IBM (NYSE: IBM) has announced that it is deploying the full force of its researchers in laboratories around the world in a 10-year initiative to support China in transforming its national energy systems and protecting the health of citizens.
Dubbed “Green Horizon”, the project sets out to leap beyond current global practices in three areas critical to China’s sustainable growth: air quality management, renewable energy forecasting and energy optimization for industry. Led by IBM’s China Research laboratory, the initiative will tap into the company’s network of 12 global research labs and create an innovation ecosystem of partners from government, academia, industry and private enterprise.
One of the first partners to come on board is the Beijing Municipal Government. Through a collaboration agreement, the two parties have agreed to work together to develop solutions which can help tackle the city’s air pollution challenges. The collaboration will leverage some of IBM’s most advanced technologies such as cognitive computing, optical sensors and the internet of things all based on a Big Data and analytics platform and drawing on IBM’s deep experience in weather prediction and climate modelling.
“China has made great achievements and contributed much to the world’s economic growth over the past 30 years. It now has an opportunity to lead the world in sustainable energy and environmental management,” said D.C. Chien, Chairman and CEO, IBM Greater China Group. “While other nations waited until their economies were fully developed before taking comprehensive action to address environmental issues, China can leverage IBM’s most advanced information technologies to help transform its energy infrastructures in parallel with its growth.”
China’s economic growth over the past several decades has raised the living standards of hundreds of millions of Chinese citizens and led to China becoming the second largest economy in the world. However, the resulting environmental impact, particularly air pollution, has become a priority for the Chinese government and a matter of global importance.
According to Dr. Lu Qiang, Professor at Tsinghua University and Fellow of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, “the key to tackling environmental problems is not only monitoring emissions but adopting a comprehensive approach to air quality management and addressing the issues at their roots. Initiatives like IBM’s Green Horizon can help by fostering joint innovation across the entire energy value chain.”
Urban Air Quality Management
Global urbanization is creating air quality challenges for all major cities around the world. In China, where cities have been the engines of much of the country’s economic growth over the past decade, the government has launched the “Airborne Pollution Prevention and Control Action Plan” as it moves to safeguard the health of approximately 700 million people living in urban areas.
The city of Beijing will invest over $160 billion to improve air quality and deliver on its target of reducing harmful fine Particulate Matter (PM 2.5) particles by 25% by 2017. To support the initiative, IBM is partnering with the Beijing Municipal Government on a system to enable authorities to pinpoint the type, source and level of emissions and predict air quality in the city.
IBM’s cognitive computing systems will analyze and learn from streams of real-time data generated by air quality monitoring stations, meteorological satellites and IBM’s new-generation optical sensors – all connected by the internet of things. By applying supercomputing processing power, scientists from IBM and the Beijing Government aim to create visual maps showing the source and dispersion of pollutants across Beijing 72 hours in advance with street-scale resolution.
“As a leader in climate modelling, cognitive computing and predictive analytics, IBM Research can provide a lot of value to Beijing and other Chinese cities which are facing significant pressure to better monitor, respond to and address air pollution issues. Science based decision support systems, combined with sophisticated data analysis is exactly what the Chinese government needs to address the country’s energy and environmental issues,” said Tao Wang, Resident Scholar, Energy and Climate Program, Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy.
With accurate, real-time data about Beijing’s air quality, the government will be able to take rapid action to address environmental issues by adjusting production at specific factories or alerting citizens about developing air quality issues.
“The Chinese government is taking bold steps to transform the country’s energy and environmental structures. IBM is here to help and through Green Horizon we are committed to deploying our most advanced technologies and best talent from around the world,” said Dr. Xiaowei Shen, Director, IBM Research – China.
Renewable Energy Forecasting
The Chinese government recently announced increased investment in solar, wind, hydro and biomass energy in a bid to decrease its dependency on fossil fuels. To support the objective, IBM has developed a renewable energy forecasting system to help energy grids harness and manage alternative energy sources.
The solution combines weather prediction and Big Data analytics to accurately forecast the availability of renewable energy which is renowned for its variability. It enables utility companies to forecast the amount of energy which will be available to be redirected into the grid or stored – helping to ensure that as little as possible is wasted. It increases the viability of renewable energy, helping the Chinese government to realize its objective of getting 13% of consumed energy from non-fossil fuels by 2017 and enabling the construction of the world’s biggest renewable grids.
Based on IBM’s “Hybrid Renewable Energy Forecasting” (HyRef) technology, the solution uses weather modeling capabilities, advanced cloud imaging technology and sky-facing cameras to track cloud movements, while sensors monitor wind speed, temperature and direction. It can predict the performance of individual renewable energy farms and estimate the amount of energy several days ahead.
The system has already been rolled out to 30 wind, solar and hydro power sources. The biggest deployment is at China’s largest renewable energy initiative – the Zhangbei Demonstration Project managed by State Grid Jibei Electricity Power Company Limited (SG-JBEPC) in the Northern province of Hebei. Using the system, SG-JBEPC is able to integrate 10% more alternative energy (enough for 14,000 homes) into the national grid. With a prediction accuracy of 90% proven on Zhangbei’s wind turbines, it is one of the most accurate energy forecasting systems in the world.
“Applying analytics and harnessing big data will allow utilities to tackle the intermittent nature of renewable energy and forecast power production from solar and wind, in a way that has never been done before,” said Brad Gammons, General Manager IBM’s Global Energy and Utilities Industry. “We have developed an intelligent system that combines weather and power forecasting to increase system availability and optimize power grid performance.”
Energy Optimization for Industry
China’s economic growth over the past 10 years has led it to becoming the biggest energy consumer in the world. As part of the transformation of Chinese industry, the government has committed to reducing the country’s “carbon intensity” by 40-45% by the year 2020, compared with 2005 levels (equivalent to 130 million tons of coal per year).
To support these goals, IBM is developing a new system to help monitor, manage and optimize the energy consumption of industrial enterprises – representing over 70% of China’s total energy consumption.
Using a Big Data and analytics platform deployed over the cloud, it will analyze vast amounts of data generated by energy monitoring devices and identify opportunities for conservation. It could be used to analyze data from industrial enterprises in different cities and identify which sites and equipment waste the most energy. The system will be valuable for guiding decisions about optimization and investment in China’s most power hungry industries such as steel, cement, chemical and non-ferrous metal.
The new energy optimization system for industry leverages IBM’s expertise in regional energy management in China. IBM is already engaged with China Southern Grid to manage the energy consumption of HengQin Island in Guangdong province helping the island to decrease energy consumption, costs and CO2 emissions.
About IBM in China
IBM has been a partner to China’s modernization program since the 1970s, providing computing systems and services to government, industry and scientific research. Today China is home to a number of world-class IBM laboratories and development centers including one of its twelve global research labs.
IBM Research – China was established in 1995 and today has labs in Beijing and Shanghai. IBM Research – China pursues a broad research agenda including cloud, big data analytics, cognitive computing and Internet-of-Things. IBM Research – China collaborates with partners from government, academia and industry to address key challenges across multiple sectors including energy and environment, logistics and supply chain, healthcare and financial services.