Ideas for satellites against climate change

 Ideas for satellites against climate change

A recent Netherlands Space Office (NSO) call has lead to 27 ideas for the use of satellites for climate adaptation and mitigation!

The conclusions of the recent IPCC report were unmistakable: Climate change continues unabated and leads to weather extremes. Satellites are important for understanding the climate system and keeping an eye on weather and climate. But how can satellites help mitigate or adapt to the impacts of climate change? The NSO challenged entrepreneurs to come up with innovative ideas. No fewer than 27 companies submitted a proposal. Six of these can now be taken a step further through a feasibility study.

Satellite data can be a key to new services that are applicable to social issues. To encourage its development, the NSO has been using the SBIR (Small Business Innovation and Research) scheme since 2015.

The SBIR is currently underway, which aims to make the Netherlands more resilient to climate change. Governments and organizations with a semi-public function can, after all, use all kinds of help in the adaptation (adaptation) to climate change and its mitigation (limitation of the causes). Kathelijne Beenen, project leader at the NSO, is pleasantly surprised by the rapid influx of project proposals: “There are many great ideas, and also very diverse in nature.”, Six proposals now proceed to phase 1: demonstrating feasibility.

Less CO2

Solar Park In The Hague

The Netherlands wants to emit 55% less greenhouse gases in nine years’ time than in 1990. In order to combat the emission of the most important greenhouse gas – CO 2 – solar energy must be used in full, among other things. Excess energy from solar panels is returned to the electricity grid, but if that is a lot at the same time, the electricity grid cannot handle it. That is why HKV Lijn in Water wants to offer an accurate estimate of the incoming solar radiation in terms of time and place. Warned network operators can take measures in good time. It is also useful for water boards to have better data about the evaporation of (ground)water by the sun.

BioScope works in a different way to reduce CO 2 in the atmosphere. Water boards and provinces want to be able to determine the effect of agricultural methods that capture carbon more efficiently and reliably. BioScope is therefore developing a new method for measuring and monitoring the amount of carbon in the soil using satellites. Regional governments can use this when issuing or trading carbon credits.

With agroforestry – land use in which trees and shrubs grow together with agricultural crops – additional carbon can be stored in the soil. Space4Good and the Louis Bolk Institute are jointly developing a solution to value, monitor and predict carbon storage using satellite data to enable local carbon sequestration and compensation in these areas. The provinces of Gelderland and North Brabant have already shown interest.

Westerveld, Drenthe. Image: RVO

Dryer and wetter

Satellite data also enables better decisions in water and green management. As a result of increasing drought, water boards, for example, have to take measures to combat water shortages. VanderSat provides daily satellite images of soil moisture and evaporation to all water boards in the Netherlands. The SBIR will be used with three water boards to focus this satellite data even more on water management, both in rural and urban areas.

The changing climate also has a major impact on trees. This is already visible in decaying and dying trees due to drought damage or heat-loving insects that cause entire forests to die. Cobra Groeninzicht maps out the climate resilience of different tree species and uses satellite observations to map current and future risk areas. With these insights, green managers and policymakers can steer towards a future-proof tree stock.

But it is not only becoming drier, there are also more frequent heavy showers resulting in flooding. Timely warnings to governments, companies and citizens can prevent damage and casualties. Weather Impact combines satellite data, advanced weather forecasts, precipitation measurements, hydrological models and algorithms with data-driven techniques to better predict the risk of flooding.

Extreme precipitation. Image; KNMI


Experts from the NSO, the Ministry of Infrastructure & Water and the Netherlands Enterprise Agency assess the projects. Kathelijne Beenen explains: “A product or service scores higher with increasing impact on the issue. The appreciation for projects that promote a technologically interesting approach is also higher. Development of existing products or services is not the intention. Third, the economic perspective matters. In November, three or four of the current six companies will be invited to actually develop a prototype for their product/market combination – naturally including satellite data. They are given six months to do so in collaboration with one or more customers in the (semi) public sector.”

Original article in Dutch on the NSO website

Remco Timmermans

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