GIS-driven renewable energy framework for smart and sustainable cities

GIS-driven renewable energy framework for smart and sustainable cities


The world has experienced unprecedented urban growth in recent decades. In 2008, for the first time, the world’s population was evenly split between urban and rural areas. More developed nations were about 74% urban, while 44% of residents of less developed countries lived in urban areas. However, urbanisation is occurring rapidly in many less developed countries. Cities and peri-urban settlements must be prepared to meet the challenge of unplanned settlement or, slum formation. If proper planning is not carried out they suffer from the greatest problems to humans caused by rapid urbanisation, including intense pressures on resources, slum formation, lack of adequate services such as water and sanitation, poor planning and degradation of farmland. Over 90% of slum dwellers today are in the developing world. China and India together have 37% of the world’s slums. Grave consequences may result if urban environment of the city is misused. Environmental resources are assets to a city. It becomes less costly to avoid environmental degradation than its consequences or, repairing its damage. Inadequate waste disposal leads to the spread of disease. A city can’t disregard its environment if it is to grow and develop in the long term. Concerns about carbon dioxide emissions may discourage widespread dependence on coal use and encourage the development and use of renewable energy technologies. It is still important, however, to understand the environmental impacts associated with producing power from renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and hydropower. The exact type and intensity of environmental impacts varies depending on the specific technology used the geographic location, and a number of other factors. In this study, a GIS based planning and support mechanism is conceptualised to understand the current and potential environmental issues associated with each renewable energy source, thus one can take steps to effectively avoid or, minimise these impacts as they become a larger portion of the electricity supply. It will also aid to measure and compare performances of different planning scenarios according to city planners, communities or, citizen-defined indicators for land use, transportation, natural resources and employment, to name a few.

Smart and sustainable city

Urban performance currently depends not only on the city”s endowment of hard infrastructure (‘physical capital’), but also, and increasingly so, on the availability and quality of knowledge communication and social infrastructure (‘intellectual capital and social capital’). It is against this background that the concept of the ‘Smart City’ has been introduced as a strategic device to encompass modern urban production factors in a common framework and to highlight the growing importance of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), social and environmental capital in profiling the competitiveness of cities. The significance of these two assets i.e., social and environmental capital itself goes a long way to distinguish smart cities from their more technology-laden counterparts, drawing a clear line between them and what goes under the name of either digital or, intelligent cities.

Smart Cities can be identified (and ranked) along six main axes or, dimensions:

Figure 1: Three Pillars of Sustainability (Triple Bottom Line)

•    Smart Economy
•    Smart Mobility
•    Smart Environment
•    Smart People
•    Smart Living, and
•    Smart Governance

These six axes connect with traditional regional and neoclassical theories of urban growth and development. In particular, the axes are based respectively – on theories of regional competitiveness, transport and ICT economics, natural resources, human and social capital, quality of life, and participation of citizens in the governance of cities [6]. In a smart city, energy, water, transportation, public health and safety, and other key services are managed in concert to support smooth operation of critical infrastructure while providing for a clean, economic and safe environment in which to live, work and play.

GIS for sustainable development and environmental management
Sustainable development is the balance of meeting humankind”s present needs while protecting the environment to ensure the fulfillment of future generations” needs. The growing human population and its demands on the earth”s resources generate a need for sustainable practices. GIS allows users across the globe to share ideas on how to meet their resource needs, plan efficient land use and protect the environment to guarantee the survival of future generations. GIS technology is an effective tool for studying the environment, reporting on environmental phenomena, and modeling how the environment is responding to natural and man-made factors. Understanding relationships within the environment is essential for creating environmental impact reports, designing sustainable management plans, prioritising project areas and funding, and informing government and the public about environmental concerns. GIS can be used to analyse ecological footprints; improve watershed resource management; and respond to climate change, pollution, and more.

Role of GIS for the planning and development of smart cities
As urbanisation process has been and will be happening in an unprecedented scale worldwide, strong requirements from academic research and practical fields for smart management and intelligent planning of cities are pressing to handle increasing demands of infrastructure and potential risks of inhabitants’ agglomeration in disaster management. Geo-spatial data and geographic information system (GIS) are essential components for building smart cities in a basic way that maps the physical world into virtual environment as a referencing framework. On higher level, GIS has been becoming very important in smart cities on different sectors. In the digital city era, digital maps and geospatial databases have long been integrated in workflows in land management, urban planning and transportation in government. People have anticipated GIS to be more powerful not only as an archival and data management tool but also as spatial models for supporting decision-making in intelligent cities. Successful applications have been developed in private and public organizations by using GIS as a platform for data integration, a system for geospatial analysis and collection of models for visualisation and decision-making. Location-based services on smart mobile devices in ubiquitous telecommunication networks are now an indispensable function that expands knowledge of the nature and connections among people. On data side, crowd-sourcing, real-time urban sensing and true 3-dimensional (3D) models and visualisation have provided more advantages of GIS to final users and at the same time challenged current available solutions and technologies of data handling, visualization and human-computer interaction. On the technological side, Web 2.0 participatory applications provide the framework and environment for GIS to closer link to photogrammetry and computer vision, which empowers smart devices more capabilities. How to manage big geo-tagged data volumes collected by numerous sensors and implement professional GIS functions in a cloud computing environment are urgent questions to facilitate smart cities management. The advancements of GIS in the management of cities as information systems to facilitate urban modeling and decision-making, as referencing basis to integrate social network media, and concludes that an interdisciplinary urban GIS is needed to support development of smart cities. In this study, Chandigarh has been taken as a case of GIS pervasive applications (as described in Figure: 2), which has strategically made one of the foremost Indian solar cities with planned city infrastructure.

Figure 2: Smart City Designing and Planning using GIS and Green ICT Integration

Proposed GIS driven Framework towards the development of smart and sustainable cities in India through high penetration of renewable energy technologies

GIS-based planning and support systems allow planners and citizens to quickly and efficiently create and test alternative development scenarios and determine their likely impacts on future land use patterns and associated population and employment trends, thus allowing public officials including policy makers to make informed planning decisions.

The value proposition of a smart and self-sustainable city includes:
•    Economic Competitiveness: To spur industry growth and improve global economic competitiveness;
•    Geographic Grid Constraints: Key solution to alleviating this issue;
•    Reliability Concerns: To meet needs of the end use customers without power outages;
•    Increasing Demand on Government: Manage the growing energy demand due to increasing population and expanding industry;
•    Energy Security Goals: Improving energy security and reducing imports;
•    Resiliency in Disasters and Against Attacks: Islanding and running critical infrastructure;
•    Energy Theft Reduction: Smart meters and grid monitoring;
•    Policies/Mandates: Policies and incentives in place;
•    Environmental Goals: Strong focus on environment and climate goals;
•    Integration of Electric Vehicles: Major component of smart grid development;
•    Renewable Energy Penetration: Focused on rapidly increasing the integration of intermittent renewable energy sources for driving the need for an advanced grid infrastructure;
•    Financial Incentives: Government subsidies targeted specifically to smart grid development;
•    Energy Efficiency Goals: Focus on the improvement of efficiency in the electric power sector through smart grid initiatives.

Chandigarh as an ideal smart and sustainable city in India
Chandigarh (Geographic Coordinates: 30.75°N 76.78°E) is a city and union territory in India that serves as the capital of two states, Punjab and Haryana. The city of Chandigarh was the first planned city in India post-independence and is known internationally for its architecture and urban design. The city was reported in 2010 to be the ‘cleanest’ in India, based on a national government study and the territory also headed the list of Indian states and territories according to research conducted using 2005 data by Human Development Index.
Innovative city planning and energy strategies (as illustrated in Figure: 3) for Chandigarh – consuming substantially low energy, producing at least as much renewable or, clean energy as it uses in a year with very efficiently planned and operated sectors and infrastructure, and also provide policy and planning support to evolve the smart grid for:
•    Plug-and-play integration of dispatchable and intermittent low-carbon energy sources thorough smart mini-grids;
•    Providing a platform for consumer engagement in load management, energy independence, innovation, entrepreneurship and economic security;
•    The best and most secure electric services available that connects everyone to abundant, affordable, high quality, environmentally conscious, efficient and reliable electric power.

Figure 3: Proposed Self-Sustainable and Smart Resilience Framework for Chandigarh City

GIS for promoting renewable energy technologies in Chandigarh City
Faced with grim predictions of energy supply and consumption, humankind is responding with tremendous efforts to capture and cultivate renewable resources. There is an urge to develop sustainable planet earth by enhancing the usage of wind, solar, geothermal and biomass energy, and also in-search for cleaner, smarter, and more conscientious methods of energy production, transmission, and distribution. GIS technology is supporting and underlying the progress of this monumental change. GIS is not only improving the way to produce and deliver energy, it is changing the way of viewing the earth”s resources.  

Solar energy based systems as a case
GIS is the obvious tool to promote renewable energy technologies solar energy based systems as a case, because it provides visual reference – a map of the entire city showing the buildings those have solar installation potential. An important part of every GIS based tool is its mapping or, visualization technology, which makes it possible to show data in the form of maps. The methodology of the proposed approach is elaborated below in the Figure: 4.

Figure 4: Client – Server GIS Architecture (3-Tier)

Environmental impacts of solar energy technologies
The sun provides a tremendous resource for generating clean and sustainable electricity without toxic pollution or, global warming emissions. The potential environmental impacts associated with solar power – land use and habitat loss, water use, and the use of hazardous materials in manufacturing – can vary greatly depending on the technology, which includes two broad categories: photovoltaic (PV) solar cells or, concentrating solar thermal plants (CSP).
Life-cycle global warming emissions using solar energy based systems: While there are no global warming emissions associated with generating electricity from solar energy, there are emissions associated with other stages of the solar life-cycle, including manufacturing, materials transportation, installation, maintenance, and decommissioning and dismantlement. Most estimates of life-cycle emissions for photovoltaic systems are between 0.07 and 0.18 pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilowatt-hour. Most estimates for concentrating solar power range from 0.08 to 0.2 pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilowatt-hour. In both cases, this is far less than the lifecycle emission rates for natural gas (0.6-2 lbs of CO2E/kWh) and coal (1.4-3.6 lbs of CO2E/kWh).

GIS for renewable energy-based smart grid and mini-grids planning: A smart grid alone does three things. First, it modernises power systems through self-healing designs, automation, remote monitoring and control, and establishment of mini-grids. Second, it informs and educates consumers about their energy usage, costs and alternative options, to enable them to make decisions autonomously about how and when to use electricity and fuels. Third, it provides safe, secure and reliable integration of distributed and renewable energy resources. All these add up to an energy infrastructure that is more reliable, more sustainable and more resilient. Thus, a smart grid sits at the heart of the smart city, which cannot fully exist without it. Smart cities depend on a smart grid to ensure resilient delivery of energy to supply their many functions, present opportunities for conservation, improve efficiencies and, most importantly, enable coordination between urban officialdom, infrastructure operators, those responsible for public safety and the public. The smart city is all about how the city ‘organism’ works together as an integrated whole and survives when put under extreme conditions. Energy, water, transportation, public health and safety, and other aspects of a smart city are managed in concert to support smooth operation of critical infrastructure while providing for a clean, economic and safe environment in which to live, work and play. For utilities, GIS can provide comprehensive inventory of the electrical distribution network components and their spatial locations [60]. Utility operators of any country will need GIS to make the better decisions about key issues such as collecting data, managing smart meter and sensor installation, analyzing customer behavior and incorporating renewable energy. When viewed in the context of geography, data is quickly understood and easily shared; furthermore GIS technology can be integrated into any enterprise information system framework. Enterprise GIS creates spatial information about utility assets (poles, wires, transformers, duct banks, customers etc.) and servers that information to the enterprise level. The core business applications then mash up or, combine the data served from the GIS, SCADA and customers systems along with the other relevant information from outside the utility such as traffic, weather system, satellite imagery. Utility agencies then use this combined information for business applications, visualizing a common operating picture for inspection and maintenance and to do network analysis and planning.

In-order to develop Chandigarh as the nation”s first ‘energy-independent’ city deriving most of its energy from renewable sources, there is a need to accelerate the large scale deployment of renewable energy based smart mini-grid (SMG) systems. GIS-based decision support system outlines a method for city planners to assess the local potential for deployment of distributed energy resources (DERs), small power-generation installations located close to the point where the energy they produce will be consumed. Furthermore, by using GIS land-use data that show building layouts in existing neighborhoods as the basis for choosing mini-grids customer combinations, the theoretical ‘mini-grids’ concept is applied in a real-world context. Therefore, the role of GIS analysis in mini-grids assessment has two components: first, to use existing city plans as the basis for choosing mini-grids customer combinations, and second, to show how spatial constraints that are not revealed through pure economic analysis can influence distributed energy resources adoption.  

Development in urban Indian cities has to be steered towards the sustainable means. Stress has to be laid on better energy efficiency and on usage of locally generated renewable energy sources. Strategies of using clean technology such as using a hybrid solar water purification and photovoltaic system which meets the need of clean water and electricity can be adopted. Research has to be oriented towards the energy through renewables such as biomass or, solar photovoltaics which is in-exhaustive, simple and reliable and which tends to create many job opportunities. A ‘smart city’ perhaps can be made possible with a smart approach of using the concepts of Green Engineering and Chemistry which tends to improve the quality of air and water and in turn the standard of living of the people. Designing and networking of ‘smart grid’ and other such technologies would require skilled and technical workforce. Another impact would be on the education system, where the focus area is likely to shift to the improvement of the Quality of the Environment, Environmental Law and Policies, and Resources Security. On the other hand, rapid population growth in India is a major factor which leads to environmental stresses such as air and water pollution, decrease of land fertility etc. There is an urgent need to cut down the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions. Cities need to be planned in such a way so that there is a minimum or, no generation of GHGs. GIS serves as the viable tool for natural resources accounting of an area which would assist city planners in determining the carrying capacity and for other demand and supply needs.

This research paper is made possible through the help and strategic support from The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI). The authors are also grateful to Mr. Amit Kumar (Director, EETD-TERI), Mr. Alok Kumar Jindal (Fellow & Area Convenor, RETA-TERI) and, Ms. Parimita Mohanty (Fellow & Area Convenor, CDG-TERI) for providing their kind advice and suggestions.

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