Satellite data to support the renewables transition

IRENA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are partnering to use space assets and data to advance the development of renewables.

Under a memorandum of understanding the two agencies intend to draw on data and earth observations from satellites for a wide range of energy resource planning and forecasting applications.

Among these are the siting of new renewable generation and renewable resource mapping. Other potential applications include energy access, electrification modelling and smart grid planning.

“Today’s partnership opens a new avenue of cooperation to advance the international cooperation on energy transition globally,” commented IRENA Director-General Francesco La Camera.

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“By combining IRENA’s knowledge on energy transition with ESA’s space research and technology, we can accelerate the low carbon energy transition and promote sustainable growth.”

ESA has a long history in obtaining satellite observations of the earth for mapping, analysis and weather forecasting as well as in other areas including telecommunications and navigation.

With multi-spectral observations across different wavebands from microwave to infrared and visible, it is possible to measure atmospheric gases and map the land and oceans and features such as vegetation and ice and their changes over time.

Recent monitoring exercises have included land surface temperature mapping of the heatwaves in the western US and Mediterranean regions, the spread of flooding in western Europe and the evolution of smoke from fires in Turkey and elsewhere in Europe.

Despite its long availability, the integration of space-based data into energy planning is a relatively new area of application.

Some recent demonstration projects by ESA have included Gridwatch, which was aimed to detect small, slow movements of transmission towers and the ground, Point 4 designed for vegetation monitoring and auditing, Sharper Shape designed for distribution and transmission asset management and ISSWind for offshore wind resource mapping.