5 Examples of How GIS is Driving Forward Renewable Energy

It’s not news that renewable energy is on the rise. Twenty-two percent of global electricity generated in 2013 came from renewable energy sources, and that is expected to increase by 26 percent through 2020.1 But what may be news to many is the role GIS technology has played in the renewable energy movement. Here are 5 examples of how GIS is used for renewable energy.  
  1. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory Maps Wind Energy: Since the early 1990s, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has been the primary resource for renewable energy research and development in the United States. In order to reach 20% wind energy by 2030, the NREL uses GIS technology to determine the best locations for wind farms based on wind resources, economic development potential, cost of transmission, and locations of load centers. As of 2015, 36 out of 50 states are leveraging wind power.Solar Boston: In 2007, Boston’s mayor issued an executive order around climate change that kicked off Solar Boston, a two-year initiative meant to expand the use of solar power across the city. To meet the executive order’s ultimate goal of decreasing municipal greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050, the city is using GIS software to map out potential locations for solar power and monitor current solar installations. This technology is also helping the city get its residents involved by letting people see their own house’s rooftop solar potential.
  1. The NREL Determines Hydrogen Demand Nationwide: Besides renewable resources like wind and solar power, the NREL examines alternative transportation options. The NREL’s Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Program collaborated with the GIS team to determine hydrogen demand. After collecting demographic, socioeconomic, transportation, and policy information, they used GIS mapping to create a map to analyze demand. From their analysis, the NREL was able to determine patterns of demand for hydrogen resources, then pass the information over to transportation analysts to estimate infrastructure needs and hydrogen usage nationwide.
  1. Companies World-Wide are Investing in Montana’s Wind Power: Cascade County, Montana is known for its intense winds, which means it’s an ideal place to leverage wind power. Cascade County’s commissioner saw this as an opportunity to attract organizations interested in investing in wind resources. Thanks to GIS technology, the county has been able to more easily market its wind and attract developers worldwide who can use GIS maps to determine if the area meets their business and budget needs for building wind turbines.
  1. The Global Solar Atlas Helps Identify Solar Power Opportunities: At this year’s World Future Energy Summit, The World Bank and the International Solar Alliance (ISA) unveiled a free, web-based tool called the Global Solar Atlas. The Atlas is designed to help governments and investors identify potential areas for solar power generation across the world by providing GIS data and high-resolution maps for analysis. While still in its infancy, the Atlas is expected to help drive the shift to more sustainable forms of energy over the next 10 years.
  As more advances are made with GIS software, the technology will continue to help organizations, states, and countries expand their use of renewable resources. Learn more about GIS mapping and how you can leverage it for your own business.