UK Satellite Launched to Map Heat Inefficient Buildings

A UK satellite, funded by UK and European space agencies, that will assist with mapping the country’s heat inefficient buildings has been launched today. Operated by the London-based Satellite Vu, the spacecraft was launched from California and will fly at an altitude of 500KM, or 311 miles.

UK housing is some of the least energy and heat efficient dwellings in Europe. The average heat loss across a 5-hour period is 3C for UK homes. In comparison to neighbouring countries The Netherlands, Germany, and France where heat loss is 2.4C, 1C and 2.5C respectively. The satellite images produced could greatly support the UK’s goals of hitting carbon-neutrality by 2050 by helping the government decide where to allocate appropriate funds and support for energy efficiency.

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 Satellite Vu CEO, Anthony Baker, commented on the launch and expectations of the project, “With city-wide data, we’ll be able to show you the worst 20% of buildings very quickly. And after the upgrades are done, we can check to make sure that it’s done well.” He also comments on the logistics of allocating funds effectively, “There is grant money there to improve insulation, but for councils and utilities there is a challenge in knowing where best to apply it.”

Urban Heat Island Effect

This satellite is 1 of 8 planned, in what Baker describes as a “constellation of thermometers in the sky.” Aside from identifying poor heat inefficient buildings, the satellites can also pick up buildings and spaces that intensify the urban heat-island effect – these are urban areas that are significantly warmer than surrounding rural areas due to human activity. For example, large car parks, inner city major roads and crowded city centres. Identifying these areas will allow local governments to effectively plan where best to plant trees to help cool the environment.

Pollution can also be monitored by these satellites. Watching for sudden change in temperatures around factories, rivers and agricultural land could identify a major increase in carbon output. Britain’s Ordinance Survey commented on the applications of the satellite images, “as soon as you put that information on one of our maps, people get it – they understand it’s hotter over here compared with over there. So, we’ll have that early discovery of Satellite Vu data, combining it with our intelligence and then testing it on our customers.”