As renewable energy shares increase with decreasing costs, available land may be the next stop block for the development of sustainable energy systems. Energy planning is therefore increasingly a matter of spatial planning as well.
For more than 20 years, geographical information systems have been used to describe and model current and future energy systems. Energy data has been disaggregated to local geographical scales and made available to the research community on massive scale. A magnitude of studies addresses the space-dependent distribution of sustainable energy resources, captures the spatial spreading of energy needs and consumption, and analyses the access to energy infrastructures.
What is often missing, though, is the intricate link between location suitability, and the quantification of potentials and costs. The present paper suggests a generic approach to assess these main constraints of local sustainable energy options. For each geographical entity, suitability mapping identifies available land by environmental constraints or political preference; potentials are quantified and located by technical limitations; and location-specific costs are assessed for place- and logistics-dependent technologies. The paper introduces to the methods of such analysis, and presents examples from past and current research.