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GIS in Sustainability: Examining Renewable Energy Potential Across the United States

By Justin Sorensen

GIS (Geospatial Information Systems) are utilized by many fields and industries throughout the world. To highlight some of these fields, our Map Monday releases for the 2018 Fall Semester will provide examples of ways GIS can be employed within the work performed by such professionals.

For this map release, we will look at an example of GIS in Sustainability.

Examining Renewable Energy Potential Across the United States

Sustainable energy is key for serving the needs of the present while making sure not to compromise the energy needs of future generations. It can present itself in the form of energy conservation, renewable energy, and sustainable transport. Professionals in this field have the ability to utilize GIS to visualize the energy potential for geographic locations around the world, allowing them to determine where sustainable efforts can be focused most productively. For this map, we will focus on renewable forms of energy within the United States.

Contributing 19.3% to the total human energy consumption worldwide, renewable energy is energy collected from resources that are continually replenished for the generation of electricity, heating and cooling, and off-grid energy resources. These forms of renewable energy include:

  • Sunlight
  • Wind
  • Water
  • Heat

This mapping application examines these renewable energy resources and their estimated energy potential throughout the United States.

When developing an example such as this, several geospatial processes are employed to depict the features being visualized within the map. These geospatial processes include:

  • Choropleth Mapping: a thematic map using shaded or colored areas to measure statistical information.
  • An Excel Database Generation: a database containing many attribute fields related to a particular geographic location.
  • Join Transformation: a tool for combining attributes from a spreadsheet to a predefined location contained within a shapefile or geodatabase.

About Map Monday from GIS Services:

Throughout the semester, GIS Services will release bi-weekly maps on a variety of topics, demonstrating ideas and uses for incorporating geospatial technology into research and projects you are developing. To view our collection of maps, projects, or to learn more about the geospatial services offered through the J. Willard Marriott Library, please visit the GIS Services website @

Happy Mapping!

Justin Sorensen | GIS Specialist
Creativity & Innovation Services / GIS Services

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