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

Highlights:

  • 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.””