Global Mapper for Wind Energy Development

3D models of wind turbines in the 3D Viewer in Global Mapper.

The development of a wind energy  project, big or small, is a complex process that considers several factors. From measuring the actual wind resources in an area to researching potential zoning and ordinance conflicts, it’s not a project that’s easily simplified. But in the beginning stages of planning, whether you’re considering bringing wind energy to your own property or to a larger community, creating a rough visualization of a wind project can be relatively easy.

In this blog entry, we explain the online resources and tools available through Global Mapper that can help estimate resources and terrain modifications, and create a visualization of the preliminary plans of a wind project. We’ll do this by simulating a simplified planning process for a wind farm to arrive at a 3D visualization.

Importing & Analyzing Online Data in Global Mapper

In the planning of an actual wind project, we would want to know the annual average wind energy potential of our property, any legal limitations, and so much more information before even beginning plans for development. But for this simple simulation, our purpose is to introduce how relevant data can be accessed, analyzed, and visualized in Global Mapper.

One online source that we are using is the National Renewable Energy Lab, which is a federally owned and contractor-operated facility that provides data and maps for energy-focused purposes. The data set we are downloading shows the wind energy potential of areas across the state of Maine on a relative scale ranging from values of 0 to 7, with 7 representing the greatest potential.

Running a Simple Query to Target Specific Attribute Values

If we determine the required value for our wind farm plans, we can build a query that targets those specific areas that match our requirement. For instance, if we wanted to find areas that are greater than or equal to the value of 6, we can run a simple query to find those areas within this data set. We can also use the Info tool to explore the wind energy potential of properties within an area.

NREL data
The freely available raw data downloaded directly from the NREL website. By either running a simple query or using the Infor tool, polygons can be selected in this data to explore their attributes.

Applying Color to Visualize Patterns in Data

Another way we can visualize the distribution and range of values in this data set is by applying a color scheme. As we can see, this visualization makes it easy to target those areas of maximum wind potential. If we wanted, we can add a legend to our map to further illustrate what values the colors actually represent. But in this instance, we are interested in visualizing which areas have the highest potential.

Colorized data
NREL data with colors applied, allowing for a more immediate understanding of the range of values in the data set.

We can bring in some additional data to add more context, such as county outlines and town boundaries within the state. If we were looking to develop wind energy in a particular geographic location, for instance in a particular town, we have the background data that shows those boundaries. We can also pull in road data to see the road access to areas being considered for development.

For our simulation, we are choosing an area based on this very quick visualization of the NREL data we imported into Global Mapper.

Accessing Free Terrain and Land Cover Data Through Global Mapper’s Online Data Service

With our area of interest chose, we can find more relevant data through Global Mapper’s free online data service. For our simulation, we are choosing to use a specific area of a 10-meter National Elevation Data (NED) data set that we streamed into the application and exported to a local Global Mapper grid file.

Online data in Global Mapper
Terrain and land cover data accessed through Global mapper’s online data services.

We streamed the data through the online data service, which has a wide range of data options categorized geographically as well as by data type and theme. In this instance, we are interested in terrain data to give us visual context and also a functional base for some of the modification processes we will run later.

We are also interested in land cover data, which will help us visualize the roughness of the terrain. We can find a raster representation of our area under the land cover section in the online data options.

Generating a Roughness Grid from Land Cover Data

Areas with less friction, or surface roughness, are better suited for wind energy production. From our land cover data, we can generate a grid to visualize areas where roughness could reduce energy potential.

To create this roughness grid, we can open locally saved land cover data that we had previously exported from the online data service. Either by right clicking the land cover layer or from our analysis menu, Global Mapper gives us the option to generate a roughness grid and to choose a shader with which to render the grid. For this visualization, we prepared a custom shader beforehand that illustrates the range of roughness through the gradients of a single color – lighter tints representing less roughness, darker shades representing greater roughness.

Roughness grid in Global Mapper
A roughness grid showing the distribution of open and forested areas through the gradients of a single color.

This visualization allows us to see open areas such as fields or bodies of water that may provide ideal conditions for a wind farm.

Finding Ridge Lines & Isolating a Single Ridge

Another ideal location for a wind farm is on a ridge. We can find a ridge line or high point within the focus area by using the Find Ridge Lines tool, which is a function that works similarly to a watershed analysis, but in reverse. Instead of looking for areas where drainage would accumulate, the tool finds the highest points on our terrain.

Ridge lines in Global Mapper
Ridge lines generated using the Find Ridge Lines function in Global Mapper.

After choosing specific parameters, such as the width threshold of the lines, we can see a variety of ridge lines appear in the area visible on our screen. These lines are actually segmented, so in order to isolate a ridge we want, we can combine the segments of that ridge into a single line by selecting the desired segments and using the Combine Features tool.

Plotting Points Along a Ridge to Represent Wind Turbines

With our new ridge line selected, we can generate point features to represent our wind turbines along the ridge by using the Create New Points from Selected Lines tool. We can specify that we want ten vertices to represent ten wind turbines evenly spaced along the ridge, and discard vertices that may have already been part of our original ridge line. Once these parameters are set up, we can see that the ten vertices have been generated that represent the wind turbines in our simulation.

We can then edit these inherently generic point features and choose a Feature. For this simulation, we prepared a custom feature type called Wind Turbine which has a 3D visual representation of a wind turbine assigned to it. This 3D model is actually pre-configured in Global Mapper. We can also edit the attributes of these, but for this simulation, we are only assigning our customized feature type.

Points on a ridge line in Global Mapper
Evenly spaced points representing the locations of wind turbines on a ridge line.

Once these points have been edited, we can view them in the 3D Viewer and see the 30-meter height attribute of the 3D models we prepared in advance, and the even spacing between each model along our ridgeline.

Creating Buffers Around Wind Turbine Locations

After we have placed our wind turbines, we can then generate a buffer around each point in preparation for creating flattened areas, or site pads, in the terrain. With our points selected, we can click the Buffer tool in our toolbar. In this simulation, we are choosing to have buffer areas with a 10-meter radius around each of our wind turbines. Once the buffer areas are defined and generated, we see the concentric ring that represents the physical area that will be flattened around each point in the terrain-modification process.

Buffers around points in Global Mapper
Circles around each point represent a 10-meter buffer that was created using the Buffer tool.

Generating an Elevation Grid from LiDAR Data

In order to generate a more accurate terrain model for our simulation, we can import pre-cropped LiDAR data that was originally streamed from the U.S. Geological Survey through Global Mapper’s online data service. This higher quality elevation data allows us to create more precise modifications and visualization than the lower-resolution terrain data we had originally imported.

Raw LiDAR data in Global Mapper
Raw LiDAR data from the U.S. Geological Survey.

To create an elevation grid from this LiDAR point cloud, we can simply click the Elevation Grid button with our LiDAR data layer selected. In this simulation, we are choosing to grid only ground points. Once the new grid has been generated, we can open the Elevation Options to feather, or blend, the edges of our higher quality grid into the lower-resolution terrain data.

Calculating Cut and Fill Values & Creating Pad Sites

With our buffers selected, we can use the Flatten Site Plan tool to flatten those buffer areas of the LiDAR-based elevation grid. The tool calculates the volume of material that must be shifted in order to achieve a flattened site – giving a cut volume and a fill volume. Not only does Global Mapper give these helpful calculations, it also modifies the elevation grid so we can visualize what the cut and fill alterations would look like.

Cut and fill calculation in Global Mapper
The results of a cut and fill calculation in the Path Profile window. The original profile of the terrain is shown in red and the flattened terrain is represented by a yellow line and green shading. This shows the cut and fill that would be required for this pad site.

Viewing the Visual Impact of a Project with the View Shed Tool

With one of our wind turbine points selected, we can click the View Shed tool to see the extent at which our wind turbine is visible in the distance. We can base our analysis on the height of our selected wind turbine and on the height of an average person — 2 meters or so. Global Mapper calculates the areas at which our wind turbine will be visible to an average person, and displays these areas in red. This analysis allows us to see the visual impact of our wind farm in the area of development.

View Shed tool in Global Mapper
The areas displayed in red are locations where the selected wind turbine is visible.

Creating a Fly-through of a Wind Energy Project

After setting up our wind turbines and modifying our terrain surface, we can create a 3D fly-through to further visualize the project. We can do this by drawing a line for our flight path using the Digitizer tool. With this line selected, we can set up the specifications of our fly through by using the Create Fly-through tool.

Once we’ve established the height, bank angle, and duration of our flight, we can preview it in the 3D Viewer. If we’re happy with this fly-through, we can also save it from the 3D Viewer. If we aren’t happy with it, we can go back and edit the flight or segments of the flight line again.

Creating a fly-through is a great way to present a project, particularly one like a wind energy project that may need to be proposed to government officials or multiple stakeholders.

Global Mapper: A Robust Tool for Any Development Project

While this simulation involves some behind-the-scenes preparation, such as the creation of a custom point feature type and the cropping of LiDAR data, it’s still a prime example of how simple data visualization and terrain modification can be in Global Mapper. It can be easy, not only in the context of a potential wind energy project, but for any development plan that requires quick access to terrain data and robust digitizing tools.

Where in the World Geo-Challenge – AAG Edition

Win a Copy of Global Mapper in the Where in the World Geo-Challenge

Think you know your way around the world?
Why not take the Blue Marble Geographics‘ Geo-Challenge? Simply identify the five geographic features or locations below and you will be in the running to win a copy of Global Mapper.

Prize | Global Mapper: GIS, only better

With a rapidly expanding worldwide user community, Global Mapper is changing the way people think about GIS. Offering support for over 300 spatial file formats and boasting a surprising collection of powerful data processing and analysis tools, Global Mapper is a viable and genuinely affordable alternative to traditional GIS applications.  So while you’re waiting to see if you are the lucky winner, why not download a trail copy today and see for yourself.

Contest | The Geo-Challenge Happens Every Month

If you miss out this time around, not to worry, Blue Marble is giving away a copy of Global Mapper every month. Check out Blue Marble Monthly for details.

View the form at Google Forms >

Blue Marble Monthly GIS Newsletter – April 2018

satellite imagery

Product News, User Stories, Events, and a Chance to Win a Copy of Global Mapper Every Month

Coinciding with our annual trip to the American Association of Geographers (AAG) Conference in New Orleans, the focus of April’s newsletter shifts to academia. Since the introduction of the free academic licensing program during the 2017 conference, countless U.S. and Canadian colleges and universities have adopted Global Mapper as their go-to GIS software for classroom and lab instruction. A recent participant in this program and current Blue Marble employee, Janet Leese, shares her experience about how she was introduced to Global Mapper while a student at the University of Maine.

In this issue we also announce an update to the popular Global Mapper Academic Curriculum, providing free instructional materials for teaching GIS; we provide a lesson of our own by offering a layperson’s guide to the principles of geodesy; and we find out if you were paying attention in geography class in the monthly Where in the World Geo-Challenge.

georeferencing

Product News | Global Mapper Academic Curriculum Updated

An initial impetus behind the development of the Global Mapper Academic Curriculum was the need to fill an apparent void in the availability of concise and straightforward GIS teaching materials. After meeting with several University of Maine faculty members, Blue Marble Applications Specialists set about creating a series of hands-on, self-driven lessons targeting some key GIS themes. Recently updated to reflect the latest enhancements in Global Mapper, these lab materials are available free of charge to institutes of higher education.

 

janet leese

Projections | Global Mapper from a Student’s Perspective

Janet Leese, the most recent addition to the esteemed Blue Marble Tech Support team and recent graduate of the University of Maine, holds a unique distinction among the group. While most of her colleagues’ first experience with Global Mapper resulted from a word-of-mouth recommendation from a fellow professional, Janet’s first exposure to the software was in an undergraduate GIS class. What better candidate, therefore, to share her experience getting to know Global Mapper through the Global Mapper Academic Program. Spoiler Alert! Global Mapper must have left a lasting impression; Janet now spends her days assisting customers in the finer points of the software.

 

geodesy diagrams

Did You Know? | A Beginner’s Guide to Geodesy

“So what exactly is a datum or more importantly, why should I care?” If this sentiment reflects your position on the broad field of geodesy, it would probably be prudent to enlighten yourself. For anyone working in mapping, GIS, cartography, surveying, etc. etc. etc., the discipline of geodesy is the indispensable foundation upon which everything we do depends. In our own way, we are all interested in the fundamental question, “Where?” It is the function of geodesy to provide a suitable frame of reference that allows us to effectively answer that question. In a recent blog post, Blue Marble President Patrick Cunningham sheds some light on the subject.

 

heat map

Webinars | Global Mapper Academic Programs

In this brief presentation, we discuss the three components of the Global Mapper Academic Program: the free licensing available to institutes of higher education in the U.S. and Canada; the announcement of a $500 scholarship which will be awarded to a student using Global Mapper; and a hands-on look at the newly updated academic curriculum materials.

This and previous Blue Marble Webinars and Webcasts can be viewed at Blue Marble YouTube Channel and on the Webinars page on the Blue Marble web site.

 

 

geo-challenge

Where in the World Geo-Challenge

March’s Geo-Challenge saw the first potential bone of contention in its year-long history. Asked to name the desert, an equal number suggested the Sonoran Desert and the Gran Desierto de Altar, which is contained therein. In the interest of preserving the peace, both are acceptable responses. Check out the rest of the answers here to see how well you did.

Of those who answered all five correctly, Anthony James of Harris Corporation was the first name pulled from the hat. Anthony will shortly be receiving a complimentary copy of Global Mapper.

Ready for another challenge? Try your luck with April’s five locations.

 

See complete terms and conditions here.

 

Photo of the Portland Blue Marble User Conference

Events | Where Blue Marble Will Be Next

Upcoming Events

GeoSmart Asia ’18 & Locate ’18
Adelaide, AU | April 9 – 11

American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting
New Orleans, LA | April 10 – 14

Commercial UAV Expo Europe
Amsterdam | April 10 – 12

Global Mapper and LiDAR Module Training
Adelaide, AU | April 11 – 13

GEOINT Symposium
Tampa, FL | April 22 – 25

Maine Municipal Association
Augusta, ME | April 27

AUVSI XPONENTIAL 2018
Denver, CO | April 30 – May 3

AWEA WINDPOWER Conference and Exhibition 2018
Chicago, IL | May 7 – 10

GEO Business 2018
London, UK | May 22 – 23

 

Global Mapper from a College Student’s Perspective

heat map of Maine
A heat map of Maine shows the clustering of communication towers in the state.

Each user of Global Mapper has their own story about how they began using the application. Some hear about the program through word-of-mouth, others may get a job where Global Mapper is used, and some may have seen Blue Marble Geographics at local trade shows. For me, and many other young GIS professionals, exposure to Global Mapper came at a critical time in our careers — while we were learning the core GIS concepts in college.

Image Rectification
A historical map is rectified to the recent open street map of Central Park.
The Image Swipe tool in Global Mapper reveals the accuracy of the rectification process.

Workflows Build Student’s Confidence in GIS Concepts

My exposure came through the academic labs that Blue Marble Geographics provided to my university. They are free to Universities in the United States and Canada. These labs cover workflows that range from an introduction to the principles of GIS to working with different types of data including LiDAR. While many GIS terms can sound intimidating to a new user, the academic labs are a great way to introduce both Global Mapper and basic GIS concepts in the classroom. As a student, these labs allowed me to get comfortable with the tools and processes in the application by following step-by-step guidelines supplemented with images. There wasn’t a workflow in the six sections that I couldn’t complete, which was certainly a confidence booster to a student taking an “Intro to GIS” course.

I still remember many of the workflows that were covered in the labs. The Georeferencing tool and Heat Map analysis are particular standouts for me. They were not only easy to understand but educational. I was able to learn and apply the concepts of raster processing and rectification in real time. Due to the user-friendly interface of Global Mapper, I could focus on learning GIS concepts instead of spending my time struggling to navigate within the application.

Another important aspect of these academic labs that may be overlooked is the opportunity to take what was covered in each section and apply them to other situations. At the end of each academic lab there is a Final Exercise which takes the important concepts, and then gives students basic instructions and data to complete a similar task using different data. For example, in section 1 the final exercise has students take a shapefile of hospital points, along with Maine town polygons and asks to show the distribution of hospitals within each town in Maine. After completing the exercise, I felt confident taking that data and using the GIS concepts I learned throughout the first exercise and produce a final product representing that distribution.

LiDAR data before (on left) and after (on right) point reclassification using Global Mapper.

Blue Marble’s Academic Labs Are Constantly Evolving

Now, as an employee of Blue Marble Geographics I have been working on updating these academic labs for version 19, and incorporating the new features and enhancements that are present in this version. The most significant updates involve all of the querying workflows to reflect the new multivariate attribute querying tool. As a student, I found this process difficult, as you couldn’t build compound queries without running two separate searches. This process is now streamlined so you can search for two separate values or attributes at the same time (Lab 1 Section 5). We have added two new labs to enhance our curriculum. These include using the raster calculator for NDVI calculations, and basic LiDAR processing such as classification and feature extraction. With the expanding functionality of Global Mapper and increase in LiDAR use in the GIS industry, we felt that these two workflows should be available in academic labs.

Our academic labs are constantly evolving with every version of Global Mapper. Many of the updates made to our software were initiated by student feedback. The students from the University of Maine, including myself, have been compiling comments about what they like in the application and what they would like to see changed. These comments have changed throughout the years, as many students using Global Mapper before Version 18 mainly noted that the look and feel was too ‘retro’, and that an updated user interface would be beneficial to Global Mapper. I remember saying the same thing, but when Version 18 was released with a modern and inviting interface, I knew that students would appreciate the change. Now, when updating the academic labs to match Version 19, I consider many of the students’ comments and provide more explanation as to why certain steps are needed. Students also had great suggestions about future tools that should be added to Global Mapper, or changes that would benefit the application which I brought to our Developers to consider. We strive to have a large portion of our Development user-driven, which also includes students.

Our academic labs are a great way for students to learn GIS concepts while exploring an easy-to-use GIS application. These labs helped me begin my career in the GIS industry and can do the same for you or your students. If you have any questions regarding the academic lab license program or the academic labs, please email orders@bluemarblegeo.com.

Note: Hear Janet talk about and demonstrate the Academic Labs in a recent webcast here.


Janet Leese
Janet Leese


Janet Leese is an Applications Specialist at Blue Marble Geographics. She provides technical support and works on updating academic labs and other self training materials. Prior to joining Blue Marble in 2016, Leese earned her B.S in Wildlife Ecology at the University of Maine.

Webcast: Global Mapper Academic Programs

Since the introduction of the free Global Mapper academic licensing program in early 2017, countless U.S. and Canadian colleges and universities have adopted Global Mapper as their go-to GIS software for classroom and lab instruction. In this brief presentation, we explore the various aspects of the Global Mapper Academic Program including the updated free curriculum materials and student scholarship program.

Where in the World Geo-Challenge — April 2018

View the form at Google Forms >

Where in the World March 2018 Answers

How Well Did You Do?

Name the body of water – Gulf of Aqaba

Gulf of Aqaba

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Name the country – Brunei

Brunei

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Name the capital city – Dublin

Dublin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Name the desert – Gran Desierto de Altar or Sonoran Desert

Gran Desierto de Altar or Sonoran Desert

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Name the mountain – Mont Blanc

Mont Blanc

The Winner of March’s Geo-Challenge Is …

Of those who answered all five correctly, Anthony James of Harris Corporation was the first name pulled from the hat. Anthony will be receiving a complimentary copy of Global Mapper. Congrats!