Padraig Lyons, IERC; John Mullins, Amarenco Solar Limited; Shafi Khadem, IERC; Sandipan Patra, IERC; and Rohit Trivedi, IERC, at the launch of the COSTORE project. Photo: Gerard McCarthy

Is AI key to a more sustainable future?

A UCC-based energy research centre is exploring ways to increase the production of renewable energy by solar farms using artificial intelligence.

As part of the COSTORE project, the International Energy Research Centre (IERC) at UCC’s Tyndall National Institute is looking for innovative ways to reduce the amount of time that renewable energy plants have to stop producing energy, due to curtailments or constraints.

The IERC is doing this by examining the full potential of solar power plants and battery energy storage systems (BESS) working side by side.

For the project, Amarenco Solar Limited, one of the largest solar plant developers in Ireland, has teamed up with the IERC to develop ways to increase energy storage so that solar plants can reduce their dispatch downtimes to zero.

This would allow Ireland to produce additional renewable energy while ensuring that solar plants can participate in ancillary grid (DS3) services, helping to deliver a secure, sustainable electricity system in Ireland.

Dr Shafi Khadem, COSTORE Principal Investigator and Intelligent Grid Research Team Lead at IERC, said he and his colleagues plan to present a bottom-up analysis of both solar power plants and energy storage systems operating side by side.

He said: “We will look at the best possible combination of system structures to achieve zero dispatch downtime. We will also look at why plants have to stop producing energy at certain times, for instance because of limitations on the power system, over frequency, etc. Artificial intelligence (AI) techniques will play a vital role in delivering these innovative solutions.”

Combining technical and economic analysis, COSTORE will draw on pilot experiments in a real-time simulation environment. It will also address business models, barriers, and recommendations for industry stakeholders, policymakers, and public bodies for further deployment of these systems.

According to Prof. Brian Norton, Head of Energy Research at Tyndall National Institute, Ireland’s ability to reach its renewable energy targets is being compromised by rising levels of curtailments and constraints in energy production.

“This increases the cost of renewable electricity for electricity consumers. It is, therefore, a priority to maintain dispatch downtimes at their minimum possible level. COSTORE will analyse the techno-economical challenges and develop innovative solutions to achieve the optimal contributions from solar PV power plants in Ireland with the support of energy storage and artificial intelligence.”

A design guideline for the different system components will be developed by COSTORE, aimed at minimizing investment cost while maximizing system flexibility.

John Mullins, CEO of Amarenco Solar Limited, said: “As decarbonisation progresses and renewable penetration in Ireland and elsewhere increases, the interaction between renewables and storage is critical to get to net zero.

“In addition, the European security of supply crisis is embellishing the need for optimisation of storage on our grid as it interacts with solar PV and other technologies. Our collaboration with the IERC on COSTORE is a research project that will assist the optimisation of energy on our grid going forward.”

COSTORE is funded by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland and is led by IERC in collaboration with Amarenco Solar Limited. For more information, visit