Forum — Mapping solar energy futures: Emerging trends in geospatial decision-support for stakeholders
The economic merits and environmental benefits of solar energy are increasingly compelling, especially in areas of the country popularly believed to be ‘unsuitable’ for solar technologies. The trend of evaluating the value of solar across space and time-horizons adds new opportunities and challenges across a broad range of stakeholders, operating across multiple scales; including policymakers, land-use and urban planners, electricity system operators, home-owners, land-owners, and prospective investors. This forum addresses the many decisions that are dependent on local geographic factors and, perhaps more importantly, are interdependent in common geographic areas of interest. Exemplary questions have emerged recently, such as: What is the total solar energy production potential in my state (or county or city)? Is my site viable for solar energy production? Under what policy and economic conditions might an investment in solar energy technologies be viable in my city or at my rooftop? Where should I expect PV systems to be located within my electricity service area, and what impact might this have on existing power flows? How might my policy decisions shape spatial patterns of technology deployment? This forum explores the role of geospatial intelligence generally, and geographic information systems (GIS) in particular, in helping to reduce these uncertainties and to coordinate stakeholder decision-making. We will discuss state-of-art-and-technology at the nexus of geospatial intelligence and solar energy policy, planning, and implementation with emphasis on existing trends and exciting new areas. We will also discuss the ways in which geospatial analysis is becoming (or might become) a core area of STEM education in the renewable energy sciences.