NICTA leads $5m geothermal ‘big data’ analytics initiative

Monday, 12 March, 2012

NICTA is leading a multimillion-dollar, ICT-enabled, geothermal energy initiative announced by the Australian Centre for Renewable Energy (ACRE).

NICTA is leading a multimillion dollar, ICT-enabled, geothermal energy initiative announced by the Australian Centre for Renewable Energy (ACRE).

NICTA’s research capabilities in machine learning and in the increasingly significant area of big data analytics will be used to locate geothermal energy sources deep beneath the surface of the Earth.

Geothermal energy comes from the intense heat generated by rocks located several kilometres underground. It is said to be abundant, renewable, and has zero carbon output, making it a good energy source. Locating suitable ‘hot rocks’, however, is a manual, expensive exercise. NICTA is leading a team of university experts from four states to find better, automated ways to define geothermal targets, using machine learning techniques and advanced data analytics instead of drills.

The ACRE initiative, Data Fusion and Machine Learning for Geothermal Target Exploration and Characterisation is a two-year, five million-dollar program. The ACRE Emerging Renewables Program will fund $1.9m of this total.

“Australia has a wealth of geothermal energy resources, but they are difficult to locate and access,” said NICTA CEO Hugh Durrant-Whyte. “We will apply NICTA’s considerable expertise in machine learning and big data analytics to create software to address these challenges.” NICTA will work closely with the School of Information Technologies at the University of Sydney to develop machine learning algorithms, and the Schools of Earth Science at the Australian National University, University of Melbourne and University of Adelaide to apply these methods to the problem of geothermal target characterisation and exploration.

The project teams will also work with ASX-listed geothermal exploration and development companies GeoDynamics and Petratherm, as well as GeoScience Australia and the South Australian Department of Manufacturing, Innovation Trade Resources and Energy, who will provide geothermal sensor data sets and expertise in discovery and characterisation of geothermal targets.

This is the first project to be funded under the Australian Government’s $126 million Emerging Renewables Program, which has been established to provide support for the development of renewable energy and enabling technologies across the innovation chain.

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