An increase in public awareness regarding the negative impact of traditional power-generating methods, especially coal and oil-fired power stations, on the environment has created a demand for developing and using environmentally friendly renewable energy. Wind power is a popular and safe form of renewable energy. It can be economically viable, does not produce any physical pollution and can contribute radically to the reduction in air pollution. In the UK, the demand for wind energy is mounting. However, achieving the goal set by the EU will require a substantial expansion. Planning and environmental restrictions and conflicts would inevitably accompany this growth. A questionnaire targeting relevant public and private sectors in the UK has revealed the lack of coherent national criteria for locating wind farms. Using information from the questionnaire and the available published literature, simple Geographical Information System (GIS)-assisted wind farm location criteria were developed for the UK. A GIS (IDRISI) was employed to apply these criteria using two different methods to combine information layers for a site in Lancashire. The first considered all the layers as being equally important and gave them equal weight. The second grouped the layers and graded them according to perceived importance. The outputs were composed of classes from 0 to 10, where 0 represents ideal locations and 10 represents unsuitable locations. Using the second method has resulted in a slight increase in the geographical extent for the most suitable sites. These maps can be used to assist in the decision-making process when locating wind farm sites.
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Publisher version of article availble at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0960-1481(00)00169-5