GEOG 469
Energy Industry Applications of GIS

Lesson 1 - Roles of GIS in Energy System Siting Decisions

Stop sign
Credit: Photo by James Gentry (Flickr)

Did you complete the Course Orientation?

Before you begin this course, make sure you have completed the Course Orientation.

Is ArcGIS 10 Installed on your computer?

We will begin using this software in this lesson. If you have not yet received your free copy, please contact our Program Assistant immediately, Susan Spaugh, at or toll-free (U.S.) at 877-713-7778!

An Overview of Lesson 1

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) have evolved to the point where they are now being used in almost every segment of the economy. A familiarity with GIS and how GIS can be leveraged to solve business, engineering, environmental, and social problems is a skill that is in demand in all business sectors. In the energy sector, GIS is used to assist with the siting of new generation facilities, help determine the optimum route for new transmission and distribution lines, to determine demographic changes as part of long-range planning, and to develop emergency evacuation plans around nuclear generating facilities, just to name a few. The problem-solving potential for the use of GIS in the energy sector is unlimited.

What will we learn in Lesson 1?

In this lesson, we will introduce GIS and learn about its history, the hardware and software requirements to make it operate, and the sources of software, from free/open-source to commercially available programs. By reading the referenced case study, we will see how GIS is used in the siting of an electric transmission line. Finally, we will complete this lesson with a hands-on experience using GIS by completing an introductory course in GIS that will be the building block for the term project.

By the end of this lesson, you should be able to describe:

  • a GIS;
  • the hardware and software requirements for a GIS;
  • the type of data is used in GIS applications;
  • vector and raster data;
  • points, lines, and polygons;
  • the basic operations of making a GIS work; and
  • the different types of GIS software available.

What is due for Lesson 1?

This lesson will take us one week to complete. Please refer to the Calendar for specific time frames and due dates. Specific directions for the assignments below can be found within this lesson.

  • Engage in a class discussion of the case study.


If you have any questions, please post them to our Questions? discussion forum in Canvas. I will check that discussion forum daily to respond. While you are there, feel free to post your own responses if you, too, are able to help out a classmate.