Power plant emissions to be measured from space

A global network of satellites will measure carbon emissions from all large power plants around the world, thanks to a $1.7m grant from Google.

WattTime, a US-based non-profit organisation, is behind the project and they hope the data will hold polluting plants accountable to environmental standards as well as helping to advance emissions reduction technologies.

The project will work by leveraging the growing global satellite network to observe power plants from space with AI technology using the latest image processing algorithms to detect signs of power plant emissions.

WattTime says the project will combine data from a variety of different sensors operating at different wavelengths to ensure accuracy. AI algorithms will cross-validate multiple indicators of power plant emissions, from thermal infrared indicating heat near smoke stacks and cooling water intake, to visual spectrum recognition that a power plant is emitting smoke.

Joining WattTime in the project are Carbon Tracker, a financial think tank that analyses the economic impacts of the energy transition and the first organisation to pioneer satellite-based power plant monitoring; and World Resources Institute, a global research organisation who holds a global database of power plants.

‘Far too many power companies worldwide currently shroud their pollution in secrecy. But through the growing power of AI, our little coalition of nonprofits is about to lift that veil all over the world, all at once,’ said Gavin McCormick, executive director of WattTime.

‘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.’

Photo credit – Pixabay