Renewable Energy: GIS and the Science Behind Tapping Wind Power Offer Insight on the Resource’s Feasibility

p28p2…from the Fall 2009 issue of ArcNews


  • ArcGIS improves the quality and accessibility of data to maximize the efficiency of decision making.
  • Nearly all the wind power facility layouts can be done with GIS.
  • Locating the right site can be done quickly and accurately with publicly available data and GIS technology.

“When Miguel de Cervantes wrote of the impetuous and noble hero Don Quixote 400 years ago, he could not have imagined that one day environmental scientists and energy analysts would “dream the impossible dream” of stocking the electric grid with the power of the wind. Nor could he have envisioned the hulking giants that now line many a horizon, the 400-foot-tall wind turbines each wielding three 130-foot steel blades and weighing 8.5 tons. When he talked of tilting at windmills, the Spanish literary master would not have guessed that public utilities, private companies, and investors would someday look to the wind to “beat the unbeatable foes” of waning fossil fuel supply and deleterious carbon emissions.

“Wind energy now accounts for 1 percent of the United States’ power supply, and forecasts from the U.S. Department of Energy say that figure could reach 20 percent by 2030. While wind farms crop up across the country’s windiest terrain, critics point to the need for new transmission lines and the variability of the wind. Many citizens support the idea as long as it’s “not in my backyard.””

Quote of the Day

“The fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.”
–Carl Sagan

Map of the Day: Biodiversity and Perspectives on Oil, Gas, and Mining Exploitation in Guinea-Bissau

…from the ESRI Map Book, Volume 24


“This map shows the effects of various activities on biodiversity. The United Nations Environment Programme—World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) partnered with in-country experts from Guinea-Bissau to develop a synthesis map highlighting the potential pressures from oil and gas industry activities on the biodiversity of Guinea-Bissau. Such partnerships are leading to more accurate assessment of environmental pressures. A five-day workshop in Cambridge, United Kingdom, funded by World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF), resulted in combining UNEP-WCMC data with oil and gas exploration data from IHS Energy and data contributed by the visiting in-country experts. The combination of these data sources plus local knowledge and cartographic expertise at UNEP-WCMC has produced a powerful poster map that enables decision makers to incorporate key biodiversity information into their planning and development processes.

“Copyright United Nations Environment Programme—World Conservation Monitoring Centre; Institute of Biodiversity and Protected Areas; International Union for Conservation of Nature; IHS Energy; and the Office of Coastal Planning, Guinea-Bissau.

“Data sources for this poster map included BISSA-SIG Database (GPC/INEP/UICN/IBAP/Geomer Laboratory CNRS-Brest); IBAP: Managing Biodiversity for Secure Development, 2006; protected areas (WDPA): UNEP-WCMC, January 2007; J. Caldecott and L. Miles, 2005 (gorilla and chimpanzee data); GEBCO Digital Atlas bathymetry data, published by the British Oceanographic Data Centre on behalf of the International Oceanographic Commission (of UNESCO) and the International Hydrographic Organisation, 2003; and Petroleum Exploration & Production data: IHS, copyright 2007.

“Disclaimer: The contents of this map do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of UNEP-WCMC or contributory organizations. The designations employed and the presentations do not imply the expressions of any opinion whatsoever on the part of UNEP-WCMC or contributory organizations concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city, or area or its authority, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.”