Government funding of over €1 million will support renewable energy and decarbonising transport research

Researchers from Trinity’s Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering are leading two new projects funded by the Government of Ireland through the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI).

Professor Breiffni Fitzgerald was awarded €200,000 to lead the TwinFarm project (and €200,000+ from partnering on other new projects), which will utilise data driven modelling and real-time monitoring techniques to develop digital twins of wind farms, while Professor Brian Caulfield was awarded €611,000 to lead the TRACT (TRAnsport Behaviour Change Trials) project, which is co-funded by the Department of Transport.

TwinFarm’s holistic methodology will improve wind farm performance, prevent costly failures/downtime and predict fatigue loads across operational wind farms.

The energy sector accounts for 57% of Ireland’s total greenhouse gas emissions, and to meet our climate goals this must be decarbonised as quickly as possible. Wind energy currently provides 86% of our renewable electricity in Ireland, so improvements in performance in this sub-sector could have an important impact.

Ireland saw a slight reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from energy use in 2020, but that was less than the amount that must be achieved on average every year from 2021 to 2030 to meet our long-term decarbonisation goals.

Professor Fitzgerald is also a project partner on two other new SEAI grants (WindLEDeRR and RemoteWind) with partners from UCD, NUI Galway and UCC.

Speaking about the new wind energy research projects Professor Fitzgerald said:

“These are exciting research projects in the field of wind energy that will address key problems faced by the industry related to the overall reliability of the infrastructure and the cost of wind energy. The projects build on work that we have pioneered in the Department of Civil Engineering and complement ongoing research projects in the department.”

The TRACT project, led by Professor Caulfield will examine the ability of mobility hubs and nudges to promote the switch to electric vehicles, with the goal of decarbonising the transport sector. The project involves collaborators from Trinity’s Schools of Computer Science and Statistics, and Psychology. FreeNow Ireland, Nissan Ireland, Bleeper, Toyota (YUKO), easygo.ie, Transpoco and Smart Dublin are among the industry partners on the project.

The 2021 Climate action plan sets very ambitious targets to decarbonise the transportation sector. Two of the largest policy tools in the plan are to increase the number of electric vehicles on our roads and to have an extra 500,000 trips per-day by non-car modes. The TRACT project will seek to examine how both of these goals can be achieved using trials of new transport technologies.

Speaking about the work ahead Professor Caulfield said:

“These two new projects add to an already rich portfolio of research projects being led from our department that are addressing climate change, the highlights of which can be seen here:

“The TRACT project brings together a wide variety of partners and academics from different disciplines to examine methods to decarbonise how we travel and will have two 18-month trials. The first will seek to reduce car trips by promoting the use of active modes, shared cars and public transport. The second trial will seek to promote the transition to electric mobility by examining issues such as range anxiety, charging infrastructure and cost. One of the sectors this trial will focus upon is the electrification of the taxi fleet. FreeNow, a project partner, will promote the smart phone app developed for this project to its over 14,000 taxi drivers.”

Fiona Brady, Head of Operations and Public Affairs at FreeNow, said:

“FREE NOW could not be more delighted to partner with Trinity on this extremely important and innovative project. By taking tangible actions through this work, Professor Caulfield and his dedicated team have the potential to radically reduce carbon emissions. Decarbonisation of the transport sector is key to a sustainable future for all of us and we are committed to enabling and empowering passengers across the country to make sustainable decisions when it comes to meeting their daily transport requirements.” 

To find out more about SEAI’s research funding go to seai.ie.