The 7 benefits of using GIS to support the prospecting process for renewable energy companies

By: Lauren Federsel, Associate Director of GIS, and Courtney Schmidt, Senior Director of Energy

In our commitment to aiding renewable energy clients in achieving their goals, we acknowledge the pivotal role that prospecting plays. Effective prospecting empowers them to make strategic and well-informed business choices.

Traditionally, prospecting involved laborious manual data entry, which consumed time and carried the risk of human error. By adopting GIS and ESRI’s spatial analytics and mapping software, we can revolutionize the prospecting process for our renewable energy clients. GIS is a powerful technology that enables the collection, analysis, and visualization of geospatial data. It empowers us to manage diverse layers of data encompassing the natural environment, built and planned environment, competitor activity, queue positions, and more – all within a unified system that enriches our prospecting insights.

Collaboratively, our GIS team works alongside clients and other internal teams at Atwell to identify specific prospecting needs and define the target area of interest. Leveraging GIS, we undertake a comprehensive analysis of numerous constraints to pinpoint the optimal location for our client’s renewable energy project. Our objective is to equip our clients with an understanding of where they should direct their efforts, anticipating potential obstacles and challenges proactively rather than being forced into reactive adjustments down the road.

By integrating GIS into our prospecting process, we streamline the decision-making journey, ensuring that our clients start the development cycle with a strategic advantage. This technology-driven approach empowers renewable energy companies to position themselves for success, ultimately advancing their sustainable initiatives and driving meaningful impact in the industry.

The benefits of using GIS for renewable energy prospecting

We’ve identified seven key benefits to employing GIS to enhance your company’s prospecting endeavors:

 

  1. Resource assessment: GIS assists in evaluating the renewable energy potential of specific areas. For solar energy, GIS analyzes solar radiation levels, considering factors like sun position, shading, and atmospheric conditions. In the case of wind energy, GIS assesses wind speed and direction data to pinpoint suitable wind farm locations. This information directs companies toward areas with the highest energy potential.

 

  1. Site selection: After identifying potential areas, GIS aids in site selection by factoring in diverse elements such as environmental constraints, land use, proximity to infrastructure (e.g., transmission lines, substations), market pricing conditions, queue data, and regulatory considerations. Through overlaying and analyzing different layers, GIS facilitates the identification of optimal project sites while minimizing impacts and project development risks.

 

  1. Land use analysis: GIS provides detailed land use and land cover data, crucial for comprehending the impact of renewable energy projects on the existing environment. This data helps identify areas aligning with a company’s project objectives and adhering to local regulations.

 

  1. Grid integration: GIS facilitates the analysis of existing power grid infrastructure, identifying potential interconnection points and assessing capacity for integrating renewable energy sources into the grid. This information is pivotal for gauging technical and economic feasibility.

  1. Visualizations and communication: Utilizing GIS, we create visually compelling maps and 3D models, simplifying the communication of intricate information to stakeholders, investors, and local communities.

 

  1. Risk mitigation: GIS identifies potential risks linked with renewable energy projects, such as natural hazards, proximity to critical infrastructure, or environmental sensitivities. By considering these factors during prospecting, we assist clients in reducing project risks.

 

  1. Long-term planning: Through the analysis of historical data and trends, GIS identifies areas consistently displaying renewable energy potential over time. This insight aids in strategic decision-making, ensuring sustainable growth.

 

Assisting our clients in achieving their goals

Our team at Atwell has harnessed GIS and ESRI to prospect entire states and ISO territories for viable locations for battery storage, utility, and community-scale solar and wind projects. Using proprietary modeling, the GIS team efficiently identifies feasible buildable areas, a process taking significantly less time than conventional reviews. Upon completion, ArcGIS incorporates project-specific data and constraint layers, prioritizing points of interconnection and areas of interest.

One project involved 850 potential points of interconnection (POIs) within a state, which we were able to reduce to 63 POIs. ESRI technology accelerates the initial process, allowing focused constraint evaluation that might otherwise surface later, thus eliminating non-viable data. Our program and development managers then engage Atwell’s subject matter experts to assess the viability for the top-ranked POIs. Data stored in ESRI is shared with the client, fostering collaboration and swift progression to the land secure phase.

Overall, GIS streamlines the prospecting process for renewable energy firms, offering spatial insights, data-driven decisions, and visualizations that contextualize potential project locations. By harnessing GIS, companies optimize the efficiency and efficacy of their renewable energy projects, leading to time and cost savings.

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