Researchers at the University of Southampton in the UK have mapped the global locations of the main renewable energy sites. This initiative provides a valuable resource to help assess the potential environmental impact of these facilities.
The study, published in Nature journal Scientific Data, shows the location of solar and wind farms around the world. The data includes their infrastructure density in different regions and the approximate power output. This is the first global open-access dataset containing wind and solar wind generation sites.
☀️ 🌬️ Global locations of solar and wind farms mapped by @geogsouthampton @sotonbiosci @sebdunnett and made publicly available for the first time, to help understand their potential impact on ecosystems. 📖 more: https://t.co/G7MCazNegI pic.twitter.com/dsz3QY6VNx
— UoSMedia (@UoSMedia) May 4, 2020
New geographical data
The estimated share of renewable energy in global electricity production was more than 26% by 2018. Solar panels and wind turbines are the main drivers of a fast increase in renewables. In spite of this, so far there was little information on the geographic spread of solar and wind farms and very little accessible data.
“While global land planners are promising more of the planet’s limited space to wind and solar energy, governments are struggling to maintain geospatial information on the rapid expansion of renewables,” lead researcher and Southampton PhD student Sebastian Dunnett explained.
“Most existing studies use land suitability and socioeconomic data to estimate the geographical spread of such technologies. We hope our study will provide more robust publicly available data,” he continued.
While bringing many environmental benefits, solar, and wind energy can also have an adverse effect locally on ecology and wildlife. The researchers hope that by accurately mapping the development of farms they can provide an insight into the footprint of renewable energy on vulnerable ecosystems and help planners assess such effects.
Europe dominating the renewable sector
The study authors used data from OpenStreetMap (OSM), an open-access, collaborative global mapping project. They extracted grouped data records tagged ‘solar’ or ‘wind’. Then they cross-referenced these records with select national datasets in order to get a best estimate of power capacity and create their own maps of solar and wind energy sites.
The data shows Europe, North America, and East Asia’s dominance of the renewable energy sector. The results correlate extremely well with official independent statistics of the renewable energy capacity of countries.
Study supervisor, Professor Felix Eigenbrod of Geography and Environmental Science at the Southampton comments: “This study represents a real milestone in our understanding of where the global green energy revolution is occurring. It should be an invaluable resource for researchers for years to come; as we have designed it so it can be updated with the latest information at any point to allow for changes in what is a quickly expanding industry.”
For more information, check Energía16