This is the second article in a seven part series on careers in wind farm development. The first part can be viewed here.
The creation of a wind farm requires a wealth of geographic information for effective planning. A Geographic Information Systems (GIS) specialist provides much of this material through maps of site characteristics, such as land parcels boundaries, transmission lines, infrastructure, environmentally sensitive areas, land cover, wind resources, turbine micrositing, and topography. These maps are used in every step of planning from energy analysis through construction.
The information provided by a GIS specialist is the foundation for determining the wind resource. “We receive digital elevation maps from our GIS department,” says Diane Reinebach, Senior Energy Specialist for RMT, Inc. “That is loaded into the software, which knows the wind direction. It can then predict how the terrain impacts the wind over the site, and whether there are speed-ups, slow-downs, or turns in the wind.”
GIS offers the level of sophistication necessary to incorporate numerous data layers. “GIS is our preferred mapping tool”, says Reinebach. “It can take so many layers from many of different sources. This is very important, not only in the planning phase, but also in the engineering and construction phases. It’s crucial to have one base tool to put all the pieces in and that’s GIS.”
Strong computer skills and knowledge of GIS software are essential for this position. Because a GIS specialist is a member of the development team, a background knowledge of wind farm development is useful.
“I’ve had the most success working with GIS specialists in our teams who not only have an understanding of what they do from a technical aspect, but also the development process and how we successfully complete of a wind farm,” says Taylor Henderson, Project Developer for Renewable Energy Systems America Inc. “They are able to work with the project manager and anticipate the needs of the development process.”
The typical pay for this position ranges from $35,000 to $85,000.
Photo Credit: Kiril Lozanov of EcoEnergy LLC (upper photo)
Sarah Lozanova is passionate about the new green economy and is a regular contributor to environmental and energy publications and websites, including Energy International Quarterly, ThinkGreen.com, Triple Pundit, Green Business Quarterly, Renewable Energy World, and Green Business Quarterly. Her experience includes work with small-scale solar energy installations and utility-scale wind farms. She earned an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio Graduate School and is a co-founder of Trees Across the Miles, an urban reforestation initiative.