Big Data, Emissions & Environment, North America

Power plant emissions are being measured from space

A new initiative has been launched that will use satellite imaging to measure carbon emissions from large power plants all over the world.

The project, led by US non-profit tech company WattTime, has been developed with Carbon Trackers and the World Resources Institute (WRI) following $.17m funding by Google as part of the Google AI Impact Challenge.

WattTime – which was founded by PhD researchers from the University of California and is now a subsidiary of Rocky Mountain Institute – intends to use the data gathered to hold polluting plants to set environmental standards, and enable new technologies which target emission reduction.

The project also makes use of artificial intelligence and will use the latest processing algorithms to detect emissions. The project will combine data from a variety of different sensors for maximum accuracy. The sensors will operate at different wavelengths to better analyse emissions.

AI algorithms will then validate data gathered from the sensors through thermal infrared which can indicate heat emanated from smoke stacks or cooling water intake, to visual recognition of emissions.

The vast majority of power plants worldwide are not tracked on a continual basis which complicates the monitoring and enforcing of environmental regulations.

Gavin McCormick, executive director of WattTime said: “Far too many power companies worldwide currently shroud their pollution in secrecy. But through the growing power of AI, our coalition of non-profits is about to lift that veil all over the world.

“To think that today a little team like ours can use emerging AI remote sensing techniques to hold every powerful polluter worldwide accountable is pretty incredible. But what I really love about better data is how it puts most companies, governments and environmentalists on the same side. We’ve been thrilled to see how many responsible, forward-thinking groups have started using advanced data to voluntarily slash emissions without anyone making them.”

WattTime confirmed the feasibility of the methodologies and has already gathered a significant amount of date through a network of users who can apply the data for greater impact.
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This article first appeared on our sister site Smart Energy International.