Changing how we see and strategise sustainability plans

Green projects, whether large or small, are driven by a clear understanding of location according to Eamonn Doyle of Esri Ireland

Eamonn Doyle, chief technology officer, Esri Ireland: ‘We’re all about making sustainabie decisions based on evidence’

In the quest for better environmental stewardship, geographic information systems (GIS) software has emerged as a pivotal tool, transforming the way we visualise and strategise sustainability.

Company Details

Esri Ireland

Year founded: 2002

Number of staff: 79

Why it is in the news: Esri Ireland is working with major sustainability projects around Ireland, including in energy generation and biodiversity protection

Eamonn Doyle, chief technology officer at GIS technology specialists Esri Ireland, said that sustainability projects are helped, and indeed sometimes only possible, when location is considered as a key component of the design process.

“Location is a key part of allocation,” he said. As a result of integrating data with geography, GIS provides a powerful platform for decision-makers to pinpoint optimal locations for green projects, assess environmental impact, and foster a better relationship between development and nature.

Notably, Esri Ireland counts among its customers many organisations working directly in the environmental sphere and many more in logistics and asset management, all of whom use its software to ground their decisions in the reality of space and place, which is key to sustainability.

“We’re all about making sustainable decisions based on evidence. In our case, that evidence is always map-based and the location component is paramount. If we decide to put things, or to do things, or to stop doing things in the right places then those decisions are instantly more sustainable,” Doyle said.

Esri flagship product ArcGIS is now being used to design and deploy renewable energy schemes. Wind energy generation, particularly offshore wind, is a significant growth area for Esri Ireland, and there are growing opportunities in solar generation, too.

“One of our customers is using ArcGIS to design and plan the Codling Wind Park planned for the Irish Sea off the East Coast, and we’re increasingly involved in solar as well,” Doyle said.

Indeed, with growth in renewable energy demanding a rethink not only of how energy is generated but also how it is distributed, Esri software is in high demand.

“Another of our customers is actively using ArcGIS to plan how best to extend the electricity grid and also work out how to get offshore electricity onshore where it's needed,” he said.

Smaller-scale generation, too, including at home, is supported by the addition of location information: ArcGIS is being used to understand the optimum path for people to connect microgeneration, such as solar panels on their roof, into the grid.

The common thread is that Esri’s technology not only recognises the importance of spatial questions, but that spatial allocation is key to sustainability.

“There are other customers that work on what we call location-allocation problems, which is a fancy way of saying ‘how do we put things in the right places in order to ensure that they are more sustainable by optimising the way that they satisfy demand or contribute to supply’.

“These are as diverse as modelling where to place solar farms using our solar gain tools, modelling where to put wind farms based on elevation, aspect and wind speeds, planning urban development having regard to transport optimisation and selecting housing sites for aged people based on proximity to services,” he said.

Esri’s ArcGIS Survey123 software combines questionnaires with location data, and is being used in a variety of applications including by KSN Energy, which conducts an advanced form of building energy rating prior to performing building upgrades.

“The Department of Education and Esri Ireland recently won the 'Outstanding Contribution to Planet Earth Through Technology' joint award at the CIO and IT Leaders Awards 2024 for their work that used ArcGIS Survey123 to map and plan out how to install solar at thousands of schools across Ireland,” he said.

Beyond energy, Esri’s technology also contributes to wider efforts to protect the environment. One increasingly newsworthy area is protecting biodiversity, where ArcGIS has been deployed in the area of biodiversity to map the prevalence and distribution of species, as well as to map Natura 2000 sites and to patrol national parks.

“For example [Esri’s software is used] by local farmers, researchers, and advisers who are working together to develop a programme to ensure long-term coexistence of farming and freshwater-pearl mussels in eight priority catchment areas in the west of Ireland,” Doyle said. “Our customers’ projects in the ecological arena are likely to be major exemplars of how Ireland can address the requirements of the Nature Restoration Law, recently passed by the EU.

“As a certified carbon positive company, Esri Ireland continues to work with the SME Climate Hub, Go Carbon Neutral, Techies Go Green and Carbon Footprint to help us assess, monitor, reduce and offset our carbon footprint every year. We’re also making a real difference with our core mission of developing and implementing our ArcGIS software to benefit our customers in their sustainability efforts,” Doyle said.

The proof is in how Esri’s technology is now leading decision-making around sustainability.

“We have worked hand in glove with the UN, Tailte Éireann (formerly OSi) and the CSO to create Ireland's Sustainable Development Goals Hub to monitor progress against our commitments to the UN sustainable development goals,” Doyle said.