Onshore Wind Farm Suitability Analysis Using GIS-based Analytic Hierarchy Process: A Case Study of Fukushima Prefecture, Japan
Fukushima prefectural government adopted a vision to become100% renewable energy self-sufficient by 2040. Wind energy stands firm as one of the important renewable energy sources in the prefecture as it has a huge onshore potential that has not been exploited yet. The purpose of this study was to identify and evaluate the suitable locations for the sitting of onshore wind facilities in Fukushima prefecture based on a suggested framework that combines Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and Multi-Criteria Decision Making (MCDM) approach namely Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP). The framework consisted of three key steps: First, we excluded all areas where wind farms cannot be installed due to law or landscape constraints. Second, we identified nine criteria influencing the suitability of areas for wind energy. These criteria were classified into three categories (environmental, social, and economic) and their significance weights in site assessment process were calculated by applying AHP approach based on opinions of local wind energy experts and stakeholders. Consequently, we evaluated areas according to their suitability. The third and the last step was to eliminate all the excluded areas from the evaluated ones, which we mapped and classified into ten suitability classes ranging from low to high. The results revealed the availability of 11% (1,561 km2) of areas for wind energy mostly located in the prefecture eastern side, 92% of which were labelled as moderately suitable. Interestingly, we found out that “Soso” where the famous 2011’s Fukushima Daiichi power plant is located, is the sub region containing the largest share of suitable areas, which suggests an available alternative to the unsafe and unpopular nuclear power. The produced map coupled with detailed statistics provides a comprehensive reference and essential insights not only for private wind farm developers but also for regional planners and researchers in quest of achieving the aforementioned vision.