Using Spatial Data and Web Mapping Tools to Support Wind Energy Planning off the North Carolina Coast
Many states are exploring the potential to produce renewable wind energy offshore. The federal government is also committed to spurring the rapid and responsible development of this abundant renewable resource through its “Smart from the Start” wind energy initiative for the Atlantic outer continental shelf. To this end, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) creates and leads wind energy task forces to discuss the designation of wind energy areas in federal waters off of coastal states. The task force process helps to minimize the potential for conflicts in offshore wind farm construction and operations to arise at later stages in the development process. The agencies on the task force are encouraged to bring information on existing ocean uses, such as military operation areas, marine transportation and navigation, important fishing areas, sensitive habitat, and viewsheds, to the table for discussion and consideration. Often, however, wind energy task force members have data sets only in static map form, making comparisons between data sets challenging and time consuming.
To replace the static maps, a regional instance of the MarineCadastre.gov National Viewer was developed to enable North Carolina Task Force members to access and view all relevant data in one location, which helps in avoiding ocean use conflicts. This regional instance, also known as a "mashup," makes working with the data easier because users can pan and zoom and activate various data layers and add additional data layers at will. Through Marine Cadastre Web services, national-scale data were used in conjunction with data specific to the North Carolina Wind Energy Task Force planning area, allowing multiple issues, such as fishing, shipping, and defense, to be viewed and considered simultaneously. This provides members of the task force with a way to see their own data in the context of other issues.
This process demonstrates that science-based authoritative spatial data sets from multiple agencies are critical for supporting energy siting decisions. Visualization and analysis tools such as the MarineCadastre.gov National Viewer and Data Registry such as those found in the emerging National Information Management System provide the spatial data necessary to support offshore renewable energy siting in U.S. waters. Online content provides a dynamic way to visualize data that is much more effective than using individual PDF maps provided by each interested stakeholder. This approach provides a mechanism to more quickly and accurately identify areas of potential incompatibility, enhancing communication between task force members.