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Istituto Scienze della Terra - SUPSI

OSGeo2008 lab

Supporting sustainable development: the GRASS GIS opportunity

Maria Antonia Brovelli, Massimiliano Cannata and Monia Molinari

Development should be sustainable: it should meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. The GRASS GIS, thanks to its powerful modules and flexible environment, can be a valuable tool to provide useful information to decision makers for promoting successful sustainable developing policies.
Two relevant examples will be particularly addressed in this workshop: solar energy and risk analysis.
Energy is becoming one of the most crucial problems. Estimating potential solar energy power can evaluate the suitability and the expected advantages of photovoltaic installations enhancing energy planning policy.
Natural hazards risk assessment is fundamental to investigate the expected damages and fatalities. The results of this analysis are essential to make decisions on which mitigation options have to be applied in environmental management.
In the fist part of the workshop the basic commands and procedures to manage a GRASS GIS project are presented. This part is substantially intended to allow also new GRASS users to profitable attend the specific environmental section.
Then in the second part we will show how to estimate the quantity of potential solar energy that could be produced with solar panels using as input information the territory morphology and the characteristics of building roofs obtainable from LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) Digital Surface Models and Digital Terrain Models. LiDAR is a relative recent airborne technology suitable for producing high resolution models of the bare Earth and of the attached/detached objects (buildings, trees,..). LiDAR products are nowadays increasing their spreading due to the efficiency in collecting such a kind of high accuracy data. In GRASS are available commands to process raw LiDAR data to compute the previously mentioned models. Moreover commands to compute the solar irradiation are available. In the workshop an actual example will be carried out.
The second example that will be presented is the case of risk assessment due to tsunami events: hazard, vulnerability and expected damages maps will be computed for a specific case study area.
We will apply a procedure, already illustrated in the FOSS4G2006 conference, and then improved, that allows the estimation of the maximum vertical height of the tsunami waves hitting the coast (run-up) and the subsequent diffusion over the inland areas, as a function of the morphology, the vegetation, and the urbanization of the coastal area. We will use those results to estimate hazard (where, how often and with what intensity do events occur) due to different return period events, associated exposition (where the elements at risk are located and what is their value) and vulnerability (what is the extent of damage at a given event intensity). Using those information we will be able to assess and map the potential negative impacts (risk map) for a specific due to tsunami hazard for the case study area.


The authors thank Regione Autonoma della Sardegna for having kindly provided the data for this lab.
This lab is born from a collaboration between the Laboratorio di Geomatica of the Politecnico of Milan ( and the Institute of Earth Science (

Politecnico di Milano - Laboratorio di Geomatica

Istituto Scienze della Terra