The University of Southampton

Southampton students use AI to maximise solar power potential

Published: 7 October 2021
Three UoS students planting a tree

The students completed carbon negative internships at Southampton Science Park start-up Absolar this summer, where they supported an innovative project that remotely assess buildings for their solar power potential.

BSc Computer Science student Joshua Sanchez, MEng Electronic Engineering with Nanotechnology student Cameron Elliot and MEng Aeronautics and Astronautics student Miguel Cano Puerto marked the project's success by planting an acer campestre tree in the grounds of the Science Park.

This summer's student work fed into an existing carbon negative project funded by the national Space Research and Innovation Network for Technology (SPRINT) programme. Josh, Miguel and Cameron spent four weeks extending their knowledge of software development, undertaking advanced data analysis and building machine learning models.

Professor Kirk Martinez, from the School of Electronics and Computer Science, says: "Our SPRINT project with Absolar has given us a chance to involve our undergraduates in real-world problem solving that has a positive impact. Their enthusiasm and skill has helped us create a tool to evaluate solar energy production in homes. It involved a lot of challenges in different technical areas - and it has been great to see their creativity in finding solutions."

Joshua adds: "It was a really good opportunity to work with innovative technology and talented people, for the benefit of improving access to renewable energy with a project that I saw from start to finish."

During the internship, the team visited the West Solent Solar Co-operative solar farm in Lymington to learn how solar PV operates and to see first-hand how communities can come together to generate green electricity in a sustainable manner.

To achieve carbon negativity the students were car sharing throughout. They also used carbon neutral IT suppliers and carried out offsets where carbon impact was unavoidable.

The tree planting ceremony was attended by many stakeholders, including Absolar's partner in the project, Future Isle of Wight.

Absolar, founded by entrepreneurial engineer Dr Phil Wu, is based upon years of cutting-edge research in the University's Sustainable Energy Research Group.

Nic Cory, Director at Absolar, says: "It's fantastic to give students from the University of Southampton a chance to practice and develop their skills with real projects, especially ones that they get to see through to the end and that will make a tangible difference to local action on climate change."

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