Development: Development tools
Because the solar industry has matured significantly since its infancy just a few years ago, site selection is becoming more of a science. Various developer tools are being utilized to save money for companies and encourage groups to make more informed decisions. If these tools were applied correctly, this would mean navigating through challenging areas without expending too many resources and recognizing fatal flaws earlier in the evaluation process. These developer tools are often data consisting of various maps delineating key project resources such as transmission lines or hazards, and areas to be avoided such as natural resource protection zones. Whether one is working in a mature renewable energy market such the southwest United States or Spain, or in emerging markets such as Mexico or Australia, obtaining access to this information is the first step. Additionally, regions or countries looking to foster the growth of such development often provide this information to assist in efficient development. Today, this information is increasingly available in digital formats and there are a number of software and mapping tools, both public and private, that developers should use to evaluate the viability of a given solar project site. In this chapter we will highlight examples of the types of developer tools available in the U.S. market and show how they have been applied to develop projects more efficiently. In other markets, developers should locate comparable information and apply them in a similar manner. If effectively used, project developers can more easily streamline early site review processes and efficiently filter through opportunities to determine the majority of development risks associated with a particular project. Finally, in this chapter we will present various databases and their respective viewing systems, but the reader is advised to use a Geographic Information System (GIS) software such as ArcGIS or even Google Earth to organize available data for coherent and repeated evaluation.