed at the developing world, all of which promise to make great strides in improving quality of life and potentially helping to improve the environment in those regions. Ecopreneurist tells the story of the Solar Suitcase, a healthcare kit that aims to provide more reliable light for hospitals and field medical workers where lights are either currently lacking or too intermittent to be reliable. The Suitcase, built by the nonprofit WE CARE Solar, includes 40 to 80 watts of solar panels, a lead-acid battery, medical-quality LED lights, a universal cell phone charger, a battery charger for double- or triple-A batteries, outlets for up to 12 DC devices, and the maternity unit comes with a fetal heartrate monitor. So far, WE CARE has distributed 300 Suitcases to 25 countries, but is seeking donations to provide more units to the Phillippines, Nepal and Tanzania.

traffic robotThe Congolese Solar-Powered Traffic Robot: Let’s file this under “you just couldn’t make this up:” The capital of Congo, Kinshasa, has installed two giant solar-powered robots to serve in lieu of traffic police, directing cars, bikes and pedestrians, using embedded cameras to identify and later fine any drivers that ignore the laws. Commenting on the impact the robots have had so far, one Congolese driver told CCTV Africa, “As a motorcyclist I’m very happy with the robot’s work. Because when the traffic police control the cars here there’s still a lot of traffic. But since the robot arrived, we see truly that the commuters are respectful.”

traffic robot 2

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Jan 312014
 

The start of the new year certainly brought us a fresh crop of solar innovations — as always in our monthly “Solar Everywhere” series, we look at where solar is popping up beyond the roof.

We’ve got a broad array of findings this month, so let’s start small and work our way up.

First: A solar street bench. As part of the city of Boston’s overarching Complete Streets initiative, which aims to make city life more efficient, people-friendly and green, the city just two benches with solar panels included, which can be used to charge mobile phones while people sit and rest.

 

solar soldiers

 

Solar soldiers: Writing in Forbes, Navigant Research points us to trends in solarizing soldiers, allowing fighting forces to carry solar panels instead of a dozen pounds of batteries. Among the products are two that bear acronym-friendly names that would only exist in the military: the Rucksack Enhanced Portable Power System (REPPS) — pictured at right — a portable solar power source, and the Soldier Worn Integrated Power Equipment System (SWIPES), a wearable charging system.

 

 

solar roof tileSolar roof tiles: OK, so this doesn’t fit our mandate of looking only at solar freed from the roof, but it’s pretty neat nonetheless. Via Inhabitat, a look at Swedish company SolTech, which has created the SolTech system, using glass roof tiples to heat or even power a house. Frida Jeppsson writes, “The tiles are installed on top of a black nylon canvas, under which air slots are mounted. The black colour absorbs heat from the sun and the air starts to circulate. The hot air is then used to heat up water, which is connected to the house’s heating system via an accumulator. The beauty of the system is that it cuts energy costs throughout the year, during dark winter days as well as night time, due to its capacity to store heat in the isolating layers of air under the canvas.” They look quite pretty, as well!

 

solar ELF bikeSolar-powered trike: The ELF is a solar egg of a bike, a three-wheeled pedal machine created by Organic Transit, it combines the best parts of a car and a bike, and it’s powered by the sun (and your feet). With a hard shell and an electric pedal-assist engine, the ELF aims to make it impossible to resist biking — you could commute in style with minimal effort an sweat, or you could push your giant egg across town and glow with pride at your eco-lifestyle (and a fine sheen of sweat). Either way, at $5000 to start, the ELF isn’t for the faint of heart or weak of leg, but it’s a fine-looking machine.

 

140131-solar-everywhere-5The solarest bridge in the world: Move over, London Bridge, there’s a new landmark on the Thames: The Blackfriars Bridge features 4,400 solar panels and can generate up to half the electricity needed for the Blackfriars train station. Writes BusinessGreen: “First Capital Connect, which runs Blackfriars, expects the panels to cut the stations’ carbon emissions by an estimated 511 tonnes a year, further reducing the carbon footprint of its train routes to the south east of England…. The bridge will also act as a major advertisement for London’s efforts to become a sustainable city, with tourists and workers viewing the panels as they enter the capital.”

 

Solar drought solutions: Finally and biggest-ly, with California in the throes of an epic drought, The Guardian offers a look at solar-powered desalination, which could potentially solve one of California’s most pressing problems: chronic shortages of water for either state residents or the state’s ag land (which feed much of the nation). Oliver Balch writes:

WaterFX’s solution comes in the unlikely shape of a vast bank of parabolic mirrors and an advanced “multi-effect” evaporating unit. The Aqua4 system offers a renewable method of desalinating briny water, which, if its developers prove right, could put California “on a path to water independence”.

How does it work? Unlike conventional desalination, which uses a high-pressure reverse osmosis system that forces salt and other solids through a membrane, WaterFX cleans water through use of a 400-kilowatt solar “trough” – hence the mirrors. This concentrated solar still collects the sun’s energy, which heats a pipe containing natural oil, providing heat for the subsequent distillation process.”

And that wraps up our small-to-big rundown of solar innovation for the month. With the Super Bowl coming up in just two days, we will be curious to see if solar makes an appearance — for instance, when is SolarCity going to run a SuperBowl ad?

The post Solar Everywhere, Jan. 2014: Solar Soldiers, Bridges & More appeared first on Solar Power.

Dec 312013
 

It’s the end of the year, and the news cycle slows down significantly as the year winds down. But even though the news is stocked full of year-end lists, there have also been a good number of interesting solar tidbits — enough to flesh out one last Solar Everywhere for 2013. Read on to see how we’re winding the year down with solar in unexpected place.

solar smokersSolar for smokers: Leave it to France to use solar power to help with the problem of smoking bans. Over at the Energy Collective, Boyd Arnold writes about how the French government is helping smokers cope with a ban on indoor smoking: outdoor solar parasols. Boyd writes: “Their solar-powered parasols create heat from the solar power for those under the parasol, and absorbs the cigarettes. This dual function provides a seamless integration of solar innovation while catering to the needs of smokers and government policy.” The parasols also relieve restaurants and bars of the need to rely on gas-powered heaters to keep smokers warm during the winter months.

solar tentSolar tents: In the first — and sillier — of two stories this month about solar-powered habitats, Inhabitat points us to Bang Bang Tents, which are designed to help make festival-going or car-camping a little more electrified. The four-person tents “come equipped with a solar panel that can be slid into a pouch on the exterior of the tent. The 5W solar panel trickle charges a lithium battery bank that has a USB charging adapter and can charge most low voltage devices. Use the solar panel and battery backup to charge cameras, phones, or computers or use them to run speakers and LED lights.” At £249.95 (US$415), they’re not cheap, but would certainly help you stand out at the campground.

solar shelterSolar shelters: We often say that solar is a force for good in the world — but usually that’s because solar homeowers save money and reduce their emissions. IKEA, however, has developed flat-pack, solar-powered shelters for use by refugees. The shelters are everything you’d expect from IKEA: quickly assembled, spacious, cleanly designed — and are also powered by the sun. After six months of lobbying, IKEA has gotten the Lebanese government toapprove a test run of the shelters for refugees fleeing the Syrian civil war and suffering in the intense Lebanese winter.

solar lights 1Solar lights overseas: Putting the sun to work at night is in some ways the holy grail of the solar boom, since it means the development of affordable, reliable battery technologies. One of the earliest places that solar batteries have taken off is in the solar lights market, and two companies this month helped bring light to regions that desperately needed it. First, the Estonian nonprofit Andakidz sent a team of engineers to the Philippines to provide solar lights to villages devastated and left powerless first by an earthquake and then three weeks later by Typhoon Haiyan.

solar lights 2Second, Panasonic has committed to sending 100,000 of the company’s solar lanterns to regions without electricity, and engaged the public and 11 artists from around the world to design paper solar lantern covers as a way of spreading the word about how solar can help meet some of people’s most basic needs.

solar scooter chargerSolar scooters: Solar Tribune offers us a brief glimpse at a new solar-powered charging station for electric scooters, from Current Motor, a Michigan-based scooter manufacturer. The company’s Super Scooters can run for 50 miles on a charge, and are then recharged in about six hours by a solar-powered charging station.

ugly solar outfitSolar clothing: Last but certainly not least, Grist points us to a new fashion item that incorporate solar panels into the design, for better or worse. The new prototype Wearable Solar outfits, are the result of a collaboration between Dutch professor Christiaan Holland, fashion designer Pauline van Dongen and solar expert Gert Jan Jongerden. Grist’s Holly Richmond explains that the outfits are supposed to be able to charge a phone in two hours of wearing, but nails the description: “Unfortunately, the clothes are — how do we say this nicely? — really ugly.”

Here’s looking ahead to a solar-filled 2014 — thanks for reading!

The post Solar Everywhere, Dec. 2013: Refugee Shelters, Ugly Dresses & More appeared first on Solar Power.

Nov 202013
 

solar pedi-bikeWelcome to our monthly installment of Solar Everywhere, a brief roundup of where solar is appearing when it’s not on your roof and not in a gadget — we draw the line at solar gadgets (though we reserve the right to change our mind if the right solar gadget comes along). This month brings us an interesting range of solar applications, from a solar bicycle to a floating solar system to solar for the developing world.

Without further ado, let’s jump in:

The solar pedi-bike: Rhoades Car, makers of four-wheeled, multi-passenger pedi-bikes, has just released two new models: the SOLARped and the SOLARide, sit-down bikes that can carry anywhere from one to four passengers and feature a roof-mounted solar panel to help you cruise along the road. The SOLARped is a seven-speed (or 42-speed, if you live in a hilly region) bike that features a 190-watt solar panel and a 750-watt pedal-assist motor. It retails for almost $7,000, so it’s not for the faint of heart, but you could certainly take the family out for an epic Sunday ride in one of these…

solar backpackA taxpayer-funded solar backpack: Cleantechnica points us to the Enerplex Packr, a backpack featuring a 3-watt solar panel. Developed in part with funding from NREL (which we as taxpayers fund), it’s great to see these cutting-edge research programs result in tangible, if pricey, goods (the EnerPlex Packr retails for $99).

solarwindow testSolarWindow to see the light of day: New Energy Technologies, Inc., just announced that it is about to bring it’s new, see-through solar window technology to market this year. The SolarWindow, a new building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) product, is just one of the company’s applications for its electricity-generating coatings, which the company says is a see-through coating that can be applied to glass, flexible plastics, and even airplane fuselages, will soon hit the market and be available for integrating into a building (or plane) near you.

Solar parking canopy: Around certain parts of the country, a solar parking canopy is no big deal — if I bike for 15 minutes from my house in the East Bay, I can pass under at least three different canopies — but NRG Solar is rolling out a new wrinkle on the solar canopy: a freestanding, modular, grid-connected or off-grid solar canopy. The idea is that something as simple as a parking structure or shelter can provide enough energy to offset some of the energy used by a home (or more likely, a business), but could also include a battery system for providing off-peak or even emergency backup power.

solar parking canopy

nokero solar lightSolar-powered light bulbs: Moving on from the fairly Western-consumer-focused aspects of this month’s solar roundup, Silvio Marcacci at the Energy Collective offers us a look at the Nokero, a solar-powered light bulb that is designed to end the reliance on kerosene lamps in the developing world. The company makes three light bulbs that range in price from $6 to $45, about which Marcacci writes: “Over 10 years, one solar lantern could replace 600 liters of kerosene and cut 1.5 tons of CO2 emissions, while solar lighting could save up to $800 million in avoided fuel purchases.”

solar water pumpSolar water pump: In another move targeting the power of solar to provide leapfrogging technologies for the developing world, SunEdison has just announced the launch of its solar-powered water pumps, large-scale systems designed to help farmers in India provide more regular watering to their crops, as well as grow crops in fields that they currently could not reach with irrigation.

Floating solar power plant: Last but not least, Vice Magazine points us to a new solar power plant currently under construction in Switzerland that consists of three floating islands on Lake Neuchâtel, each holding 100 solar panels. The islands will also be able to rotate 220 degrees to track the sun, and boast a generating capacity of 33 kilowatts. The CEO of Nolaris, the company behind the solar islands, believes that a solar island a mile across could generate 190 megawatts of power.

solar island

The post Solar Everywhere: Solar Parking, Light Bulbs, Water Pumps and More appeared first on Solar Power.

Nov 042013
 

solar iphone chargerLast time we spoke of Apple and solar power in the same sentence, it was in September, when we shared a link to a job posting from Apple that hinted at the need for solar engineers to work on a new Apple product.

Well, it looks like Apple is continuing down that path: PV-Tech is reporting that Apple just filed for a a patent that would allow iPhones and iPads to recharge using solar power.

The patent covers “power management systems in electronic devices for accepting power from power adapters and/or solar panels.”

As PV-Tech reports:

The system would accept direct current (DC) from solar panels, and AC current using a system micro controller (SMC), to an AC-DC adapter, so devices can use both solar power and an adapter.

It uses existing technologies including maximum power point tracking (MPPT) and would not use a converter circuit, allowing adapter and solar power use simultaneously to power devices or recharge batteries.

Whatever device Apple is working on would allow users to recharge using either the sun or the wall, whichever is more convenient or accessible.

There’s no real “range anxiety” concept associated with solar-powered phones (that we know of), otherwise we’d have to go ahead and call this the Chevy Volt of phone chargers. But realistically, this is yet another cool way to spread the word about solar.

DIY solar iPhone charger photo CC-licensed by Flickr user Bryan Lee.

The post Apple Takes the Next Step to a Solar iPhone with New Patent appeared first on Solar Power.

Oct 162013
 

Last month, we published our first installment of Solar Everywhere, wherein we looked at several interesting and unlikely applications for solar panels. Since then, we’ve kept a weather eye on the news for other odd appearances of solar power.

And oh the news did not disappoint. Read on for a glimpse at the far-flung places that solar is going.

solar iphone case• Solar iPhones: This is not particularly surprising, but it is pretty cool: Treehugger points us to the Enerplex Surfr iPhone case, which integrates a thin-film solar panel into the back of the phone, recharging your battery or keeping it going while you’re talking or playing Bejeweled or whatever it is you people do with your phones these days. At $70, it’s expensive even for an Apple accessory, but it’s pretty cool nonetheless.

The timing on this may be good, since CleanTechnica points us to a recent job posting from Apple that’s looking for solar-experienced engineers — a possible hint that the company is aiming to put thin-film solar on its products in the near future.

solar from space• Solar from space: Speaking of the future, what’s more futuristic than this idea from Japanese scientists to harvest solar power from space? The idea is to put solar panels up in geostationary orbit over the country, and transmit the generated electricity down to Japan. It’s far-out, and is probably a long ways from reality, but sending solar panels into space is a great idea, since you’re not hampered by weather or night or anything tricky like that — just 22,236 miles of space and atmosphere…

• Solar desalination: With global warming promising to make wet areas wetter and dry areas drier, there’s no doubt that those of us living in soon-to-be drought-plagued regions are thinking about where our water will come from. Desalination, while currently expensive and technically complicated, is a technology that will hold a prominent place in the near future. And members of the Navajo Nation in Arizona are building a solar powered desalination plant to provide clean drinking water to tribe members — who currently have to drive hundreds of miles to buy drinking water in bulk.

solar sterilizer• Solar sterilization: In other promising quality-of-life news, a team of researchers at Rice University have created a solar-powered autoclave that can be used to sterilize medical and dental equipment in the developing world, helping medical professionals provide safer care to people without electricity. The team has created two types of machines, both of which use sunpower to boil water quickly, and can then sterilize equipment or human waste, and can also be used for purifying water.

solar lamp post• Solar lamp post: In hindsight, this seems genius: Norwegian design firm Kaal Masten has created Spirit, a solar lamp post, storing the sun’s energy during the day and releasing it as light in the night. The post is covered with panels and filled with batteries — all of which are recyclable, the group says — and because they don’t need to be connected to the grid, the Spirit light can provide illumination to areas and people that don’t currently have electricity.

• Solar-powered transit — buses, planes and tuk tuks!: We’ve all heard about the Solar Impulse, the solar powered airplane that recently completed a cross-country trip (in two months). Last month, Google joined the team as a technology / promotional partner, bringing news about solar-powered flight to the far corners of the world.

solar busOn the Down Under front, we’ve got two items from Australia. First of all, the city of Adelaide has just turned the keys on the world’s first solar-powered bus. Designed by a New Zealand firm, the Tindo bus is part of Adelaide’s free Connector Bus service. It can carry 40 passengers at a time and travel about 125 miles per charge — it uses a BP Solar charging station at the bus station to recharge.

solar tuk tukSecondly, the Australian firm Star 8 Solar has developed a solar-powered tuk tuk, the open-air taxis that are used around the globe. Diesel-powered tuk tuks are also major sources of air pollution, leading to restrictions on their use and even bans. Star 8 is putting the final touches on solar-powered tuk tuks that include two batteries, so one can charge while the driver is using the other, and a range of solar panel system sizes and engine capacities.

solar sidewalk• Solar sidewalk: I was going to be all snarky and put this in the solar-powered transit section, but this is cool enough to be put in its own section. George Washington University has just unveiled an energy-generating sidewalk that uses solar panels underfoot to create electricity. The sidewalk is more art installation / educational opportunity than a utility’s new best friend — it’s just 100 feet long and can generate 400 watts at full capacity, enough to power the LED lights that sit underneath the panels.

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