AI for climate: A real-world test

We challenged a non-coder to use ChatGPT to write battery software. The results were surprising.

On the Catalyst with Shayle Kann podcast this week:

The list of potential uses for artificial intelligence in climatetech is growing fast: developing better materials, optimizing solar farms, and integrating renewables and microgrids. But many of these use cases are still theoretical. We wanted to find a real-world application that changed the way we make climatetech.

So we decided to come up with our own test run.

Back in March, Duncan Campbell, vice president at Scale Microgrids, used ChatGPT to code some battery dispatch software and tweeted about his experience. Duncan isn’t a professional software developer, but he still came up with some promising results. 

Could a non-coder like Duncan use AI to do the work of several climatetech coders?

We invited Duncan to do it again and ramped up the challenge. We also recruited Seyed Madaeni, CEO and co-founder of Verse, to create a challenge for Duncan. Seyed is an expert in AI and the software used in electricity markets. He routinely sends problem statements” to his team of software developers as the first step in creating new software. This time, he sent a problem statement to Duncan that reflects real-world conditions, one that we might actually assign to real engineers to solve.

The challenge? Develop battery-dispatch software using ChatGPT. 

In this episode, Duncan presents his results to Shayle and Seyed. They tackle topics including:

  • The different methods of optimizing battery dispatch, from old-school Excel sheets to more sophisticated software written by coders.

  • Seyed’s process of assigning a problem statement to his engineering team and the simplified version he sent to Duncan.

  • Duncan’s process of iteratively working with ChatGPT-4 to develop and debug the code.

  • Why working with ChatGPT is like working with a bunch of really fast but really inexperienced junior coders.

Click here to see the code that Duncan wrote with ChatGPT. Watch the conversation on YouTube.

Recommended resources:

Catalyst is a co-production of Post Script Media and Canary Media.

Support for Catalyst comes from Climate Positive, a podcast by HASI that features candid conversations with the leaders, innovators and changemakers who are at the forefront of the transition to a sustainable economy. Listen and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.

Catalyst is supported by Scale Microgrids, the distributed energy company dedicated to transforming how modern energy infrastructure is designed, constructed and financed. Distributed generation can be complex. Scale makes it easy. Learn more at scalemicrogrids.com.