EB/ES/GE 351 Lab Exercise
Interactive Web-based GIS

James S. Aber


This exercise will provide practice in utilizing web-based GIS servers for accessing, manipulating, and displaying various kinds of map databases. Note: You may want to open a second web browser window–one for this lab exercise, the other for the GIS webserver.

Kansas Wind Energy

Kansas has substantial potential for wind energy. Several wind farms are in operation already, and many more are planned for development during the next few years. The primary ingredient, namely wind, is quite abundant from the Flint Hills westward to the High Plains with average wind speed >8 m/sec (see Kansas wind potential). Many other factors are involved in choosing the location for a wind farm, including access to nearby high-capacity transmission lines, local topographic conditions, environmental concerns, and aesthetic considerations.

Wind projects in Kansas.

Begin this exercise by examining the map of wind projects in Kansas (above). Consider all aspects of this map including the various layers of data, design composition, and effective display of spatial information.

1. Briefly list and discuss positive or useful aspects of this map composition. In other words, what are its good traits in terms of map design and data presentation?

2. Briefly list and discuss negative or confusing aspects of this map composition. In other words, what are its poor traits in terms of map design and data presentation?

This map has embedded hypertext links to other webpages, but it is not interactive. In other words, it does not allow the user to select features or manipulate the display. The map is a fixed display much like a printed paper map.

Because of the many factors involved in planning for wind farms, the Kansas Biological Survey and Department of Wildlife and Parks have provided an online, interactive wind resource planner. Go to this site now and begin browsing its features. Check the basic functions on the tool bar at top right and the pan-zoom options to left side. Also review the user guide (link near top center) for additional help.

3. Use the measure tool to determine the diagonal distance from the southeastern corner of the state to the northwestern corner. Click on "draw a line" and "show measurements." What is this distance in kilometers and miles? Round your answers to whole units.

Upon initial display, the map shows various colored zones representing protected area. Under the layer tab, click on wind farms to display the wind farm areas. Note: you may need to zoom in for the display to appear.

4. What do the various colors for wind farms indicate? Note: use the "Identify" function to find out about specific features on the map display.

Now experiment with other data layers for display, such as electrical transmission lines, prairie chicken range, Tallgrass Heartland, playas area total, whooping crane corridors, etc.

5. What are playas? Where in the state are playas most common?

6. Why would playas be of concern for building wind farms? Note: you may have to do some research to answer this question.

7. What is the Tallgrass Heartland? Why is this area specially designated on the map, and what does this have to do with wind energy? Note: you may have to do some research to answer this question.

8. Locate the main whooping crane corridor through the central part of the state. Identify the existing wind farms within this corridor.


Now zoom in on a part of the state with an active wind farm. You should set the scale large enough, in order to show all the individual turbines within the selected wind farm. Remove the wind-farm area background, so that only individual turbines are depicted by point symbols; add or subtract other suitable layers to create a complete map composition.

Make a digital image of your map composition. Use the computer's "print screen" function, and paste the image into Paint. This image can be cropped to remove margins and saved in various formats (bmp, gif, png) to submit with your exercise answers.

9. Briefly describe the wind farm you selected and the features shown on the map.

10. Explain any environmental or aesthetic issues you see regarding this particular wind farm.

11. What are some advantages to using this interactive GIS site?

12. What could you suggest to improve this site's functionality for users?

Turn in

Return to course schedule.
EB/ES/GE 351 © J.S. Aber (2012).