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  • Writer's pictureAndy Bohnhoff

The Impact of Land Use on Solar Development Site Selection

Solar energy is becoming increasingly important as a renewable energy source, and in order to maximize its potential, it is important to select the best sites for development. Land use and zoning can have a significant impact on the location of solar projects, and it is important to consider the implications of land use when selecting a site for solar development. At Platte River Analytics, we lean heavily on GIS to explore and determine the impact of land use on solar development site selection.


Using GIS to Determine Solar Development Site Selection
GIS Site selection

Analyzing Land Use to Optimize Solar Development Site Selection

Analyzing land use is key to enabling solar development - it ensures the selection of optimal sites with the least environmental impacts. ArcGIS Pro is the tool of choice to analyze land use and its potential effects on a solar development. With GIS, we can investigate what kind of vegetation currently exists on the site, understand soil composition, and identify the presence of any potential terrain issues or wetlands. Additionally, GIS allows us to locate nearby infrastructure, such as roads or utilities, which could influence project costs or cause delivery headaches.


By leveraging GIS in the early stages of a project, we can ensure that solar sites are chosen with the least environmental impacts and maximum financial return. By using ArcGIS Pro and its many geoprocessing tools, it is possible to quickly and accurately identify existing and potential land uses that could affect a solar development project, including agricultural, industrial, residential, and more.


GIS analysis and GIS training with GIS parcels
GIS Parcel Selection

Next, GIS offers a quick and precise way to determine the land use of an area when it comes to a solar development project. This could include anything from agricultural and industrial use to residential. It is possible to view land use codes in ArcGIS Online, however often we find ourselves accessing county sites to find this data.


Using GIS to Assess Land Use to Enhance Solar Development Site Selection

GIS technology is an effective tool for analyzing land use and uncovering potential sites for solar development. At Platte River, we utilize both ESRI ArcGIS Pro and ArcGIS Online for our site selection analysis. ArcGIS Pro gives us the ability to utilize a tool called ModelBuilder, which is essential in our site selection process. In ModelBuilder, we analyze factors such as distance to power, parcel size, wetlands, tree cover, terrain, and slope to locate suitable parcels for development. ModelBuilder is both user friendly and repeatable.


GIS model using ArcGIS Pro for site selection
Example of a GIS Model for Site Selection

GIS can also provide a comprehensive overview of the types of land use within a given area, including agricultural land, residential areas, commercial zones and more. GIS is an effective tool for visualizing and analyzing the spatial relationships between different land uses and other features in the environment. The technology allows for the creation of maps that can be used to track changes in land use over time, as well as understand how different land uses interact with each other.


GIS can also be used to identify areas of environmental risk, helping planners and decision makers make informed choices about land use management and development. Important environmental risks to consider in renewable energy development is wildlife, floodplain, wetlands and tree cover. Overall, ArcGIS Pro is a powerful tool for understanding the context and implications of different land use decisions.


With GIS data, companies can assess the potential of a site for solar development, taking into account the available resources, environmental characteristics, existing infrastructure and other factors that may affect the construction and operation of a solar plant. This can ensure that the proposed site is suitable for achieving maximum efficiency when constructing and operating a solar energy system.


GIS training and GIS analysis
Determining Access to Power using GIS

The most important factor in a successful solar development site selection is the data. GIS data offers tremendous value for solar energy companies in ensuring the success of their projects. With GIS, companies have access to the precise location data, resource availability, environmental characteristics and existing infrastructure of any potential site. This information allows them to make informed decisions about the suitability of each site for solar development and ensure maximum efficiency when constructing and operating their solar energy system.

Wrapping up

In conclusion, when selecting a solar development site, it is important to consider the implications of land use and zoning. Local governments should work together with developers to ensure that land use policies accommodate growth in renewable energy sources while also respecting the concerns of local residents. By understanding the impacts of land use on solar development site selection, we can ensure that solar projects are able to flourish in appropriate locations.




About Platte River Analytics


Platte River Analytics is a proud ESRI Business Partner and aims to promote business development with the utilization of location analytics and spatial business intelligence. Platte River Analytics assists companies with complex GIS data solutions and helps to solve important business questions with the aid of interactive mapping and dashboards.


Let us know today if we can help with a GIS project or GIS training!



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