Powering the renewable energy transition

Eurisy and Groundstation.Space continue to turn climate challenges into space opportunities. The third webinar of the series brought together research, industry and government experts in the use of space for the renewable energy transition.

Europe set the goal to become climate-neutral by 2050. To this end, we need to rapidly change our energy supply systems, which currently account for 75% of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions. Space can play a pivotal role in the decarbonisation of our economy. Eurisy has been working around satellite applications for the transition to renewable energy sources since several years. In 2018 it organised a workshop for sustainable energy management together with the European Space Agency demonstrating how space can bring a variety of applications to the energy sector. For example, Earth observation can help to detect hazards such as vegetation or ground displacement posing risk to energy infrastructure effective functioning. It can also monitor activities across energy networks with all kinds of remote sensing techniques, and it provides valuable information about the weather resulting in solar irradiance forecasting, wind models, information on hydropower production reservoirs, to name a few. Satellite navigation enables positioning and timing services crucial for a smart energy distribution network, as well as for the operation of autonomous vehicles such as drones. Finally, satellite communication services can provide backup systems for terrestrial networks, while also boosting the interconnectivity and digtalisation of power grids.

Eurisy is on the forefront advocating for the potential of satellite data to the development of economically sustainable solutions contributing to the green transformation of many economic sectors. To this end, the association takes part in several European and international projects.

Solar power forecasting

First speaker of the webinar was Marion Lafuma from Reuniwatt, a leading company in the field of atmospheric sciences and solar irradiance estimation. Marion presented the company’s solar resource assessment and forecasting services provided by five geostationary satellites covering the entire planet. Using satellite archives and real-time data Reuniwatt provides site assessments about solar yield for solar plant optimisation, and forecasting services for grid management. The assessment of a site with historical data is crucial before constructing a solar power plant to be sure that it is a good place to set it up, so to maximise the amount of energy that a solar plant can produce. With regard to solar forecasting, the expertise of Reuniwatt lies in the extraction of cloud features and motions into forecasted global horizontal irradiance maps. Forecasting solar irradiance (the amount of sunshine hitting the solar modules) with real-time data helps network operators to better manage and plan power productions.

Offshore wind planning

Harald Warmelink, R&D project leader and researcher at the Breda University of Applied Sciences, presented the Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) Challenge. This is a multi-user client server application based on the actual sea basin of the North Sea. The map offers multiple layers such as wind speed, wave height, and sediments with information derived from Earth observing satellites and other in-situ data. The map also displays the location of current offshore windfarms and shows where new windfarms are being considered for development. The MSP challenge app provides an engaging tool for students and young professionals to draw offshore planning for windfarms. It offers a simulation model calculating the energy production and the infrastructure (e.g. cables and landing stations) needed to get the maximum capacity of the windfarms to the national grid.

Monitoring energy corridors

Arnaud van den Berg, business developer at Orbital Eye, gave a presentation about satellite-based technology for safe transport and distribution of energy. Energy needs to be transported through a complex grid. One of the biggest challenges here will be the development of the European hydrogen infrastructure, and the modification of this network from gas pipelines to hydrogen distributors. A crucial aspect of the energy distribution is the prevention of leakages in pipelines. Orbital Eye uses satellite remote sensing (optical and radar) combined with artificial intelligence to monitor ongoing activities and changes around the energy grid to prevent accidents and to reduce harmful emissions. Once potential risks have been identified, Orbital Eye informs the energy grid operator. This results in less accidents, less leakages, and less harmful emissions. Despite these advantages, satellite-based monitoring is still facing issues such as regulatory challenges and conservative industries reluctant to change and innovation. Eurisy will continue to break down these barriers in order to stimulate the uptake of satellite-based services.

Sharing space data

The final speaker, Peter Tjia (CEO at Aratos Systems), talked about how space data can be made more accessible, for example for renewable energy collection. Aratos aims to provide training in using space data by developing a space data hub. This would be an interconnected lab with an open architecture to bring the data to the users’ own space. With their own ground stations, they already deliver data on certain levels, for example with the Aratos Disaster Control GIS application.

Funding & Innovation Opportunities

We are currently in the transition phase from Horizon 2020 to Horizon Europe. In the new programme there will be a cluster focusing on digital, industry and space including several resilience building calls. As more information will be announced in the coming months, let’s have a look at other available opportunities for now.

The European Space Agency calls for feasibility studies and demonstration projects integrating space assets to address safety and security needs. Other opportunities include the Clean Energy Transition sub-programme of the LIFE programme, and the Connecting European Facility which is about cross-Europe networks for digital energy and transport. Finally, the European Institute for Innovation and Technology (EIT) offers the thematic area of InnoEnergy including two initiatives. Highway for startups and Boostway for scale-ups.

One-minute pitches

Hywel Curtis presented SatSearch, an online marketplace for space products and services. The second pitch came from Marcel Vroom who talked about how H2arvester, a circular energy system generating energy on agricultural land by converting it into hydrogen on the farm. Francesca Piatto from EARSC delivered the last pitch about e-shape project. This H2020 funded project establishes Europe’s contribution to the Global Earth Observation System of Systems, bringing together Earth Observation resources in Europe through seven showcases spanning from agriculture, to energy, and climate change to have more information visit the website.

Stay tuned!

Our next session will take place on 3 March 2021! You can already register here.

In the meantime, join us on the Open Campus networking platform where you will find more information about the previous sessions.

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