GIS for Strategic Renewable Energy Planning

H/T AM, Intro to GIS

The current increase in levels of consumption but decrease in fossil fuels stock is propelling the transition to more renewable energies. Modernizing the energy sector by incorporating a share of clean sources would also mitigate the effects of climate change. To complement the already existing energy plants, windmills constructions are rising all over the world.

To develop a strategic energy plan, the use of Geographic Information Systems is of great help. The current way to identify potential windmill sites is centered on spatially mapping the wind energy sources. The potential power of the windmill is determined by the wind velocity, which varies according to seasons, and the spatial aspect, depending upon the variations in landscape. Experts are using Remote Sensing and GIS to identify suitable locations. On land, elements such as the flatness of the region, tree canopy cover and height are recorded and mapped.

Aside from assessing the availability of the wind energy resource, GIS would be extremely useful in analyzing the optimal areas according to environmental and anthropogenic constraints. In the site selection, the results of impact assessments in terms of vulnerable flora, fauna and more broadly ecosystem services could be incorporated. Buffer zones around vulnerable areas could be drawn. The population’s willingness to participate in a windmill project might also influence its success; this, the acoustic issues and feelings for historical landscapes could be mapped too. Each concern would be represented in a layer and given a value. Their layering would result in the best sites for erecting windmills.

GIS constitute a powerful analytical tool for decision makers, and the scope of its applications has only begin to be explored. Integrating the people and environmental concerns into the first step of site selection is important in achieving a more ethical process.


Hirematha, R.B., S. Shikhab and N.H. Ravindranath. Decentralized energy planning; modeling and application — a review. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 11 (2007) 729–752.

Ramachandra, T.V. and B.V. Shruthi Wind energy potential mapping in Karnataka,India, using GIS Energy Conversion and Management 46 (2005) 1561–1578.

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