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Floating wind turbine in Maine proves resilient in storm simulation, researchers say

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Floating wind turbine in Maine proves resilient in storm simulation, researchers say
  • The University of Maine is contributing to the global effort to improve floating machines to harness wind over deeper offshore waters.
  • Researchers envision turbine platforms floating in the ocean beyond the horizon, stretching more than 700 feet.
  • Floating turbines are the only viable option for U.S. states to capture large-scale offshore wind energy in waters too deep for traditional turbines.

As waves grew and gusts increased, a wind turbine bobbed gently, its blades spinning with a gentle woosh. The tempest reached a crescendo with little drama other than splashing water.

The uneventful outcome is exactly what engineers aimed for.

The demonstration featuring a 13-foot-tall floating wind turbine in an indoor pool aimed to ensure it can withstand the strain of powerful water and wind when much larger versions are deployed in the ocean.

US’S FIRST LARGE OFFSHORE WIND FARM OFFICIALLY OPENS IN NEW YORK, WITH MORE TO COME

It’s the University of Maine’s contribution to a worldwide race to improve floating machines to tap wind that blows across deeper waters offshore, too deep to attach turbines to the seabed with permanent pilings.

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The University of Maine’s first prototype of an offshore wind turbine is seen in this Sept. 20, 2013, file photo, near Castine, Maine. Floating turbines are the only way for some countries and U.S. states to capture a massive amount of offshore wind energy. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, files)

In the next decade, UMaine researchers said, they envision turbine platforms floating in the ocean beyond the horizon, stretching more than 700 feet skyward and anchored with mooring lines.

“These structures are massive,” said Anthony Viselli, chief engineer for offshore wind technology at the university’s Advanced Composites Center, after the demonstration wrapped up. “These would be some of the largest moving structures that humankind has endeavored to create. And there would be many of them.”

THREE GROUPS ARE SUING NEW JERSEY TO BLOCK AN OFFSHORE WIND FARM

As the technology advances, dozens of designs are being promoted by experts who see floating wind turbines as a way to address climate change by shifting away from burning fossil fuels.

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Floating turbines are the only way some countries and U.S. states can capture offshore wind energy on a large scale. In the U.S. alone, 2.8 terawatts of wind energy potential blows over ocean waters too deep for traditional turbines that affix to the ocean floor, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. That’s enough to power 350 million homes — more than double the number of existing homes in the U.S.

The first floating wind farm started operating off Scotland’s coast in 2017. In the United States, the Department of Interior two weeks ago proposed the first floating wind energy auctions for the Gulf of Maine, following lease auctions for the West Coast that began in 2022. The nearly 1 million acres up for auction off the New England coast could generate enough clean wind energy to power more than 5 million local homes, the department said.

UMaine is home to the nation’s largest team of engineers dedicated to floating offshore wind. Other big players include Equinor, which has installed a demonstration floating project of the coast of Norway; global company Principle Power, which has installed small-scale projects off Scotland and Portugal; and SBM Offshore, which has a demonstration project off France.

Floating offshore wind is still a nascent industry, however, making it expensive.

The Norwegian company Equinor postponed its Trollvind floating initiative, citing technology availability, rising costs and a strained timetable to deliver on the original concept.

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BIDEN ADMIN APPROVES EIGHTH US OFFSHORE WIND PROJECT OFF MASSACHUSETTS COAST

Danish wind energy developer Ørsted decided to focus its efforts on fixed-bottom turbines, foregoing deeper offshore regions including Japan, Norway, Spain, Portugal and the U.S. West Coast. “We care a lot about affordability of renewable power, and floating wind is a lot more expensive than bottom-fixed,” said CEO Mads Nipper.

But others are moving forward.

Gazelle Wind Power is developing a modular platform system to make manufacture and assembly cost-effective and efficient.

“This is a global problem and this is an ideal solution in order to deliver power to shore,” said Gazelle Wind Power CEO Jon Salazar.

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UMaine launched its first floating prototype a decade ago and became a surprise global leader after a study showed that the Gulf of Maine had the wind energy potential of 156 nuclear power plants, due to fast, consistent wind.

The state could meet all its home heating needs and power every car — if they were all electric vehicles — by tapping just 3% of that water. That improves the odds of successfully sharing the resource with fishermen, recreational boaters, the military and, of course, marine life. Indeed, the federal government’s lease proposal spares Maine’s key lobstering grounds from development, removing a potential obstacle.

Trailblazers in offshore wind are benefiting from work done by the oil industry, which engineered floating oil and gas rigs, said Habib Dagher, director of the Advanced Composites Center.

The university’s wind wave basin, which looks something like a swimming pool with wave and wind generators that can mimic ocean conditions up to a 500-year storm, takes that work to the next level.

On a recent day, the semi-submersible floating turbine was tethered to the bottom of the basin. Its 1:70 scale represented a real turbine standing about 800 feet (240 meters) tall atop a platform in the ocean. The goal is to have industrial scale turbines of 15 to 20 megawatts each, Dagher said.

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Size and efficiency are keys to profitability. Larger wind turbines mean fewer are needed, reducing construction, installation and maintenance costs, Viselli said. With greater size and efficiency, developers envision only about 50 turbines needed to produce about the same amount of electricity as a nuclear power plant.

Full-size turbines generate peak power starting at about 20 mph. In powerful storms, they shut down automatically to avoid stressing the equipment or breaking. The mooring lines tethered to the ocean floor are made of rope nearly thick as a telephone pole and under heavy tension. That makes them safer for marine mammals.

For all the turbine technology, the platforms developed by UMaine can be built locally with concrete, a simple material that’s readily available. The university already has partners around the world interested in licensing its technology. The state of Maine plans to develop a port facility in the Searsport area to build the floating bases and attach turbines before sending them into the Gulf of Maine.

A brand new industry means some experiments in design will succeed and some will fail. And there is work to ensure that wind farms are good neighbors, overcoming objections from others using the ocean.

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“We’re going to have some problems and we have to figure out how to roll up our sleeves and solve these problems,” Dagher said. “And I think we have no choice as a society but to do that.”

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A jury hands Bungie a landmark victory in a Destiny 2 cheating lawsuit

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A jury hands Bungie a landmark victory in a Destiny 2 cheating lawsuit

Yesterday’s jury decision awarded Bungie (PDF) a tidy sum of $63,210. Bungie counsel James Barker said in a statement emailed to The Verge that the company is “committed to our players and will continue to protect them against cheats, including taking this and future cases all the way to trial.”

In 2021, Bungie sued AimJunkies and four defendants (here’s a PDF of the complaint), alleging, among other things, that they hacked Destiny 2 to copy the code used to make cheats. Some of Bungie’s complaints — like that AimJunkies violated a DMCA provision forbidding circumvention of copyright protection tech — went to arbitration and saw Bungie winning $4 million. AimJunkies appealed after the judge confirmed that award. That appeal is still in process, as Polygon wrote this week.

Phoenix Digital founder David Schaefer will move to dismiss the jury’s verdict and appeal it if necessary, according to Totilo. However that shakes out, the verdict is significant, given that cheating lawsuits tend to conclude in other ways, like settlements. (For example, a judge shut down a Grand Theft Auto cheat distributor in 2018 following a Take-Two Interactive lawsuit, or when Bungie settled another cheating lawsuit in 2022 for $13.5 million.)

The win may only mean pocket change for Bungie, and it won’t likely put an end to online cheating, but it does put a jury on record about the legality of creating such cheats. That makes this more significant than the pocket-change-for-Bungie $63,000 award lets on.

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Don’t fall for this email scam that almost cost an elderly woman $25K

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Don’t fall for this email scam that almost cost an elderly woman $25K

Unfortunately, phishing scams seem to be the new normal. 

Most recently, an elderly woman in the tri-state area almost got scammed for $25,000. 

According to Patch.com, what began as an average phishing scam turned even more sinister when the scammer turned up at this elderly victim’s house to retrieve money physically.

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Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson has a warning about an email scam. (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

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Geek Squad scammer caught in elaborate phishing scheme

While this Geek Squad scam isn’t new, this scammer took it to new lows and got caught in the process. In this particular scam, scammers send their victims phishing emails pretending to send them a large invoice for their Geek Squad subscription. The email recipients usually panic at the large charge and call the customer service telephone number listed in the scam email and invoice. 

The scammer then pretends to be the customer service representative helping to cancel or refund the charge. They’ll usually use that moment as an opportunity to confirm bank account information with the victim to steal their money later. Even if you simply click on their links or download the invoice from the email, there is a potential risk that viruses or malware have been downloaded onto your device. 

woman on phone

A woman on her cellphone and laptop. (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

MORE: THE ‘UNSUBSCRIBE’ EMAIL SCAM IS TARGETING AMERICANS

Elderly victim foils scammer’s elaborate plot

The elderly victim gave her bank account number and remote access to her computer. The scam, however, doesn’t just stop there. The scammer went a step further and proceeded to convince this elderly woman that they had accidentally refunded a fake $25,000 into her bank account by mistake and that he needed her to withdraw $20,000 in cash initially for him to pick up with arrangements to pick up the remaining $5,000 the following day. This is when the elderly woman called her local authorities. Thankfully, the authorities set up surveillance and apprehended the scammer when he came to collect the $20,000. 

Perhaps the elderly victim lucked out that this scammer had an extra level of greed: combining multiple scams into one. 

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stressed woman on phone

A woman stressed out while on a phone call. (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

MORE: 7 EFFECTIVE WAYS TO MAKE YOUR LIFE MORE SECURE AND PRIVATE ONLINE

How do you prevent this scam from happening to you?

Know your subscriptions: The better you know what active subscriptions you currently pay for, the less likely you are to realize such emails are fake. 

Organize your invoices: If you’re still receiving emails or physical invoices, keep track of when they usually arrive. Invoices, for better or worse, come regularly and on a consistent schedule. If something shows up in an unusual form (an email instead of a letter in the mail per usual) or at a particular time, you are more likely to stop yourself from falling for this type of scam.

Go to the official website for contact information. If the scammers happen to pick a company that you do subscribe to, it can be even easier to fall for this type of scam. But before clicking any links, downloading any invoices or calling the number listed, you can google the company’s official website and use the contact information there. If the company did indeed send you a bill, they should be able to help you with the refund or confirm whether you were sent legitimate communications.

Watch for language and tone of voice: Most legitimate companies go out of their way to specially train their employees to provide their customers with excellent service. They are trained not to lose their temper, so if you happen to be on a call with a scammer, they often don’t use professional language or have a professional demeanor. If you push back on providing certain information, a real customer service agent wouldn’t make any threats or demands. Providing Social Security numbers or bank account information is usually frowned upon for security reasons by legitimate companies. Legitimate companies typically have other ways to validate your identity and account information. You can always hang up the phone if you get overwhelmed on a call! After all, an honest company doesn’t disappear after one disconnection. 

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Setup payments electronically: If you have your subscriptions paid electronically on a regular basis, you’ll know that you shouldn’t be receiving an additional invoice for a subscription service. Additionally, if you are paying with a credit card, you can try to use a specific card for all your subscriptions so you know where and when to expect the charges. You’ll also know that certain bank information shouldn’t be relevant to paying an invoice if you get one of these phishing emails. For instance, why is the scammer asking for bank account information when you charge your subscriptions on a credit card, etc.?

ASK OUR TECH EXPERT ANY QUESTION, AND GET KURT’S FREE CYBERGUY REPORT NEWSLETTER HERE

scam illustration

Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson shares his caution about an email scam. (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

SCAMMERS ARE USING FAKE NEWS, MALICIOUS LINKS TO TARGET YOU IN AN EMOTIONAL FACEBOOK PHISHING TRAP

What to do next if you’ve been scammed?

These scammers could have obtained your email address through various methods, from email harvesting to purchasing it from the dark web; below are some active steps you can take to protect yourself if you feel you have been scammed:

1. Change passwords: For any accounts that might have been accessed or mentioned to or by the scammer, you should log in from a secure, virus- and malware-free device and change your password immediately. It is best to create unique and complex passwords, including letters, symbols and numbers, for each separate online account. If you need help generating and storing complex passwords, consider using a password manager.

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2. Keep an eye on all your accounts and credit consistently: Contact the financial institution and explain the situation for all accounts impacted by the potential scammer. They can help you freeze or lock your account, so these scammers have little or no access to your money. Contact the three main credit bureaus to freeze your credit. This will prevent anyone, including hackers, from wreaking havoc on your credit. Make sure to report any errors on your credit reports with the credit agencies. Remember that you are allowed a free annual credit report. If there are too many accounts for you to keep track of regularly, a credit monitoring service can help by constantly monitoring and alerting you of any account changes or problems.

3. Setup alerts for financial accounts: Most financial institutions offer financial alerts or restrictions for all transactions for checking accounts and cards. Do use them so you can be notified of any fraudulent transactions immediately. The faster you can report these charges to your financial institution, the more likely you can stop the scammers in their tracks.

4. Enable two-factor authentication for any account impacted by the phishing scam: This would include your financial accounts and email address. If you have this additional layer of security on, the hacker or scammer would have to send a code to another device or account to gain access, even with your password. 

5. Get Identity Theft Protection: While getting an identity theft service seems overkill, many identity theft protection services can help you when your accounts get compromised. They continually monitor the dark web and your financial accounts to see if any crucial personal information like your email addresses or bank account information is compromised or up for sale on the dark web. Getting those alerts immediately allows you to act faster and take the above-mentioned steps. If you have already given out your information to a potential scammer, you should follow these steps to ensure that your identity hasn’t been stolen. See my tips and best picks on how to protect yourself from identity theft.

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6. Use strong antivirus software: If you have antivirus software installed on the device where the scam email was received and any links clicked or attachments downloaded, run a scan on that device to identify suspicious software, delete it, and restart your device. Get my picks for the best 2024 antivirus protection winners for your Windows, Mac, Android & iOS devices.

7. Call the local authorities: While you hope never to encounter a scammer like the elderly woman who was victimized, if you feel unsafe and uncertain about how scammers will use your information, definitely reach out to local authorities. 

DON’T CLICK THAT LINK! HOW TO SPOT AND PREVENT PHISHING ATTACKS IN YOUR INBOX

Kurt’s key takeaways

While there is little you can do about your digital information swimming around the internet, there are active steps you can take to protect yourself from these types of phishing scams. In the worst-case scenario, there are also ways to prevent further compromise if you fall victim.

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Have you been a victim of a phishing scam? How did you find out it was a scam? Let us know by writing us at Cyberguy.com/Contact

For more of my tech tips and security alerts, subscribe to my free CyberGuy Report Newsletter by heading to Cyberguy.com/Newsletter

Ask Kurt a question or let us know what stories you’d like us to cover.

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Copyright 2024 CyberGuy.com. All rights reserved.

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I hated Animal Well until I beat the game

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I hated Animal Well until I beat the game

About midway through Animal Well, I felt I had been lied to. I read all the glowing reviews of the game and heard the breathless praise heaped upon it on social media. But my expectations did not match my reality… until I beat the game. Now, I’m well on my way to 100 percent completion for a game I was seriously considering abandoning.

Spoilers for Animal Well are below.

Though I loved Animal Well’s novel take on traditional movement abilities — the tools it provides possess multiple clever uses — platforming itself often felt demoralizing. Initially, Animal Well’s platforming felt like it had difficulty spikes that were both too great and too frequent. I could often see where I had to go and how to get there (and I often looked up video guides to confirm I was doing it right with the right tools) but actually executing was more laborious than fun and engaging.

Though I loved Animal Well’s novel take on traditional movement abilities, platforming itself often felt demoralizing

I’ve always felt that the difficulty of a task in a platformer should be commensurate with its importance: the hardest moments should be reserved for secrets and optional goals, while everything involved in completing the game should be more attainable. That way, I am still in control of my experience and, critically, still having an experience. If reaching a secret is harder than I’d like, then I can opt out to continue on to beat the game one completion percentage point lower. But if simply getting from point A to point B is too dang hard, opting out means opting out of the game entirely. Animal Well’s platforming convinced me I’d run into an obstacle so frustratingly difficult that I’d quit and never come back.

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On a lark, I decided to see what would happen if I pressed a big red skull button in a room full of crows, and yup, they pecked me to death.
Image: Big Mode / Shared Memory

Thankfully, that didn’t happen. Somehow, I persisted long enough to collect all four animal flames to complete the game’s first “ending,” figuring I’d stop there. But then, right before the final encounter, I found a room littered with skulls containing an upgrade to the bubble wand item. Remember this, it’ll be important in a moment.

The bubble wand creates little bubble platforms you can jump on, but you can only blow one at a time. The upgraded bubble wand allows you to blow multiple bubbles that, with the right technique, let you bypass a lot of the game’s obstacles.

Remember the skulls? I figured out that all the skulls in that room, piled high enough for me to reach the wand, represented the number of times I died. With that realization came the shock that even though I wasn’t initially vibing with the game, it was always vibing with me. The bubble wand upgrade is unreachable unless you’ve accumulated enough skulls to build a platform up to it. The only way I got what finally made this game click for me was because of all the frustration it put me through in the first place.

When I figured that out, I started laughing maniacally, tears in my eyes, thinking, “Oh, you cheeky bastards!” I immediately went right back to the start of the game to go egg hunting, something I already decided I wasn’t going to do. But I was locked in now. I understood. I’m stuck in the (animal) well now, and I’m never coming out.

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