Mapping renewable energy resource potential is crucial to developing the renewable energy sector and the Renewable Energy (RE) Explorer does just that for wind, solar and biomass resources. “You have to know what you’re working with and where the greatest potential is, says Jennifer Leisch, a clean energy specialist for USAID.
“Where are the winds or sun’s rays the strongest, for example? How do areas with great resource potential relate to the locations of energy markets or to the ability of the power grid to accommodate variable energy? We developed the RE Explorer to help users work through these considerations.”
How can resource potential help you determine the most ambitious, cost-effective, and achievable renewable energy deployment target? Well, resource potential serves as the foundation for technical potential---that is, the measurement of the achievable energy capacity and generation for a particular combination of renewable energy resource, location and technology. Analysis then turns this data into useful information for decision makers, enabling ambitious, cost-effective, and achievable outcomes for renewable energy deployment. The new RE Explorer is a user-friendly tool that addresses these needs by using spatiotemporal renewable energy data to visualize, execute, and support analysis of renewable energy potential under various user-defined scenarios.
The RE Explorer is a web platform, funded in part by USAID. It provides renewable energy data, analytical capabilities, and technical assistance to developers, policymakers, and decision makers. RE Explorer enables users to make meaningful decisions that support low-emission development and ultimately reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Renewable energy resource data can be measured or modeled and vary in resolution for space and time. Ultimately, both the information and analytical needs are dictated by the decisions being made. If you want to create a renewable energy deployment target for 2030 for a given country, the first place you might start is with renewable energy resource potential. This refers to, for example, how much energy the sun can theoretically produce in a given location. The RE Data Explorer, in turn, suggests the best theoretical locations for solar power deployment. But that point—where solar insolation is greatest—doesn’t mean much without understanding its landscape context.
That’s where geospatial analysis comes in, and the RE Data Explorer can help! Users may add layers of data onto resource potential—protected areas, urbanized areas, water bodies, terrain features, and other features that might affect the ability to deploy a certain renewable energy technology. Other modeled or measured spatial data play an important role in decision-making. These include land use, weather data, population density, and existing transmission lines. By combining layers in different ways, decision makers can synthesize opportunities and constraints for renewable energy development that guides planning, policy-making, and investment.
The RE Data Explorer requires no in-depth GIS experience. But if you need support, the RE Explorer team is ready to assist through the Ask an Expert service—simply fill out the form on the website to get started.
Climatelinks is a global knowledge portal for USAID staff, implementing partners, and the broader community working at the intersection of climate change and international development. The portal curates and archives technical guidance and knowledge related to USAID’s work to help countries mitigate and adapt to climate change.