As renewable energy technology advances, so does the need for more space to build and develop new projects.
It used to be developers were faced with mountains of work to review potential project sites.
Doug Hall's team of researchers at the Idaho National Lab has developed a program to bring the project site to the developer, instead of the other way around.
"If you want to think of it as MapQuest, that's what this does," said Hall.
The Virtual Renewable Energy Prospector, or, VREP is basically a visual Bible for developers.
"Not only does it show you those resources so you could find potential development sites, but it shows you in the context of features that would affect that development," said Hall.
The multi-layer map can be used by developers to find the most ideal site for an energy project like, for example, a wind farm.
"The first thing is, the developer wants to find the areas that have the strongest winds," said Hall.
VREP can do that. Just a click on the criteria menu layers historical wind speed averages for target areas.
"If he's interested in developing in a certain area because the wind is strong there, how far is it going to be to connect to a transmission line?" Hall said, as he pointed out the next step.
VREP can map out a project's proximity to transmission lines. Because wind farms can interfere with radar, VREP can also pinpoint proximity to those kinds of facilities as well.
It isn't just for developers, though. Hall said the program is an equal-opportunity resource. Folks fighting against a development could use it too.
"Once they find out a proposed development location, to go in and use this tool to make their evaluation as to for example the possible environmental impact," said Hall.
The program is live and fully featured at http://gis-ext.inl.gov/vrep.
It is only available for the 50 United States right now, but Hall said his team is working to develop a version for developing nations like Malawi. It could open new doors into possible third-world development.