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Development of a GIS-based decision support tool for environmental impact assessment and due-diligence analyses of planned agricultural floating solar systems

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dc.contributor.advisor Lombard, A. Prinsloo, Frederik Christoffel 2019-12-06T11:12:31Z 2019-12-06T11:12:31Z 2019-08
dc.identifier.uri en
dc.description Text in English en
dc.description.abstract In recent years, there have been tremendous advances in information technology, robotics, communication technology, nanotechnology, and artificial intelligence, resulting in the merging of physical, digital, and biological worlds that have come to be known as the "fourth industrial revolution”. In this context, the present study engages such technology in the green economy and to tackle the techno-economic environmental impact assessments challenges associated with floating solar system applications in the agricultural sector of South Africa. In response, this exploratory study aimed to examine the development of a Geographical Information System (GIS)-based support platform for Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and due-diligence analyses for future planned agricultural floating solar systems, especially with the goal to address the vast differences between the environmental impacts for land-based and water-based photovoltaic energy systems. A research gap was identified in the planning processes for implementing floating solar systems in South Africa’s agricultural sector. This inspired the development of a novel GIS-based modelling tool to assist with floating solar system type energy infrastructure planning in the renewable energy discourse. In this context, there are significant challenges and future research avenues for technical and environmental performance modelling in the new sustainable energy transformation. The present dissertation and geographical research ventured into the conceptualisation, designing and development of a software GIS-based decision support tool to assist environmental impact practitioners, project owners and landscape architects to perform environmental scoping and environmental due-diligence analysis for planned floating solar systems in the local agricultural sector. In terms of the aims and objectives of the research, this project aims at the design and development of a dedicated GIS toolset to determine the environmental feasibility around the use of floating solar systems in agricultural applications in South Africa. In this context, the research objectives of this study included the use of computational modelling and simulation techniques to theoretically determine the energy yield predictions and computing environmental impacts/offsets for future planned agricultural floating solar systems in South Africa. The toolset succeeded in determining these aspects in applications where floating solar systems would substitute Eskom grid power. The study succeeded in developing a digital GIS-based computer simulation model for floating solar systems capable of (a) predicting the anticipated energy yield, (b) calculating the environmental offsets achieved by substituting coal-fired generation by floating solar panels, (c) determining the environmental impact and land-use preservation benefits of any floating solar system, and (d) relating these metrics to water-energy-land-food (WELF) nexus parameters suitable for user project viability analysis and decision support. The research project has demonstrated how the proposed GIS toolset supports the body of geographical knowledge in the fields of Energy and Environmental Geography. The new toolset, called EIAcloudGIS, was developed to assist in solving challenges around energy and environmental sustainability analysis when planning new floating solar installations on farms in South Africa. Experiments conducted during the research showed how the geographical study in general, and the toolset in particular, succeeded in solving a real-world problem. Through the formulation and development of GIS-based computer simulation models embedded into GIS layers, this new tool practically supports the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA Act No. 107 of 1998), and in particular, associated EIA processes. The tool also simplifies and semi-automates certain aspects of environmental impact analysis processes for newly envisioned and planned floating solar installations in South Africa. en
dc.format.extent 1 online resource (x, 93 leaves) : illustrations, graphs, maps en
dc.language.iso en en
dc.subject Data Science en
dc.subject Knowledge economy en
dc.subject Energy Geography en
dc.subject Environmental Geography en
dc.subject Sustainable development en
dc.subject Floating solar systems en
dc.subject Aquavoltaics en
dc.subject Solar energy technology en
dc.subject Design thinking en
dc.subject Decision support system en
dc.subject Geographic information systems en
dc.subject Virtual reality landscape en
dc.subject Environmental impact assessment en
dc.subject Environmental offsets en
dc.subject Due-diligence analysis en
dc.subject Fourth Industrial Revolution en
dc.subject Renewable Agriculture en
dc.subject Agricultural systems en
dc.subject Precision farming en
dc.subject Digital technology en
dc.subject Innovation system research en
dc.subject.ddc 910.2850968
dc.subject.lcsh Geographic information systems -- South Africa en
dc.subject.lcsh Solar energy in agriculture -- South Africa en
dc.subject.lcsh Environmental geography -- South Africa en
dc.subject.lcsh Decision support systems -- South Africa
dc.title Development of a GIS-based decision support tool for environmental impact assessment and due-diligence analyses of planned agricultural floating solar systems en
dc.type Dissertation en
dc.description.department Geography en M.Sc. (Geography) en

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