Irena off to a clean start with new renewable energy app

The renewable energy sector has been growing fast, and more and more people – particularly potential investors – are seeking information on little known areas to venture into.

Although some forms of renewable energy have been around for decades, there has been almost no mapping of the industry. Sure, companies have looked into their particular areas of interests, but until the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena), an intergovernmental organisation that supports countries in their transition to a sustainable energy future, launched in 2009, there was little aggregated information available.

The organisation has now created an app to feed hungry minds on the subject – allowing users to search for renewable energy resources anywhere in the world, from sources such as wind, solar or marine, hydro, geothermal and bioenergy. And all this from their smartphone.

Launched last month, the Global Atlas pocket is a free app available for download on all platforms including BlackBerry 10, iOS, Android and Windows Phone.

At present it claims to be the only global tool of its kind, combining 1,000 maps from 67 governments and 50 data centres.

The idea is that users can overlay information listed in the catalogue to help identify areas of interest for potential projects or business ventures.

When I used the app, I learnt that my home state – Mississippi in the United States – has little going on in terms of renewable energy. However, there are a few chances for biofuel feedstock, cassava, to be planted in neighbouring states.

The app is still in its early stages so there were a few niggles. The Android version crashed on my Samsung Galaxy 4 whenever I tried to go back to the original search to type in a new area. The iOS app was much easier to use on my iPad Air 2.

There really isn’t anything like this app, but there are two paid apps offering scope on an individual basis. One is Solar Expert, which costs Dh36.99 and helps users to evaluate and optimise a solar photovoltaic project to see the potential financial performance.

There is also Windfarm Locator, Dh14.99, which turns your mobile device into a global wind farm monitoring platform to see energy production from wind farms around the world in real time.

q&a power in your pocket:

LeAnne Graves reveals more about Irena’s recently released Global Atlas pocket app:

What are the pros of this app?

It’s important to remember that this is the first of its kind. So to begin with, Irena needed to grab whatever information is currently available on different markets and regions. It’s not an easy task. But you can select any place in the world to find out how much solar irradiation is present, ask if renewable energy could power 100 per cent of a particular island or even whether wind energy is a suitable prospect for the UAE.

And the cons?

There are other functions, such as the GOCE Free Air Gravity Disturbance under the geothermal category. This is data from the GOCE gravity satellite, and when describing the mathematical equations used to compile this data, the app says: “Gravity disturbance field is obtained by subtracting the field of an ellipsoidal homogeneous Earth model with mass equal to the mass of the real Earth”. The average person is not going to understand this, which brings me to the next question.

So who is it aimed at?

Field experts and academics studying renewables. Although Irena hopes the app will provide information for companies looking into the feasibility of starting a renewable energy project in a particular place, I feel most would already have their own studies in place. The reports aren’t in real time or even the past year for the most part. However, Irena said it is continuously adding information to the system.

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