Wind and GIS

Caitlin Dempsey


GIS  has many applications in wind mapping, analysis and modeling. Geographic data and modeling of wind performance can help site wind turbines.  Study of wind patterns also is used for assessing wind damage potential.

Wind GIS data at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory

The GIS staff at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory provides both national wind resource assessment of the United States and high-resolution wind data.  GIS data on surface wind data, coastal marine area data, and upper-air data provides for an analysis of wind resource assessment.  

The methodology used to make a wind-potential ranking map is described in this 2001 report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory entitled Geographic Information Systems in Support of Wind Energy Activities at NREL.

NREL Wind Map
NREL Wind Map

3TIER produces commercially available GIS wind data. The company’s global GIS wind data provides monthly and annual wind speed measurements.  3TIER also released a 2001 Wind Performance Map for the United States.  The GIS analysis showed areas where wind speeds last year were above the long-term mean wind speeds.  The analysis compared wind speed measurements from 2011 with wind conditions averaged over the period 1969-2008.

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For the year as a whole, the US experienced above average wind speeds, though month-to-month and regional variability were not uniformly above average across the country. The Pacific Northwest and New England saw wind speeds roughly 5% below average for the year, while a broad section of the US from northern Montana to Texas and the mid-Atlantic states enjoyed a strong wind year with wind speeds 5-15% above normal.

Map of 2011 Wind Performance for the United States from 3TIER.
Map of 2011 Wind Performance for the United States from 3TIER.

WeoGeo just released two wind related GIS data sets.  The data covers wind events between 1955 and 2010 for point locations of wind events and wind swaths.

Both datasets detail the location and date of the event, as well as the wind’s speed, if known. Additionally, starting in the 1980’s, wind related injuries, fatalities, and property loss estimates are also included with the data.

Wind GIS data from the National Weather Service

The National Weather Service (NWS) provides freely accessible GIS wind data in shapefile and KML formats.  

The range of weather related GIS datasets available including Watch Warning Advisories, precipitation estimates and NEXRAD radar imagery.  

The nowCOAST GIS Web Mapping and WMS offers a wide range of  surface wind observations, analyses, and forecasts for U.S. available via map viewer and WMS as well as other meteorological and oceanographic data and forecasts.  

The Wind ENergy Data and Information (WENDI) Gateway is intended to serve a broad range of wind-energy stakeholders by providing easy access to a large amount of wind energy-related data and information through its two main interfaces: the Wind Energy Metadata Clearinghouse and the Wind Energy Geographic Information System (WindGIS).

Minnesota wind GIS data

At the state level, the Minnesota GIS Wind Data offers GIS data for 30, 80 and 100 meter wind speeds. Also the Oklahoma Wind Map Products is a web page at the Oklahoma Wind Power Assessment describing the efforts to map the wind power resources of Oklahoma. Includes links to tutorials on calculating wind characteristics.

Wind Energy Resource Atlas of the United States

The Wind Energy Resource Atlas of the United States is available as a an online copy with hyperlinked pages to the volume with a list of viewable maps of the United States. The atlas was created by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in October of 1986.

Article first published March 23, 2002 and last updated on January 20, 2012.

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About the author
Caitlin Dempsey
Caitlin Dempsey is the editor of Geography Realm and holds a master's degree in Geography from UCLA as well as a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) from SJSU.