Spatial Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis (SMCDA) toolbox for Consensus-based Siting of Powerlines and Wind-power plants (ConSite)


Title: Spatial Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis (SMCDA) toolbox for Consensus-based Siting of Powerlines and Wind-power plants (ConSite)
Publication Date:
January 22, 2018
Document Number: NINA Report 1455
Pages: 47

Document Access

Website: External Link
Attachment: Access File
(5 MB)


Hanssen, F.; May, R.; Van Dijk, J.; Stokke, B.; De Stefano, M. (2018). Spatial Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis (SMCDA) toolbox for Consensus-based Siting of Powerlines and Wind-power plants (ConSite). Report by Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA). pp 47.

The expansion of wind energy development causes both societal and environmental concerns worldwide. Traditional land use planning approaches however limit addressing such concerns adequately. The scale and complexity of emerging renewable energy construction projects enforce the development of improved plan- and decision support tools that ensure democratic and cost-effective processes securing qualified decision making. The multiplicity of criteria and actors involved in decision-making processes requires holistic approaches that enable capturing the variety stakeholder views from technological, economic, societal and environmental perspectives.


As a response to this societal need, the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA) has developed a Spatial Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis tool (SMCDA) for siting of onshore wind-power plants and associated infrastructure such as powerlines and roads. The tool ConSite (Consensus Based Siting) aims to ensure socially acceptable, environmentally friendly and cost-effective siting, routing and design of wind-power plants and powerlines. ConSite helps to identify and justify decisions taken with respect to both transparency and verification. ConSite is based on current developments in stakeholder dialogue theory, GIS-based Spatial Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis (SMCDA) and decision theory.


The ConSite framework is structured into the operational steps of a classical SMCDA and combines stakeholder dialogue with multi-criteria assessment. The objective of the toolbox is to identify areas with the lowest possible conflict level and the highest possible production level. Dialogue with affected stakeholders and documentation of relevant expertise is used to provide information about, and to consider the relative importance of (weighting of) the different stake-holder interests. This helps to identify potential land use conflicts in a “conflict-map”. The “conflict-map” is used together with wind resource maps to identify which areas are most optimal for wind power development. This way ConSite helps to structure the decision problem, balance conflicting interests and identify relevant decision strategies based on a holistic evaluation of risk and trade-off between different alternatives. ConSite can be used to evaluate different scenarios by visualizing the spatial consequences of different decision strategies.


This report exemplifies the practical usage of the ConSite toolbox. ConSite has previously been successfully implemented in spatial planning of wind-power development in Lithuania, and validated through a power line routing case study in Sør-Trøndelag County (Bevanger et al., 2014 & Hanssen et al., 2014). Further development to integrate the ecosystem services concept into an adaptive landscape planning context, helps making the complexity of social-ecological systems more comprehensible for involved stakeholders. This enables the application of ConSite across sectoral interests (e.g. renewable energy, road infrastructure, urban development and fish farming). ConSite can thus help decision makers to secure socially acceptable, environmentally friendly and cost-effective siting and optimal design of renewable construction projects. The current version of the ConSite SMCDA toolbox framework is developed for a desktop GIS platform. To increase the access to and user-friendliness of ConSite, NINA has the ambition to move the ConSite SMCDA framework to an online GIS-platform. This development will be based on an evaluation of user needs, a detailed requirement specification and system prototyping.

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