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Link Between Social Media and Depression Stronger In Teen Girls Than Boys, Study Says
Posted by News Fetcher on January 04 '19 at 04:21 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's cause-and-effect department:
According to a new study published in the journal EClinicalMedicine, the link between social media use and depressive symptoms in 14-year-olds may be much stronger for girls than boys. CNN reports: Among teens who use social media the most -- more than five hours a day -- the study showed a 50% increase in depressive symptoms among girls versus 35% among boys, when their symptoms were compared with those who use social media for only one to three hours daily. Yet the study, conducted in the UK, showed only an association between social media use and symptoms of depression, which can include feelings of unhappiness, restlessness or loneliness. The findings cannot prove that frequent social media use caused depressive symptoms, or vice versa. The study also described other factors, such as lack of sleep and cyberbullying, that could help explain this association.

For the study, researchers analyzed data on 10,904 14-year-olds who were born between 2000 and 2002 in the United Kingdom. The data, which came from the UK Millennium Cohort Study, included information from questionnaires on the teens' depressive symptoms and social media use. Depressive symptoms were recorded as scores, and the researchers looked at which teens had high or low scores. They found that on average, girls had higher depressive symptom scores compared with boys. The researchers also found that girls reported more social media use than boys; 43.1% of girls said they used social media for three or more hours per day, versus 21.9% of boys. The data showed that for teens using social media for three to five hours, 26% of girls and 21% of boys had depressive symptom scores higher than those who used social media for only about one to three hours a day. As for the gender gap, Yvonne Kelly, first author of the study and professor of epidemiology and public health, believes it has to do with "the types of things that girls and boys do online."
< article continued at Slashdot's cause-and-effect department >

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Amazon Says 100 Million Alexa Devices Have Been Sold
Posted by News Fetcher on January 04 '19 at 03:01 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's for-the-record department:
More than 100 million devices with Alexa on board have been sold. From a report: That's the all-too-rare actual number that Amazon's SVP of devices and services, Dave Limp, revealed to me earlier this week. That's not to say Amazon has finally decided to be completely transparent about device sales, however. While the company claims it outstripped its most optimistic expectations for the Echo Dot during the holiday season, Limp wouldn't give a number for that. Instead, Limp says, Amazon is sold out of Dots through January, despite "pushing pallets of Echo Dots onto 747s and getting them from Hong Kong to here as quickly as we possibly could."

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Netflix's New iTunes Billing Policy Will Curb a $256 Million Revenue Stream For Apple
Posted by News Fetcher on January 04 '19 at 03:01 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's cease-and-desist department:
Early last year, Netflix allowed some iOS users in more than two dozen markets to bypass the iTunes payment method as part of an experiment. The streaming company is now incorporating the change globally, curbing a $256 million revenue stream for Apple. "According to new data compiled by Sensor Tower, Netflix grossed $853 million in 2018 on the iOS App Store," reports TechCrunch. "Based on that figure, Apple's take would have been around $256 million, the firm said." The new policy change allows Netflix to avoid paying the 15% levy that Apple charges on in-app subscriptions. From a report: "We no longer support iTunes as a method of payment for new members," a Netflix spokesperson told VentureBeat. Existing members, however, can continue to use iTunes as a method of payment, the spokesperson added. The company did not share exactly when it rolled out the change globally, but a support representative VentureBeat spoke with pegged the timeframe as late last month. Additionally, the support rep added that customers who are rejoining Netflix using an iOS device, after having canceled payment for at least one month, also won't be able to use iTunes billing. The move, which will allow Netflix to keep all proceeds from its new paying iPhone and iPad customers, underscores the tension between developers and the marquee distributors of mobile apps -- Apple and Google.

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Ethereum Plans To Cut Its Absurd Energy Consumption By 99 Percent
Posted by News Fetcher on January 04 '19 at 01:41 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's Ctrl-+-Z department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from IEEE Spectrum: Ethereum mining consumes a quarter to half of what Bitcoin mining does, but that still means that for most of 2018 it was using roughly as much electricity as Iceland. Indeed, the typical Ethereum transaction gobbles more power than an average U.S. household uses in a day. "That's just a huge waste of resources, even if you don't believe that pollution and carbon dioxide are an issue. There are real consumers -- real people -- whose need for electricity is being displaced by this stuff," says Vitalik Buterin, the 24-year-old Russian-Canadian computer scientist who invented Ethereum when he was just 18.

Buterin plans to finally start undoing his brainchild's energy waste in 2019. This year Buterin, the Ethereum Foundation he cofounded, and the broader open-source movement advancing the cryptocurrency all plan to field-test a long-promised overhaul of Ethereum's code. If these developers are right, by the end of 2019 Ethereum's new code could complete transactions using just 1 percent of the energy consumed today.

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The Weather Channel App Sued Over Claims it Sold Location Data; The Los Angeles City Attorney's Office Claims App Has Repeatedly Violated Privacy of Consumers
Posted by News Fetcher on January 04 '19 at 01:41 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's cloudy-forecast-ahead department:
The Los Angeles City Attorney's office issued a cloudy forecast with the possibility of civil penalties for the popular Weather Channel app on Friday, claiming it repeatedly violated the privacy of consumers. From a report: In a civil lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, city prosecutors allege that The Weather Channel app led users to believe that it would use location data to provide them with "personalized local weather data, alerts and forecasts" but instead transmitted that data to third parties. The 15-page suit seeks to stop TWC Product and Technology LLC, a subsidiary of IBM, from using consumers' information and seeks civil penalties up to $2,500 for each violation by the company. Prosecutors allege that the firm profited from that data for purposes entirely unrelated to weather or the app. Further reading: The Register; Your Apps Know Where You Were Last Night, and They're Not Keeping It Secret, and Several Popular Apps Share Data With Facebook Without User Consent.

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Miners Say They Dig AI But the Gold Rush Hasn't Come
Posted by News Fetcher on January 04 '19 at 12:21 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: The chairman of Barrick Gold Corp made a bold prediction in late 2017: With the help of artificial intelligence and other digital tools, the world's largest gold miner would become a technology company that just happened to be in mining. A year later, Barrick has parted ways with its chief innovation officer, chief digital officer and many of the team tasked with making this transformation a reality, according to people familiar with the matter.

The revolution in machine learning, as predicted by Barrick Chairman John Thornton and other mining executives, has yet to come. Miners have said digital technologies like artificial intelligence, or AI, will revolutionize one of the world's oldest industries in the same way it has changed other businesses, from retail to hailing a cab. Some experts say the promise of AI in mining has been overhyped and progress has been slow. Companies, including Barrick and giants such as Rio Tinto and BHP Group, are running some AI-led projects. But implementation at some companies has hit cultural hurdles. Executives haven't always engaged, projects have taken longer than expected and companies have turned to other ways to modernize operations.

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White House Advisor Kudlow Says Apple Technology May Have Been 'Picked Off' by China
Posted by News Fetcher on January 04 '19 at 12:21 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's stranger-things department:
Fred Imbert, writing for CNBC: Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council, said Friday that Apple's technology may have been stolen by the Chinese. "I don't want to surmise too much here, but Apple technology may have been picked off by China and now China is becoming very competitive with Apple. You've got to have rule of law," Kudlow said in an interview with Bloomberg. "There are some indications from China that they're looking at that, but we don't know that yet. There's no enforcement; there's nothing concrete." Kudlow's comments came shortly after China's Commerce Ministry said Chinese and U.S. officials will meet next week to discuss trade. Both countries have been engaged in a trade spat for months that has sent ripples through global markets. John Gruber at DaringFireball comments: I think what he's saying here is that the Chinese stole Apple technology, copied it, and are now flooding the Chinese market with phones based on that stolen tech. I'm 99.8 percent certain that hasn't happened -- if there were Chinese phones built with stolen Apple technology we'd know it because we'd see it.

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How YouTube's Domination of Streaming Clips the Market's Wings
Posted by News Fetcher on January 04 '19 at 12:21 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
New report from Midia Research firm looks at music fans' behavior in the third quarter of 2018. From the report: YouTube is the dominant music streaming platform, with 55% of consumers regularly watching music videos on YouTube, compared to a combined 37% for all free audio streaming services. YouTube usage skews young, peaking at nearly three quarters of consumers under 25. Although YouTube leads audio streaming in all markets -- even Spotify's native Sweden -- there are some strong regional variations. For example, emerging streaming markets Brazil and Mexico see much higher YouTube penetration, peaking at close to double the level of even traditional music radio in Mexico.

Indeed, radio is feeling the YouTube pinch as much as audio streaming. 68% of those under 45 watch YouTube music videos compared to 41% that listen to music radio. The difference increases with younger audiences and the more emerging the market. For example, in Mexico YouTube music penetration is 84% for 20-24 year olds, compared to 37% for music radio. Streaming may be the future of radio, but right now that streaming future is YouTube.

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Robots Are Taking Some Jobs, But Not All: World Bank
Posted by News Fetcher on January 04 '19 at 11:01 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's future-of-work department:
Some Amazon stores have no cashiers, and Waymo is testing self-driving taxis. Are robots taking our jobs? It depends on what you do and where you do it, according to a new report by the World Bank released this week. From a report: "Advanced economies have shed industrial jobs, but the rise of the industrial sector in East Asia has more than compensated for this loss," said the report, titled "The Changing Nature of Work." That may seem like good news in a broad sense, but not to the people whose jobs are disappearing. Technological advances and automation are making the rich richer and the poor poorer.

"Workers in some sectors benefit handsomely from technological progress, whereas those in others are displaced and have to retool to survive," the report said. "Platform technologies create huge wealth but place it in the hands of only a few people." The World Bank recommends a new social contract that includes investment in education and retraining. Would that help American workers? "Policy-makers in Washington may have talked about the need to better prepare lower-skilled workers for the future transition, but little has been done," Robert Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a Washington-based think tank, said Thursday.

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Loon's Balloons Will Fly Over Kenya in First Commercial Telecom Tryout
Posted by News Fetcher on January 04 '19 at 09:41 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's next-billion-users department:
Kenya runs on mobile phones. And yet, outside of major cities like Nairobi, the infrastructure for mobile telephony is lacking. That's why, in 2019, telecommunications provider Telkom Kenya will begin turning to high-altitude balloons built by the Alphabet subsidiary Loon to provide mobile phone service. From a report: "High-altitude balloons are actually a very reasonable way to approach this problem," says Sal Candido, Loon's head of engineering. "They're high, they cover a lot of ground, and there are no obstacles." It's simple "but for one thing," Candido adds -- each balloon needs to stay in place in the stratosphere, providing coverage for one area for hundreds of days before being replaced. Candido has been with Loon for five years, long before the effort -- then known as Project Loon -- graduated from X, the Alphabet research and development subsidiary, in July 2018. Candido initially worked on developing the balloons' navigation system, one of the key components needed to address the "one thing" keeping the idea from really lifting off.

The challenge of how to navigate the balloons properly has changed drastically during Candido's time at Loon, because over the years the understanding of how Loon would operate has changed drastically as well. [...] As Loon launched more balloons for its test flights -- the company has now logged over 30 million kilometers -- the engineering team realized that they could control where the balloons would travel. "Sometimes the most obvious answer comes to you much later on," Candido says. "Why don't the balloons just not leave the coverage area?" It turns out that this is possible, at least in most places, for reasonable durations.

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Marriott Says Hackers Stole More Than 5 Million Passport Numbers
Posted by News Fetcher on January 04 '19 at 09:41 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's security-woes department:
Marriott has downsized its original estimate on a major data breach, but the number of people affected is still historic. The hotel group announced Friday that it now believes hackers accessed the records of up to 383 million guests, following an investigation it conducted with a forensics and analytics team. In November, it had reported an estimate of as many as 500 million guests. From a report: Even at that lower figure, the Marriott incident remains one of the largest personal data breaches in history, more than double that of Equifax, which exposed the personal data of 147.7 million American. Data breaches have become a common issue for massive companies that collect and store information on millions of people. In 2018, tech giants like Facebook and Reddit have fallen victim to data breaches. Hackers look for poor protection that they can bypass to steal valuable details like Social Security numbers, birth dates, email addresses and credit card numbers.

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Hyundai Joins the Linux Foundation To Embrace AGL's Open Source Connected Car Tech
Posted by News Fetcher on January 04 '19 at 08:21 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's growing-adoption department:
Hyundai has become the latest car company to explore serious open source alternatives for developing its in-car services. From a report: Ahead of CES 2019, the South Korean automotive giant today announced that it has joined the Linux Foundation and the nonprofit's seven-year-old Automotive Grade Linux (AGL) effort as it looks to contribute to -- and reap benefit from -- software developed by over 140 companies. For Hyundai, open collaboration is crucial as it pursues a "connected car vision," Paul Choo, VP and head of Infotainment Technology Center at Hyundai, said in a statement. Car companies have traditionally taken three years or longer to develop in-vehicle services, such as infotainment systems. The bottleneck usually lies in the quality of code their in-house programmers create. According to a case study published by AGL, a connected car uses some 100 million lines of code, which is about 11 times more than the number that went into the F-35 fighter jet. Getting on AGL's bandwagon would also help Hyundai speed up development of its in-car technologies.

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Once Considered Outlandish, the Idea That Plants Help Their Relatives is Taking Root
Posted by News Fetcher on January 04 '19 at 08:21 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: A Canadian biologist planted the seed of the idea more than a decade ago, but many plant biologists regarded it as heretical -- plants lack the nervous systems that enable animals to recognize kin, so how can they know their relatives? But with a series of recent findings, the notion that plants really do care for their most genetically close peers -- in a quiet, plant-y way -- is taking root.

. Some species constrain how far their roots spread, others change how many flowers they produce, and a few tilt or shift their leaves to minimize shading of neighboring plants, favoring related individuals.

"We need to recognize that plants not only sense whether it's light or dark or if they've been touched, but also whom they are interacting with," says Susan Dudley, a plant evolutionary ecologist at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, whose early plant kin recognition studies sparked the interest of many scientists. Beyond broadening views of plant behavior, the new work may have a practical side. In September 2018, a team in China reported that rice planted with kin grows better, a finding that suggested family ties can be exploited to improve crop yields. "It seems anytime anyone looks for it, they find a kin effect," says Andre Kessler, a chemical ecologist at Cornell University.

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Hundreds of German Lawmakers Targeted in Mass Cyber Attack
Posted by News Fetcher on January 04 '19 at 07:01 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's privacy-woes department:
A stolen cache of personal information belonging to nearly 1,000 German politicians -- including outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel -- has been leaked, according to a report published Thursday. From a report: The information includes everything from phone numbers and credit card details to private messages with family members, German media said. The hack has impacted national, regional and EU politicians from all major parties except for members of the far-right Alternative for Germany (Alternative fur Deutschland, or AfD) party. Journalists, musicians, comedians and activists were also targeted. There is currently no indication of who was behind the attack, but the hacker or hackers leaked information for more than a month on Twitter before the media picked it up.

The scale of the hack was first reported by RBB, leading Justice Minister Katarina Barley to call it a "serious attack" Friday morning. "The people behind this want to damage confidence in our democracy and institutions," Barley said. The federal office for information security (BSI) said Friday it was investigating, adding that government networks had not been affected.

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Album Sales Are Dying as Fast as Streaming Services Are Rising
Posted by News Fetcher on January 04 '19 at 07:01 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's new-trends department:
In 2018, Best Buy decided to stop selling CDs, with the change partly brought on by record labels' increasing reluctance to even issue them. Both choices are symptoms as well as causes of a seemingly inevitable trend: Buying music is now going out of style nearly as fast as streaming music is rising. From a report: In 2018, album sales fell 18.2 percent from the previous year and song sales fell 28.8 percent, according to U.S. year-end report figures from data company BuzzAngle, which tracks music consumption. Meanwhile, total on-demand music streams, including both audio and video, shot up 35.4 percent. Audio on-demand streams set a new record high in 2018 of 534.6 billion streams, which is up 42 percent from 2017's 376.9 billion streams.

It's tricky to compare the specific unit numbers of sales to streams --since such a comparison would be pitting continuous playback of a certain piece of music against a one-time purchase of it -- but certain other milestones in the consumption market can help highlight just how much streaming is replacing physical sales and downloads in America. For instance: Even though total song downloads are still in the hundreds of millions, they're coming down in scale at the top. In 2018, there was not a single song that broke 1 million sales -- compared to 14 songs that reached that figure in 2017, 36 in 2016 and 60 in 2015. At the 2 million sales mark, two songs took that trophy in 2017, while five claimed it in 2016 and 16 songs made it in 2015, throwing the modest figures of this year's sales into even sharper relief.

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Washington Could Become the First State To Compost the Dead
Posted by News Fetcher on January 04 '19 at 05:40 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's first-of-its-kind department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Washington could become the first state to embrace another funerary practice by making it legal to compost the dead. The method is called "recomposing" and claims to be cheaper and more environmentally friendly than traditional burial or cremation. It involves rapidly decomposing a body and converting the remains into soil. That nutrient-rich material can then be used to grow trees, flowers, and other new life. The alternative practice hinges on a bill that state senator Jamie Pedersen plans to introduce next month, according to NBC. It would legalize recomposing in Washington where burial and cremation are currently the only acceptable ways to dispose of human remains. A public-benefit corporation, Recompose, is responsible for the actual composting. "The transformation of human to soil happens inside our reusable, hexagonal recomposition vessels," Recompose states in an FAQ. "When the process has finished, families will be able to take home some of the soil created, while gardens on-site will remind us that all of life is interconnected."

"The process utilizes a 5-foot-by-10-foot pod full of organic 'tinder' such as straw and wood chips," reports Motherboard. "Thermophilic or heat-loving microbes then metabolize the remains, maintaining an internal temperature of 131 degrees Fahrenheit within the vessel. The entire ritual takes one month, and produces a cubic yard of compost, according to Recompose." Non-organic materials such as artificial hips will be screened for and recycled, and people will certain illnesses may be ineligible since some pathogens may be resistant to the composting process.

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Security Researcher Cracks Google's Widevine DRM (L3 Only)
Posted by News Fetcher on January 04 '19 at 03:00 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's sounds-cooler-than-it-is department:
The L3 protection level of Google's Widevine DRM technology has been cracked by a British security researcher who can now decrypt content transferred via DRM-protected multimedia streams. ZDNet's Catalin Cimpanu notes that while this "sounds very cool," it's not likely to fuel a massive piracy wave because "the hack works only against Widevine L3 streams, and not L2 and L1, which are the ones that carry high-quality audio and video content." From the report: Google designed its Widevine DRM technology to work on three data protection levels --L1, L2, and L3-- each usable in various scenarios. According to Google's docs, the differences between the three protection levels is as follows:
L1 - all content processing and cryptography operations are handled inside a CPU that supports a Trusted Execution Environment (TEE).
L2 - only cryptography operations are handled inside a TEE.
L3 - content processing and cryptography operations are (intentionally) handled outside of a TEE, or the device doesn't support a TEE

< article continued at Slashdot's sounds-cooler-than-it-is department >

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AI-Equipped Cameras Will Help Spot Wildlife Poachers Before They Can Kill
Posted by News Fetcher on January 04 '19 at 12:21 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's technology-to-the-rescue department:
Conservation nonprofit Resolve is using AI-equipped cameras to act as remote park rangers and help spot wildlife poachers before they kill endangered animals. "Today, Resolve announced a new custom-made device called TrailGuard AI, which uses Intel-made vision chips to identify animals and humans that wander into view," reports The Verge. "The cameras will be placed on access trails used by poachers, automatically alerting park rangers who can check up on any suspicious activity." From the report: TrailGuard AI builds on past work by Resolve to create remote cameras to aid conservation. However, early devices were bulky, had limited battery life, and were unsophisticated, sending images to rangers every time their motion sensors were tripped. This resulted in lots of false positives, as the cameras would be triggered by non-events, such as the wind shaking tree branches. The new device, by comparison, is no thicker than a human index finger, has a battery life of a year and a half, and can reliably identify humans, animals, and vehicles. The chip used by Resolve is Intel's Movidius Myriad 2 VPU (or vision processing unit), which is the same technology that powered Google's automatic Clips camera.

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Scientists Have 'Hacked Photosynthesis' To Boost Crop Growth By 40 Percent
Posted by News Fetcher on January 03 '19 at 08:21 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's food-for-thought department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from NPR: There's a big molecule, a protein, inside the leaves of most plants. It's called Rubisco, which is short for an actual chemical name that's very long and hard to remember. Rubisco has one job. It picks up carbon dioxide from the air, and it uses the carbon to make sugar molecules. It gets the energy to do this from the sun. This is photosynthesis, the process by which plants use sunlight to make food, a foundation of life on Earth. "But it has what we like to call one fatal flaw," Amanda Cavanagh, a biologist and post-doctoral researcher at the University of Illinois, says. Unfortunately, Rubisco isn't picky enough about what it grabs from the air. It also picks up oxygen. "When it does that, it makes a toxic compound, so the plant has to detoxify it."

< article continued at Slashdot's food-for-thought department >

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Texas Has Enough Sun and Wind To Quit Coal, Rice Researchers Say
Posted by News Fetcher on January 03 '19 at 07:01 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's solar-and-wind-complementarity department:
According to new research from Rice University, Texas has enough natural patterns of wind and sun to operate without coal. "Scientists found that between wind energy from West Texas and the Gulf Coast, and solar energy across the state, Texas could meet a significant portion of its electricity demand from renewable power without extensive battery storage," reports Houston Chronicle. "The reason: These sources generate power at different times of day, meaning that coordinating them could replace production from coal-fired plants." From the report: Texas is the largest producer of wind energy in the United States, generating about 18 percent of its electricity from wind. Most of the state's wind turbines are located in West Texas, where the wind blows the strongest at night and in the early spring, when demand is low. The resource, however, can be complemented by turbines on the Gulf Coast, where wind produces the most electricity on late afternoons in the summer, when power demand is the highest. Solar energy, a small, but rapidly growing segment of the state's energy mix, also has the advantage of generating power when it is needed most -- hot, sunny summer afternoons.

In the summer, Gulf Coast wind generation could overtake West Texas wind capacity from about 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. when sea breezes kick in, Rice research showed. From about 8 a.m. until 6 p.m., solar power average capacity also could exceed wind generation in West Texas, which increases as evening turns to night. In the winter, winds in West Texas strengthen and generation increases, dropping off about 9 a.m., when solar energy begins to ramp up. "It's all a matter of timing," said Dan Woodfin, senior director of system operations at the state's grid manager, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. Weather, however, remains unpredictable. Texas would still need battery storage and natural gas-fired power plants to fill in gaps when, for example, winds might slacken earlier than expected.

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