The open access 'Global Atlas for Solar and Wind' was launched last month (13 January) at the annual general assembly of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), an intergovernmental organisation based in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
- Website offers free access to global data on wind and solar energy
- It aims to help governments and investors find good locations for energy projects
- The goal is for the atlas to expand to include other forms of energy such as hydroelectric power
The project aims to help users identify areas of interest for future investment by enabling them to visualise data on wind and solar resources, and then overlay additional information on such things as roads and protected areas.
The goal is to add software and tools that will allow users to calculate the amount of power that can be generated from a renewable energy resource and so its economic potential.
At present, 39 countries have declared their support for the project, including Egypt, Ethiopia, Iraq, Mexico, Nigeria, Peru, Saudi Arabia, the Seychelles, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates.
"A signing ceremony was organised during IRENA's general assembly and we are happy to see that so many countries are willing to join," says Nicolas Fichaux, programme officer for resources assessment at IRENA.
Participating countries can share data, manpower and expertise. The information in the atlas comes from data providers from all over the world. Solar maps for Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America are already available on the site.
The atlas will also generate new datasets on wind energy under a project funded by the Danish government.
The plan is for the atlas project to gradually expand to become a true global online atlas of renewable energy, including hydroelectric power as well as bioenergy and geothermal energy.
Aimed at both the public and private sectors, the atlas's end users are most likely to be policymakers and private companies looking to support or invest in renewable energy.
India is also participating in the project. "It is operating a massive solar measurement programme and has already developed a detailed wind atlas. There is a lot of expertise in the country and the Indian experience may be of great use to other countries," Fichaux says.
J. Srinivasan, a professor in the Centre for Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, says: "A global database of renewable energy will be useful for planning future renewable energy projects. Many developing countries — where resources are abundant — do not have data on solar and wind energy. Private companies are reluctant to locate projects in places where data is not available."