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Friday, 09 March 2012 04:06

NICTA leads $5 million big data analytics initiative


Australia's National Information and Communications Technology Research Centre of Excellence (NICTA), is leading a multi-million dollar ICT-enabled geothermal energy initiative just announced by the Australian Centre for Renewable Energy (ACRE).

NICTA CEO Hugh Durrant-Whyte, said that under the deal, NICTA's robust research capabilities in machine learning, and in the increasingly significant area of big data analytics, would be used to locate geothermal energy sources deep beneath the surface of the Earth.

Locating suitable 'hot rocks', however, is a manual, expensive exercise, and Durrant-Whyte said that NICTA was leading a team of university experts from four states to find better, automated ways to define geothermal targets, using machine learning techniques and advanced data analytics instead of drills.

Geothermal energy comes from the intense heat generated by rocks located several kilometres underground. It is abundant, renewable; and has zero carbon output, which the NICTA chief said made it an ideal energy source.

The ACRE initiative, Data Fusion and Machine Learning for Geothermal Target Exploration and Characterisation, is a two-year, five-million dollar program, and the ACRE Emerging Renewables Program will fund $1.9 million of this total.

'Australia has a wealth of geothermal energy resources, but they are difficult to locate and access,' Durrant-Whyte said. 'We will apply NICTA's considerable expertise in machine learning and big data analytics to create software to address these challenges.'

NICTA will work closely with the School of Information Technologies at the University of Sydney to develop machine learning algorithms, and the Schools of Earth Science at the Australian National University, University of Melbourne and University of Adelaide to apply these methods to the problem of geothermal target characterisation and exploration.

The project teams will also work with ASX-listed geothermal exploration and development companies GeoDynamics and Petratherm, as well as GeoScience Australia and the South Australian Department of Manufacturing, Innovation Trade Resources and Energy, who will provide geothermal sensor data sets and expertise in discovery and characterisation of geothermal targets.

Durrant-Whyte said the project was the first to be funded under the Australian Government's $126 million Emerging Renewables Program, which had been established to provide support for the development of renewable energy and enabling technologies across the innovation chain.

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham - retired in 2020. He is a veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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