Space4Energy: The added value of space solutions for the energy sector

Together with international guest experts from the space industry, we have identified the areas of application in the energy sector that could benefit from satellite data and services tomorrow.

As part of Space4Energy, Green Energy Lab and the Federal Ministry for Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology (BMK) have launched a dialog in the Innovator Circle to find out where and how satellite data and services can create significant added value for the energy sector. Subsequently, challenges for the Space4Energy Hackathon will be developed from these application areas and specific use cases. The hackathon will ultimately bring space solutions for the energy sector to the ground.

The rapid development of the space sector as a driver for the energy transition

Christian Fuchs from Austria in Space, an initiative of the BMK, briefly and succinctly explained the opportunity presented to us:

“In 2021, as many satellites were launched worldwide as in all the years since the beginning of the space age in 1957 combined.”

The EU is investing 15 billion euros in European space infrastructure in the current financial framework (2021-2027). A rapid development in which Austria wants to position its space sector at the forefront in Europe and globally. This is underlined by the Austrian Space Strategy 2030+: the use of satellite data and services strengthens the competitiveness of all sectors, including the energy industry.

Thanks to the “full, free and open” data policy, most satellite data and services are also available free of charge and can be tailored to your own use case – an opportunity that should be seized quickly.

What satellite data for the energy sector?

Samuel Almond, earth observation expert and responsible for the Copernicus Climate Change Service satellite service, provided an overview of the use of satellite data for the energy sector. Data from weather stations on Earth and Copernicus satellites are combined to close the gaps in global weather models and climate projections. Solar radiation, temporary shading, wind speeds, surface assessments, precipitation, soil moisture and temperature were mentioned as examples. For the energy sector, this makes it possible, among other things, to forecast electricity demand and generation in a way that goes beyond statistical surveys. Energy suppliers are already benefiting from satellite-based early warning systems that allow them to plan much more precisely and efficiently.

This information, coupled with the wealth of image material – satellites have a high temporal resolution and, in special cases, a resolution accurate to a tenth of a centimeter – also opens up completely new possibilities for monitoring energy infrastructure as well as the potential analysis and site planning of renewable energy. Satellite data makes it possible to monitor biomass growth, which makes it easier to assess the potential for using biomass as an energy source. The monitoring and remote maintenance of electricity grids also represents a significant advantage. The question is always which existing processes and data can satellite data be combined with in order to bring about a significant improvement in the energy sector. You can find the presentation here.

Creating business models for integrated energy systems with space innovation

Space4Energy is also already an issue at European level: the European Space Agency (ESA) has created a business application program to ensure that space data and services are integrated into services on the market. The aim is to develop concrete use cases with added value for grid operators, energy suppliers, decision-makers and end users. Davide Coppola, Project Manager and Business Developer at ESA Business Applications, emphasized the importance of engaging with stakeholders on both sides – energy and space – to develop tailor-made solutions.

By combining satellite data and services, the MOWGLI project, for example, enabled significant optimizations in the planning process and the design, operation and maintenance of microgrids. From deciding on the ideal location for the necessary infrastructure to automated payment services, the motto here is: “Satellite data is not the solution, but an ideal part of the solution.”

This guiding principle is also demonstrated in the SP4GO project, where satellite data was integrated to improve smart grid applications. This means that the effects of newly integrated sustainable energy solutions, such as decentralized PV modules, storage systems and charging stations for e-mobility, can be predicted and managed more precisely. This minimizes environmental risks (in particular lightning strikes, ice formation and trees) and maintenance costs.

With these examples, Mr. Coppola showed how the energy sector is already deriving added value from satellite data and services through its involvement in ESA projects. The presentation including links to the projects can be found here.

How can satellite data and services be integrated into energy-related processes?

“It only becomes really powerful when you combine the satellite data with other data and technologies,” says Andreas Salentinig, CEO of Ubicube and winner of the Space4Mobility Hackathon organized by BMK in 2020. The startup founder was able to use his experience and expertise to explain first-hand how satellite data can be used to develop new, significantly improved services that can be integrated into existing processes.

To this end, the Ubicube team used its expertise in geoinformatics, earth observation, software architecture and machine learning to significantly improve and further develop viadonau’s processes. The team has identified relevant, existing data packages and linked them with satellite data to form so-called “geodata cubes” with the aim of closing the data gaps in existing processes with high-quality data material. This not only resulted in resource optimization as a clear added value, but also a much better data basis for compensation payments to owners of flooded areas in the area of flood protection.

Since then, Ubicube has continued to develop and apply its approach to other use cases. In the field of urban development and building monitoring, Andreas Salentinig can well imagine applications in the energy sector as part of Space4Energy. Demographic and economic data for urban development can make just as much of a contribution here as the monitoring of buildings, e.g. by linking Google Streetview and thermal maps, which could provide an indication of the energy index – also at neighborhood level. You can find the presentation here.

The data for this is already available, from the freely available Copernicus data to data from other providers with a razor-sharp, centimeter-precise resolution. The example of Ubicube shows that the expertise for integrating this data is already available in the Austrian space sector. It is now up to the energy sector to make use of them. At Space4Energy, we provide space for dialog.

What applications for the energy sector?

Together with more than 50 experts from the energy and space sectors, we held ideation sessions to gather ideas and identify further areas of application for satellite data and services.

As a company, it is worth finding out which data is relevant for your processes, products and applications. As the earth observation expert Samuel Almond reported, there are numerous potential applications here. These can be combined with topography data, GIS data, data on CO2 emissions, economic and demographic data, thermal maps or energy infrastructure data – e.g. sewer data when using wastewater.

So-called “low hanging fruits” were identified as a particular focus for the planned Space4Energy Hackathon, in particular process optimization, cost optimization, efficiency increases and automation. The aim here is to use the hackathon as a “fast-track” for the integration of satellite data and services.

Particularly noteworthy are processes that make use of data recorded by drones or aircraft, especially image material. By combining this material with satellite images, potential for rooftop PV and biomass applications, for example, can be identified automatically and, above all, more cost-effectively.

There is also promising potential for the integration of satellite data in spatial energy planning. One interesting application is to link the energy density distribution with the energy requirement more precisely. In order to promote the integration of new heat sources, be it residual heat from exhaust air or waste water, precise matching with the heat requirement is necessary. The remote sensing of heat islands was also rated as highly relevant by experts on several occasions.

Monitoring the achievement of climate targets at several levels was identified as another potential area of application for space solutions. Companies, municipalities and cities are coming under increasing pressure to make their contribution to climate targets at EU and national level and to report on this. Satellite data and services could close information gaps here.

Submit your applications to the Space4Energy Hackathon!

The dialog around Space4Energy makes it clear which areas of application are highly relevant for the rapid integration of satellite data and services. Whether monitoring energy grids, forecasting electricity generation and consumption or location planning: space data can provide added value in many areas. The Space4Energy Hackathon aims to help significantly improve data-driven processes in the energy sector with the help of space solutions.

As part of the Space4Energy Hackathon, we are calling on you to present us with problems whose processes need to be optimized. On the other hand, the hackathon also calls for innovative tech companies to contribute to optimizing these processes in the energy sector with their services.

In the words of viadonau: “The hackathon is the ideal opportunity to test the potential of the latest earth observation services for integration into our modernization course.”

Take this opportunity and submit your use case via our challenge form. Together with BMK experts, we will develop your use case into an attractive challenge.

If you have any further questions, please contact

We look forward to driving this exciting topic forward with you!