Green tech software nonprofit Open Climate Fix has been awarded £500,000 for its solar power forecast technology from Google.org.
The grant will allow the company to adapt and apply elements of its “transformer” models, which were previously used in predicting the shape of proteins and formed part of breakthroughs such as Google DeepMind’s AlphaFold-2, to solar forecasting
It will combine this technology with work to improve the ability of existing forecasting models to predict sunlight a few hours ahead, which is currently greatly impacted by clouds changing shape and blocking sunlight.
Images will be taken every five minutes from a geostationary satellite, which a machine learning algorithm will then use to determine how clouds are moving and changing over time.
This machine learning on satellite images will be used together with traditional weather forecasts and maps of solar generation units to create a forecast that is updated every five minutes.
Over the next two years, the funding will allow Open Climate Fix – which was set up by former Google DeepMind engineer Dr Jack Kelly – to deliver an online solar electricity forecasting service that covers the UK and Europe.
“We’re delighted that Google.org has chosen to support us in this venture,” Dr Kelly said. He added that the company wants to do everything in its power to reduce emissions quickly, with Open Climate Fix targeting 100m tonnes per year by 2030.
To further extend the impact of its research, code and research results from the work will be completely open, and the company will work to collaborate with other forecasting companies.
“Most electricity grids simply will not be able to reduce CO2 emissions to net zero without significantly better electricity forecasts,” Dr Kelly added. “Net zero grids will be more complex than today's grids and will require better coordination, which in turn need better renewable generation forecasts. That’s what we aim to deliver.”
The funding was awarded as part of Google.org’s Impact Challenge On Climate, a €10 million fund for organisations working to accelerate Europe’s green progression.