GIS-based Spatial Analysis for Large-scale Solar Power Systems with Respect to Transmission, Distribution and Grid Integration: Case Study of Wyoming, U.S.

Open Access
Hott, Rebecca Michelle
Graduate Program:
Energy and Mineral Engineering
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
July 09, 2012
Committee Members:
  • Jeffrey Brownson, Thesis Advisor
  • GIS
  • spatial analysis
  • solar power
  • solar electric
  • transmission
  • grid integration
  • PV
  • CSP
  • CPV
  • Wyoming
Efforts to incorporate renewable energy sources into current and future electricity regimes have been brought about due to the challenge of an increasing demand for electricity, retirement of aging conventional generation facilities, along with the consequences of greenhouse gas emissions from existing conventional energy sources. This thesis presents a decision support tool to locate potential sites for large-scale solar power projects focusing on transmission, distribution and grid integration issues. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA) were combined to develop a hierarchical process for assigning site suitability to land resources, proximity to existing transmission lines and the solar resource. Resulting locations were then analyzed according to transmission, distribution and grid integration in relation to populated areas and existing transmission lines. Maps were created with GIS software to illustrate the transmission and distance factor on a state level. The analysis was then taken a step further to look at a specific site and the transmission of electricity to the nearest city. Using GIS, data was obtained and processed for three possible transmission line routes to covey the resource components along them. Wyoming was chosen as a case study based on its location as an outlying region to the south-west, large open land areas, and significant annual solar resource (between 3.8 and 5.8 kWh/m2/day total average annual global horizontal irradiation, and between 4.3 and 6.3 kWh/m2/day total average annual direct normal irradiation) using national solar resource maps from NREL. Wyoming was also chosen because of the state's long history of high energy production (i.e. coal from the Powder River Basin) and unusually high energy demand per capita (no. 1 in the nation).