Academic journal article URISA Journal

Integrating Planning Support Systems and Multicriteria Evaluation for Energy Facility Site Suitability Evaluation

Academic journal article URISA Journal

Integrating Planning Support Systems and Multicriteria Evaluation for Energy Facility Site Suitability Evaluation

Article excerpt


The core of suitability modeling is the analysis and interpretation of data to produce information useful to decision makers and stakeholders in a decision process (Malczewski 2004). Suitability modeling may consider a number of geographic conditions, including location, development actions, and environmental elements (Collins et al. 2001), as well as legal requirements and social factors reflecting the values and interests of decision makers, individuals, or other stakeholders. While the use of the word suitability often refers specifically to the idea of site selection and development, the analytical concepts are more general (Hopkins 1977) and applications more wide ranging.

Discussing spatial expert systems, Malczewski (1999) notes a number of decision-making obstacles relevant to suitability modeling: spatial decision problems are not well understood; knowledge of spatial processes and decisions includes causal, common sense, and meta-knowledge but differs from person to person; people will approach and solve spatial problems differently; and communication barriers may exist between experts and people who operationalize decision support. Some of these obstacles can be overcome using an information-structuring process such as multicriteria evaluation (MCE). Geographic information systems (GIS)--based spatial decisions support systems (SDSS) (Densham 1991) also are useful to apply to siting problems to bridge the gap between decision makers and complex quantitative analytic models (Maniezzo et al. 1998). With long-standing motivation for research on SDSS stemming from the recognition that some spatial decision problems are characterized by many of the previously mentioned problems, MCE has come to be recognized as an inherent part of SDSS (Jankowski et al. 2008).

Developed as a subset of SDSS, planning support systems (PSS) are a special type of planning information technology consisting of geospatial application software and information frameworks designed to support planning processes (Klosterman 1997, Geertman and Stillwell 2003). PSS extend GIS capabilities in analysis and problem solving, and add design, decision-making and communication capabilities (Nedovic-Budic 2000). Unlike complex land-use or resource modeling software, PSS often take the form of a toolbox from which decision makers can draw for assistance in decision management, modeling, analysis and design, communication, visualization, and information dissemination (Klosterman 1997, Batty 2003).

The purpose of this paper is to assess the quality of a PSS-based suitability model. While the utility of PSS is broadly supported in the literature, implementation of PSS technologies has been slow and often unsuccessful (Geertman 2013, Te Brommelstroet 2012). Vonk et al. (2006) mentioned a number of bottlenecks to PSS usage, including lack of experience, lack of awareness, and problems or uncertainties with instrument quality. Following Vonk and Geertman (2008), we assess the quality of the CommunityViz[R] suitability model with: (1) a literature-based overview of MCE, weighted linear combination modeling, the Kepner-Tregoe (K-T) decision-analysis framework, CommunityViz and the CommunityViz suitability model, and uncertainty evaluation in MCE; (2) a stepwise presentation of PSS and K-T methods; and (3) a comparison of outputs between the PSS and K-T decision-making frameworks. Methods and outputs are presented using a case example of an energy facility siting decision situation in the U.S. West.


Multicriteria Evaluation

MCE is defined by Voogd (1983) as a flexible framework for appraisal of a set of decision options using a number of criteria. MCE techniques are able to accommodate the political, social, and values dimensions of a decision process or problem-solving situation. In discussing the theory underpinning MCE, Voogd (1983) argues that classification theory, not decision theory, provides the basis for MCE work. …

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