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Big Data Geomatics
Earth Intelligence for the New Energy Economy
The extraction of fossil fuels and minerals from subsurface deposits, industrial, commercial, and residential development, greenhouse gas emissions, intensive agricultural and forest management practices and other impacts of long-term global economic expansion and population growth are exerting enormous pressures on the biosphere. At the same time, national economic and geo-political concerns demand from each player on the global stage the development, production and distribution of domestic energy resources.
Public servants at the center of local, state, federal and international land-use debates may lack the information technology required to successfully design and administer programs that balance the needs of regional stakeholders and constituents, such as energy producers, developers, investors, property owners and citizens. Energy companies, on the other hand, may have highly evolved Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for prospecting, development, production and distribution, but may not account for all of the factors present in a new landscape with unique features. Property owners may have assessed specific resources on their lands, but may not understand the full range of options for development and conservation represented by rapidly changing energy production technologies, regulatory frameworks and economic incentives.
Geostellar provides a big-data geomatics platform that forward-models the diverse resource base of broad landscapes, monitors remote sensors and source data sets to detect changes, and delivers actionable intelligence to both public and private stakeholders in each geographic area of interest. This white paper describes the unique capabilities of Geostellar to support sustainable development initiatives and maximize the value of the resources for industry, government and the public interest, as well as in service to the more-than-human world.
The Four Renewables: Solar, Wind, Hydro & Bio
Planet Earth provides for its inhabitants the following four major renewable resources:
- Solar. The sun rises and sets each day, bringing a fresh supply of power that is be received, transmitted, deployed and stored.
- Wind. The force of air circulating over and around the contours of the Earth's surface is harnessed by turbines on land and at sea.
- Hydro. The flow of surface water in streams, rivers and tides generates energy through low-impact, low-head and kinetic systems.
- Bio. The fecundity of life itself is transformed directly into fuels for transportation, electricity and heat.
By modeling at high temporal and spatial resolution the momentary, daily, monthly and annual and simulating the market forces, Geostellar produces that essential insights for sustainable development.
Power Struggle: Reliables vs. Renewables
In today’s highly charged political, social and economic climate, energy production is positioned as yet another power struggle between entrenched special interests. In one corner, the fossil fuels industry leverages a highly efficient global infrastructure that has evolved over the course of the industrial revolution to reliably extract, refine, produce and distribute energy as electric power and petroleum products to the point of demand. In the opposing camp, renewables are positioned as the savior of the environment and the economy, bringing clean, local power from a diverse portfolio of resources and high-paying jobs to a skilled labor force.
The reality is that advanced economies such as those represented in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) require an enormous amount of energy to maintain a high standard of living, and emerging economies are rapidly increasing energy consumption to improve their prospects in the global marketplace. There is no single policy, technology or economic silver bullet to address local, regional or global energy supply and environmental mitigation issues. The stress on our biosphere will continue until all stakeholders can participate in an integrated system for monitoring, modeling and managing activities across the full energy production, distribution and consumption continuum.
Geostellar offers just such a solution. At the core of our platform is a set of highly efficient algorithms that generate an integrated Earth simulation from a wide variety of disparate data sets. Before Geostellar, environmental information was highly fragmented, limiting the ability for industry, government and property owners to make informed decisions on land use, permitting and development. With the urgency to mitigate the negative impact on the biosphere of global industrial, population and consumption growth while at the same time improving economic performance, the transparency afforded by a shared Earth simulation that accounts for resource, infrastructure, technology and regulatory dynamics is critical for the success of projects throughout the energy continuum, from policy and planning, to prospecting and development, through operations and production, to marketing, risk management and trading.
The limits of current datasets and information systems
The value of a resource in a particular area of interest depends on a number of factors, including availability, technology, local marginal prices, activity on commodities exchanges, capacity of infrastructure, land use, work force, population density, hazards and regulations.
The datasets that describe only a few of the factors required for effective public and private sector decision-making are large, diverse and often stored in incompatible formats and disconnected systems. Because many sources of information critical to the growth of an industry or the protection of a habitat are locked in private repositories, business interests, non-profits and public administrators must inefficiently deploy resources to gain even a reasonable understanding of the opportunities and risks associated with a particular development initiative. When a study is completed, a lease executed, a permit granted, financing arranged, project commissioned, or a dispute resolved, the source information gathered to support the decisions is rarely maintained or made available for future reference.
The measurements that may have been conducted to support the economics of a project are rarely revisited after the commencement of operations. In some cases, production at a site or within a region may vary dramatically from the assumptions on which development was financed, commissioned or permitted, and environmental impact may be significantly different than estimated. While more measurements are certainly needed and the development of more accurate and reliable data sets are important, investments in the current generation of data collection techniques, environmental services, analytical tools and information systems will not be sufficient to enable effective decisions that balance private and social interests, grow the economy, conserve resources, generate wealth and provide for the public good.
A Next Generation Living Systems Approach
Ecologies, industries and societies are living systems with cycles that stretch far beyond the reach or influence of any individual participant. Our understanding of any dynamic system is always preliminary, and can be continually improved and deepened through an iterative process. Geostellar employs the following four-stage, repeated cycle to produce an initial situational awareness, and then an ever-improving simulation:
- Monitor. Geostellar aggregates all relevant data sets available for an area of interest. These include imagery from satellite and aircraft sensors, laser scan point clouds, digital elevation maps (DEMs), digital surface maps (DSMs), field samples, tax parcels, temperature, precipitation, production technology derating, infrastructure, ground cover, environmentally sensitive areas, buildings, cultural sites, hazards, regulations and zoning. Geostellar monitors the sources of these data sets for changes, and keeps the repository up to date.
- Model. Geostellar processes the datasets to identify economic opportunities and risks in each locality. The first step is to generate resource intelligence at the highest possible resolution, then evaluate sites through the application of algorithms that account for local production technology, policy, infrastructure and economic considerations.
- Manage. Geostellar provides actionable intelligence in a user-friendly, collaborative online environment. Local, regional and global intelligence streams and alerts are available on a subscription basis. Contact information for site-specific public and private sector stakeholders accelerates the consummation of arrangements such as leases, permits, Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs), feedstock procurement and project financing.
- Mobilize. Location systems in the current generation of smart-phones, tablets, laptops and sensors create a direct connection between the field and distributed teams. Information collected on site provides ground-truth reference points to monitor conditions and improve the model over time.
The virtuous circle of ever-improving geomatic intelligence is not only the most efficient and effective method for producing site-specific simulations; it is the only means of establishing a market model that accommodates local, regional and global forces and factors.
Big-data geomatics complement traditional GIS
Geographic Information Systems (GIS) have evolved into a robust set of tools and practices for measuring and mapping environmental features. The output of GIS operations are typically layered data sets that include vector shape files with attributes, raster maps and metadata describing the conditions under which the information was generated. GIS tools and techniques include mapping software programs, feature extraction utilities, spatial databases and analytical processing functions. GIS datasets are typically created from a combination of remote sensing and field surveys. Geostellar ingests GIS vector and raster layers as well as tabular data sets to produce integrated geomatic simulations. As an output, Geostellar provides new spatial and tabular data sets that be used in traditional GIS programs, relational databases and business intelligence systems. In between, the big-data geomatics engine efficiently produces site-specific intelligence by processing data sets along the following three axes:
- Area. Geostellar models every square meter of the earth, one meter at a time, one hour at a time. By optimizing and training the geomatic processing engine, the platform can compute the relative influence of each factor embodied in the data sets within a specified spatio-temporal range. The result sets highlight areas with uniform concentrations of a particular resource, then model market factors based on proximity to the resource.
- Resource. Beginning at the global scale and working down through regions and localities, Geostellar forward-models the concentration, availability and dynamics of major resources and commodities. Geostellar maintains a common set of geomatic utilities that produce the fundamental physiographic model of a particular area, and highly specialized algorithms for each particular resource.
- Market. On top of the resource model, Geostellar programmatically applies spatial analytics across the global, local and regional areas of interest to compute market factors such as infrastructure capacity, land ownership, production technology, local marginal pricing, regulations, incentives, supply and demand. In the market model, Geostellar correlates the interactions of renewable resources, such as water and air, with fossil fuel extraction and production operations for regulatory compliance and environmental impact mitigation purposes.
By applying optimized spatial algorithms to diverse data sets, Geostellar continually produces and refines a dynamic, high-resolution simulation that accounts for resource and market considerations on both macro and micro scales. With the continued growth and availability of computing clouds, Geostellar can for the first time bring genuine transparency to global, regional and local energy markets. In order to compute high-resolution energy models over large regions, Geostellar applies efficient algorithms to large spatial data sets. Because our global civilization is at a critical transition point to a truly sustainable economy that will both preserve the biosphere and offer a consistently rewarding standard of living, Geostellar initially models the major renewable resources necessary for all life on Earth, water, sun, air and biomass, and then applies infrastructure, economic, policy and other local
factors to simulate the short- and long-term market opportunities and risks. This approach assures that both common and divergent interests can be
quantified and evaluated by all stakeholders.