14 March 2012 –NICTA will spearhead a $5 million dollar project, initiated by the Australian Centre for Renewable Energy, to locate geothermal energy sources deep in the Earth.

It is the first project to be funded under the Australian Government’s $126 million Emerging Renewables Program, which has been established to provide support for the development of renewable energy and enabling technologies across the innovation chain.

Data Fusion and Machine Learning for Geothermal Target Exploration and Characterisation is a two year program with $1.9 million of the total cost funded by ACRE.

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

Locating suitable hot rocks, however, is a manual, expensive exercise, a NICTA statement said.

NICTA – Australia’s Information and Communications Technology Research Centre of Excellence.– is 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.

Its chief executive officer, Hugh 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 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.