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Taking the Heat: Satellite Vu Addresses Energy Waste

“We're running the most dangerous experiment in history right now, which is to see how much carbon dioxide the atmosphere... can handle before there is an environmental catastrophe.”

-Elon Musk

We rarely think about it where energy comes from and what the consequences could be for the planet whenever we flick a switch and it’s for this reason that energy wasted on a global scale is staggering. Thoughtless acts such as leaving lights and appliances on, heating and air conditioning units running in buildings that are not properly insulated, is causing energy to escape into the Earth’s atmosphere. This is pushing up the carbon footprint of homes and businesses. Energy is being wasted on an industrial scale, with commercial buildings the biggest culprits.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that: ‘the buildings and buildings construction sectors combined are responsible for 36% of global final energy consumption and nearly 40% of total direct and indirect CO2 emissions. Energy demand from buildings and building construction continues to rise (with building space predicted to grow by 60% by 2040), driven by improved access to energy in developing countries, greater ownership and use of energy-consuming devices, and rapid growth in global buildings floor area, at nearly 3% per year’.

This surge in energy use is not being countered by a concerted effort and commitment by homes and businesses to reduce their energy use. The reality is that targets to save energy lost through these buildings are simply not being met and investment in energy efficiency is lagging way behind. Lack of investment and ineffective energy policies are slowing any progress down to a slow crawl.

As the evidence continues to confirm that the rate of climate change is a direct consequence of our carbon emissions, there must be a collective effort to reduce the amount of energy we consume. Although there are many government initiatives and campaigns in place to reduce energy waste and the overall carbon footprint of commercial buildings, this is still a monumental problem that must be addressed with great urgency.

In order to take real action on the issue of energy waste, we need to establish the size of the problem and where it stems from. If we can establish where thermal energy is being wasted, efforts can be made to investigate the reasons behind it so that measures can be put into place to mitigate it.

The most widely used source of data that illustrates the energy use of buildings in a certain area is the heat map. There are various methods that are currently used to create heat maps to assess how much energy is being emitted by buildings but they are based on estimations and are therefore not an accurate assessment.

Drones are also used to gather data on energy use. Using on-board sensors, they collect data on energy consumption using thermal imaging technology. However, the use of drones cannot guarantee the full picture as views of buildings can easily be restricted, especially in cities such as Paris and London. They therefore do not eliminate the requirement for full inspections.

Manned aircraft are also used to provide thermal imaging data. However, this is a very expensive method that is expensive and tends to be for one-off use. The quality of the data gathered cannot be guaranteed and the resolution is far lower than that taken from a drone.

The thermal monitoring sector does not offer a method of surveillance that delivers up-to-the-minute city wide data. For a truly accurate picture, data must be gathered every day, multiple times a day so that anomalies can be detected as soon as they occur and so that those managing buildings can accurately assess the impact of their energy use on the environment.

Satellite Earth Observation (EO) technology is emerging as a source of invaluable data that can aid local and national governments to monitor energy waste from commercial buildings. Small EO satellites can be equipped with sensors that can perform thermal imaging. At the moment, this type of monitoring is carried out mostly by drones or aircraft, both of which do not produce a full picture of the problem.

Satellite Vu is a small satellite operator that is preparing to launch a series of satellites equipped with specially developed sensors that will enable detailed thermal monitoring.

So, how can Satellite Vu reduce energy waste?

Satellite Vu recognises that, in order to address the problem of energy waste from buildings, governments and business need verifiable facts – hard data that can enable them to grasp the severity of the problem and that can take individual buildings and pinpoint where the main hotspots are. Using a proprietary infrared sensor built into its payloads, Satellite Vu will produce with its unique algorithms, a heat map of any city to help determine the carbon footprint and wasted energy of any building. These heat maps may then be compared with other cities and useful insights can be generated.

Satellite Vu is putting forward an affordable, sustainable, dual-use solution that will address its customers’ requirements, both environmental and commercial, via a new breed of satellites that will offer frequent re-visit times and produce imagery throughout the day and night, collecting data across a whole city. The solution is highly scalable to any place on earth. Satellite Vu intends to launch a satellite and sensor within the next 18 months followed by a small constellation that will improve the re-visit time.

These specialised satellites will produce very high resolution infrared and optical imagery which is interpreted and converted using algorithms into timely information that end-users can readily access. Without the rapid and accurate interpretation of data, the imagery captured is of little use being only a mass of Big Data. Our algorithms apply both the science behind the image and the computer recognition that Artificial Intelligence can deliver.

Satellite Vu’s thermal monitoring solution will enable businesses, industry, governments, organisations and even homeowners to ask themselves what they can do differently to reduce their carbon footprint. Knowledge is power, and through Satellite Vu’s insights into energy use, strategies can be developed to reduce the amount of power that is used to not only reduce the carbon footprint of buildings but also to dramatically reduce energy costs.

Is the technology you are using to determine your carbon footprint working for you? Does your technology provide a cost-effective way to monitor your energy loss? It’s time to reassess the way in which you look at your energy use. To make changes, we all must take responsibility.