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Building an interactive web mapping tool to support distributed energy resource planning using public participation GIS

Summary

Community solar projects include the building of huge photovoltaic (PV) systems, the net outputs of which are subsequently allocated to consumers in other areas. They offer a relatively new kind of distributed energy resource (DER) deployment that has the potential to overcome certain historical hurdles to low-income, disadvantaged community, and renter household involvement in the renewable energy revolution. However, locating community solar assets is a geographical issue that is related to past patterns of energy infrastructure investment, local urban growth, and community socio-demographic change. To create a more fair energy system, planning tools that better coordinate individual property owners' DER adoption choices with grid operators will be required. The Community Solar Opportunities Map (CSOM) is a GIS application for locating and selecting community solar installations in Los Angeles County, California. The tool reveals significant factors related to technical and administrative restrictions on community solar site selection. The tool was designed in collaboration with a collection of local community-based groups using a public participation GIS method. Local grid connectivity capacity are a key development limitation, according to an analysis of the tool's underlying data layers. The CSOM tool is a paradigm for increased information sharing among key players participating in community solar development.

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