Google assists former DeepMind employee's "solar forecasting" start-up

Updated: Apr 18, 2021

  • Open Climate Fix, a not-for-profit lab targeting at lowering greenhouse emissions, and has been rewarded over £500,000 ($686,350) by Google.

  • The London based start-up is going to set up a web solar electricity forecasting solution for UK and Europe.

  • The service will aim to forecast cloudiness, which is going to determine what proportion of electricity solar panels can produce, through a collaboration of satellite images and advanced AI software.

Google assists former DeepMind employee's "solar forecasting" start-up

LONDON - Google is funding a global climate change start-up established by an ex-DeepMind employee through its bounteous arm,

Open Climate Fix, a not for profit lab focused on lowering down greenhouse emissions, disclosed that it had been granted over £500,000 ($686,350) by's Impact challenge on Climate, which has pledged 10,000,000 euros to fund new green technologies.

The service will aim to forecast cloud cover, which determines how much electricity solar panels can generate.

Jack Kelly, the co-founder of Open Climate Fix and a former research engineer at Alphabet-owned DeepMind, told that UK currently has got to keep “lots of fossil fuel generators spinning at less than their full extent” just in case “a large cloud comes along and covers Cornwall.”

These generators are a lot less capable when they’re ramped down, said Kelly.

“It would be more fuel efficient and more cost efficient to run a little of generators at nearer to their max, but that requires that we have better predictions because to do that you’re running the system with less headroom,” he added.

Open Climate Fix hopes that its solar forecasting service will provide better forecasts to electricity grid operators so they can make more accurate predictions.

Kelly said the company is currently in talks with National Grid, which owns and operates the infrastructure that provides electricity to homes and businesses around Britain. National Grid was also talking to DeepMind at one stage but ultimately the talks didn't come to anything and climate change has fallen down the agenda at DeepMind.

The entrepreneur added that a tons of legacy energy corporations aren't excellent at innovating.

“That’s not their fault,” he said. “They have tradition, of 100 plus years, (of) building large bits of physical hardware and that they haven’t historically been reformers in software and data.”

“We hope that by taking leading edge in research and present-day approaches to putting together computer systems that it’s possible to massively improve the efficiency of the electricity system.”

DeepMind co-founder and CEO Demis Hassabis told the Guardians newspapers in 2016 that nobody had ever left his company, despite it being five years old with many of hired hands. Fast forward a couple of years, and DeepMind now has around 1,000 staff and a number of other former employees have quit to start out their businesses.

Other examples include former DeepMind energy lead Jim Gao, and staff research engineer Vedavyas Panneershelvam, who now runs an AI Company called Phaidra. Elsewhere, former DeepMind engineering executive Andrew Eland left to for a new start-up that aims to seek out ways to improve towns and cities.

Rowan Barnett, head of for EMEA and APAC, said during a statement: “Amidst various applications we’ve received to our Impact Challenge on Climate, the expert jury were satisfied by Open Climate Fix’s innovative and tech driven approach.”

“We know that AI can have a transformational impact when applied to provocations within the global climate change sector, and we’re exhilarated to be supporting this work.”

Kelly said the cash from Google will mostly be utilized to expand the size of his team, which currently sits at three people.

Google also supported a corporation called Normative, which helps companies automatically compile carbon reports, and Dark Matter Labs, which is building a financial platform to support investing in urban forest management and restoration.

Other tech giants including Microsoft and Amazon are investing heavily in technologies that have the potential to reduce the levels of carbon emissions as are the company's billionaire founders.


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