CSIRO recruits ‘citizen scientists’ for solar energy research

Energy data portal backed by CSIRO, Government and Australian Energy Market Operator.

A new app will revolutionise the way households map energy use and ultimately help them reduce power bills.

National research organisation CSIRO is recruiting ‘citizen scientists’ to gather data through its Energise app. The results will  allow better planning for periods of peak demand.

This will then help avoid blackouts during extreme weather events. The new app will use micro surveys to collect energy data in real time. Consumers can then say how long and at what temperature they are using their air-conditioner when it’s 38 degrees, for example.

Information on energy use ‘thin on the ground’

Information about how and when different households use electricity and gas is “thin on the ground”, according to CSIRO Project Leader Dr Adam Berry.

Householders can map energy use via the new CSIRO Energise app.

CSIRO is recruiting up to 20,000 householders to feed back energy data via its new app. Image: CSIRO

Solar integration easier when households map energy use

CSIRO is seeking between 10,000 to 20,000 users for the scheme and the CSIRO Energise app is now available for free download from app stores.

CSIRO wants to know how renewable technology is reducing household power bills. Users will also receive tips and advice on how to be more energy efficient.

According to Dr Berry, it’s important to understand how solar panels work in cutting electricity costs for householders.

Because real-time data leads to more accurate forecasting of energy use, it will help integrate growing production of wind and solar power into the national grid.

Data will then be passed on to governments and energy providers as it is collected, Barry says.

The system is typically under the most strain between 4pm and 7pm on hot days exceeding 38 degrees.

Solar self-forecasting needed to ensure grid stability

Because of concerns about solar power users paying less to support the ‘poles and wires’ network, it’s easy to forget that the energy market is being transformed.

It’s no longer a simple pipeline model with energy sent one-way from power plant to consumer. It is now a matrix where energy constantly flows back to the grid from homes with a solar installation.

More accurate forecasts of how renewable energy is impacting the grid will therefore help balance supply and demand. It will also improve grid stability.

That’s why the Federal Government is inviting wind and solar power plant operators to self-forecast energy output as part of a new $10 million ARENA-funded trial.