SSE to use AI technology to monitor puffin numbers

©Lone Gill/SNH

ENERGY firm SSE is trialling ‘cutting edge’ AI technology in a bid to keep count of puffin numbers in areas around its projects.

The flying squad initiative comes in partnership with Microsoft, tech firm Avande and NatureScot.

The technology has recently been tested during the seabird’s breeding season on the Isle of May, with four cameras on the island gathering footage and automatically counting the birds until they left the island.

If further trials prove to be successful, SSE said it expects the system will be used for a number of species recognition projects around SSE sites.

Rachel McEwen, SSE’s chief sustainability officer, said, “As a leading generator of renewable electricity and one of the largest electricity network companies in the UK, our assets can have far reaching consequences across a wide range of issues, from reducing the effects of global climate change to supporting local habitats.

“The impacts of our hydro and wind farm operations and our transmission and distribution networks need to be actively managed and what initiatives like the Flying Squad show is that there are also incredible opportunities to be had in protecting and enhancing existing and new habitats as we harness natural resources such as water and wind for renewable energy generation.”

James Scobie, of SSE’s flying squad, added, “The implications for the Microsoft/Avanade technology are huge. It’s our ultimate aspiration that this incredible cutting-edge technology could be deployed in a variety of different settings to monitor species of interest in the future.”

Clare Barclay, chief executive officer at Microsoft UK, said, “SSE and Microsoft hold the joint ambition to prioritise, enhance and support sustainability in the energy sector. We are proud to be working closely together through our partnership to achieve these goals in the short, medium and long term. The innovative puffin monitoring project on the Isle of May demonstrates the impact technology can have on advancing sustainability and is just one initial example of how we are collaborating with SSE to shape a more sustainable future.”