Development of a sophisticated tool for siting small-scale, embedded wind projects using a geographical information system
The aim of the research is to produce a methodology for the siting of small-scale, embedded wind generators, and implement this within a commercial software package designed to use existing digital data sets. There is a widespread opportunity to exploit smaller size developments, but potentially large numbers of suitable sites means that an automated screening process is essential. Much of the information required for such a siting study is spatial in nature and hence the site identification process can be facilitated using a geographical information system - GIS. The literature has revealed a number of GIS-based assessments, but these have concentrated on large wind farms, and have been undertaken at relatively coarse resolution. In contrast, this research has produced a much more sophisticated tool, allowing analysis at much finer resolution and encompassing a wider range of relevant factors. An attractive site for a wind turbine development requires more than just a suitable wind resource; factors such as environmental acceptability, public safety, physical constraints such as land use and impact on the electricity supply system will all determine the potential of a site. Constraints and parameters have been derived describing these factors and from these algorithms and inference rules have been developed. These have been coded up for use with a proprietary GIS package, producing a tool that can be widely applied. In particular, it has been demonstrated for a test region in Shropshire, UK. A particular emphasis of this study is the consideration of the impact on the electricity network. Relatively, few small installations have been connected to the national electricity grid in the UK; there is a range of reasons for this, a lack of suitable siting tool being one. Connection to the 11 kV network has been assumed given its relevance to smaller scale installations. This can result in a lower grid connection cost than for typical large-scale wind farm arrangements, for which connection usually represents a major element in the overall project costs. Often these low voltage lines are weak (i.e. susceptible to voltage variation), especially in remote rural areas. An appraisal of the impact of such embedded generators is important and is an intrinsic part of the methodology presented and implemented here.