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AI is indispensable for generating efficient renewable energy

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Lots of sun and wind, the Caribbean lends itself perfectly to the generation of renewable energy. But how will this take shape in actual practice? JADS is researching this in the ILUSTRE Lab.

Renewable energy, due in part to soaring prices and climate change, is more important and popular than ever. There are a host of possibilities, but several obstacles still persist. For one, what about off-peak and peak hours when it comes to solar energy? We obviously do not want to be without power on less sunny days. And how can we use energy as efficiently as possible to cut down on costs? With questions like these, Artificial Intelligence (AI) can help contribute to finding a solution. Prof. Dr. Eric Postma, professor of AI, and drs. ir. Renato Calzone, program manager of Smart Industry and Data Science for Social Good at JADS, are convinced that this can be done.

They are working together with several knowledge institutions and companies at the Innovation Lab for Utilities on Sustainable Technology and Renewable Energy (ILUSTRE). This is a living lab aimed at helping to create a sustainable society in the Caribbean through the use of data and AI, initially primarily on the island of Curaçao. Numerous opportunities exist here as far as renewable energy is concerned, but these are not yet being used to their full potential. “For us, it’s not just about technical solutions, but also about their implementation,” Professor Eric Postma says. “Through that, we can ultimately make a real impact.”

Solution for grid congestion

For instance, solutions to grid congestion can be examined within the ILUSTRE Lab. In the situation in the Netherlands, we are familiar with the example of an overloaded energy grid that prevents large consumers or large providers from being able to use the grid. The application of AI can then help predict grid congestion and come up with possible solutions. “We can test these kinds of technologies through ILUSTRE in Curaçao and then adopt them on a larger scale in other countries, such as the Netherlands,” Postma says.

Prof. Dr. Eric Postma, professor of AI

Opportunities abound. He cites another example: “One of our projects involves making recommendations to people and businesses about energy conservation. AI is king when it comes to recognizing patterns and opportunities. This is why AI can be good at providing people with recommendations on how to conserve energy by using renewable energy sources in a smart way, such as specifying certain times to turn the washing machine on.” This goes a step beyond managing the energy consumption of your own household appliances. “For example, it is possible to also synchronize this personalized advice with the facilities of Aqualectra, the company that handles Curaçao’s water and electricity supply. For instance, companies can be notified when there is a surplus of renewable energy. They could then, for one thing, adjust the use of particular machines that use a lot of energy.”

Social aspect

An important part of these projects is the social aspect. People also have to be willing to really start using the technologies. “We need to listen carefully to the people who are involved in these projects so that the solutions that are developed actually meet their needs,” says Postma. “In the case of recommendations concerning energy consumption, for instance, it is important that people are able to use the technology quickly and easily.”

Studies in data science

Apart from implementing the use of renewable energy in the Caribbean, the ILUSTRE Lab is also pursuing a larger mission. “We want to provide studies and courses in data science as well,” Calzone states. “My ambition is to get a master’s program and professional education (training courses for business people, ed.) off the ground in Curaçao in the future. We also want to offer training for university of applied sciences (HBO) and vocational education (MBO) students on the island in the field of data science that is paired with sustainable technology. This will hopefully reduce the outflow of students to America or the Netherlands in the future so that we can retain talent on Curaçao.” Courses in the field of data science for students and professionals are also one of the main pillars of JADS in the Netherlands.

Renato Calzone

Within the framework of ILUSTRE, Calzone also sees a positive aspect for Curacao’s business community. “By providing courses, we are also creating additional interest in data science among young people. They ultimately take that with them to their future employers, often SMEs, so that those companies also start working in a more data-driven way. This completes the circle between research, education and business,” he notes.

Cooperation between people and AI

One example of an application where different parties come together is in the use of drones for predictive maintenance. “We can use a drone to inspect wind turbines, for a start. With the aid of a drone, you can collect a lot of data. An algorithm is able to analyze this and consequently help detect any problems,” Postma explains. The algorithm is able to spot small anomalies at an early stage which people can’t see. This means maintenance can be carried out even before a part is even broken. As a result, machinery such as wind turbines or water installations are shut down less often, and this boosts efficiency.

“We can work more efficiently by utilizing AI, but the algorithms themselves are still using a lot of power right now,” Postma smiles. ” Which is why making AI more energy efficient is another one of ILUSTRE’s ambitions.”

Making an impact

Through projects such as the ILUSTRE Lab, Postma and Calzone aim to make a social impact with AI. “You can’t do that much with AI as a technology on its own. You have to use it in the right way to really be able to make a difference,” Postma states. A partner like JADS is crucial in this, he adds. “JADS has a special impact team that sets up public-private partnerships. This ensures that research will also have a proper, practical application.” Calzone says in closing: “Even in other sectors, AI can make a difference.”

Collaboration with Innovation Origins

This story is the result of a collaboration between JADS and the editorial team of Innovation Origins. IO is an independent journalism platform that carefully chooses its partners and only cooperates with companies and institutions that share their mission: spreading the story of innovation. This way they can offer our readers valuable stories that are created according to journalistic guidelines. Want to know more about how Innovation Origins works with other companies? Click here


The ILUSTRE Lab was set up by the Jheronimus Academy of Data Science (JADS) and LaNubia Consulting here in the Netherlands. As part of ILUSTRE, five PhD students are given the opportunity to conduct research on AI along with sustainable energy and clean water (with a focus on the United Nations Sustainability Goals 6 and 7). Results from the research will also be actually implemented on the island with the help of the Curaçao government and business community. As such, Curaçao serves as a living lab. Other countries and companies can in turn draw on these examples and lessons to then also start working with new technologies themselves.

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