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About GIS at NREL

NREL's Geospatial Data Science Team analyzes renewable energy resources and many other data sources to determine which energy technologies are viable solutions across the globe and inputs the data into a geographic information system.

GIS is a computer-based system used to manipulate, manage, and analyze multidisciplinary geographic and related attribute data. The GIS system is composed of hardware, software, data, and expertise. Using a GIS system allows the user to perform several tasks, including data capture, data management, data manipulation, data analysis, and presentation of results in graphic or report forms.

All information in GIS is linked to a spatial reference used to store and access data. GIS data layers can be recombined or manipulated and analyzed with other layers of information. The GIS allows researchers to identify relationships between features, within a common layer or across layers and data can be queried or manipulated based on tabular and/or spatial characteristics.

Capabilities

For more information about our services, NREL staff should contact a member of the Team. You can also review the tools and dynamic maps and data resources pages to see what we currently have available to assist your needs.

Frequently Asked Questions and Survey Responses

We provide users the opportunity to send us questions and comments through our “Did you find what you needed?” survey (on most of our webpages). We’d like users to know that we do read the postings and will provide answers to the questions or comments that we see most often. If you have a question or feedback you'd like us to respond to, please send an e-mail to the “Need Help?” link on the bottom of this page. The responses below address feedback pertaining to the NREL GIS pages.

Response regarding PVWatts® V1 and international locations: Users frequently want to run the calculator or need data for Mexico, Canada, Ecuador, Yemen, China, and other countries. This question has been addressed in the PVWatts® FAQ’s. In addition, the international sites currently listed in PVWatts® V1 will be available in the updated PVWatts®. The site will show a map of the country marking the locations of the nearest TMY dataset. While we might not have data for exactly your area of interest, if we have TMY data close, you will be able to see the location of the TMY mapped. This feature should be released before the end of 2014.

In the fall of 2013, NREL released the PVWatts® Calculator for India, the first country-specific PVWatts® Calculator for locations outside of the United States.

Comments and feedback regarding the PVWatts® calculators should be sent to PVWatts® Feedback.

Response regarding PVWatts® V2: The PVWatts® V2 calculator server has been experiencing problems which we are not able to solve. These problems are causing the server to crash just about every day and will generate HTTP Error 503 or Service Not Available errors. With the development of the new PVWatts® site, we will not be moving the PVWatts® V2 application to a new server or repair the problem, we will however continue to restart the application when we notice it is down. We recommend users switch to the newest PVWatts® site. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Response regarding IMBY: IMBY is no longer supported. Some of the functionality of IMBY has been incorporated into the newest version of PVWatts®.

Response regarding GIS data and maps: Users ask why we do not have a world-wide map or data of solar or wind resources available on our Data Resources or Mapsearch page. We do have our SWERA site which has some international data available. From this site, users can view and print their own maps. One of the sources for the world wide solar and wind data is currently the NASA data from 2008.

Response regarding copyrights and our maps: Maps on our Mapsearch and GIS sites are available for the public to use free of charge. If you want to use one of our maps in a presentation, document, publication, etc. and you need attribution language or a document indicating you've been granted permission, please use the “Need Help?” link on the bottom of this page or the Webmaster link on the bottom of the Mapsearch page. In your e-mail please add a link to which map you want to use along with a description of how the map will be used.

Question: Where can I find renewable resource GIS data?

Answer: We have posted all the GIS data we currently have available to the public under the Data Resource section of this GIS page. In these GIS shapefiles, there are dbf spreadsheets you can open in Excel if you do not have GIS software. The GIS software we currently use is from ESRI ArcGIS. ESRI does offer a free tool called ArcGIS Explorer, instructions to download the software and how to access our server to bring our data into your map is available here Data Visualization & Geospatial Tools.

Question: Why don't you have wind data available for over 50m?

Answer: The data is licensed and we are not able to distribute it to the public.

Question: Why isn't some of the renewable resource data available for individual states but only on a national level?

Answer: We offer some of the GIS data on a national scale only if we have national coverage. For the wind data however, we do not have a national coverage so the data is available by state or region. Users wanting state level data can just clip the data to their area of interest. You can also go to Clean Energy in My State for state level information.