North Carolina Switchgrass Site Selection Database

The North Carolina Site Selection Database (SSD) is a database of GIS and economic data developed to aid in locating optimal sites for biorefineries in the North Carolina Central Piedmont. The analysis focuses on minimizing costs for the production component of the switchgrass biomass industry. The transportation cost of shipping raw switchgrass to refineries is one of the largest components of total biomass production cost. As a result, the locations of potential switchgrass stands and their distances to potential refinery sites play an integral role in predicting ideal refinery sites.

Though the SSD was originally designed for siting switchgrass refineries, the methodology created also applies to siting pelleting plants or other industries. The approach is replicable for other regions and relies only on publicly available information. With sufficient data, the approach can be transferred easily to other regions for conducting refinery or pelleting plant feasibility analyses. The SSD serves as a broad example of the potential of predicting market optimalities by utilizing economic theory and GIS data.


Study Area

The region considered for refinery placement was the Central Piedmont of North Carolina, consisting of the following counties: Alamance, Chatham, Davidson, Davie, Iredell, Lee, Montgomery, Moore, Randolph, and Rowan.  The region considered for potential switchgrass included 37 of the 39 counties within 50 miles of the Central Piedmont counties. To model the proximity of potential switchgrass growing sites, parcel, land cover, land use, and soil data was obtained and analyzed for the central piedmont counties and those within 50 miles of its boundary.

Database Development and User Guide

This PDF contains the full Development and User Guide for the North Carolina Site Selection Database (SSD).



Sample Maps

This PDF file contains a set of maps showing the acres of Hay within 5, 10, 20, 30, 40, and 50 miles of each Refinery Candidate.  It is meant to serve as a sample of the types of maps that could be created.

NLCD Hay within X Miles Map Set.pdf


Data Files

The data files of results produced are broken into two main sets, one containing the Parcel Information Databases and the other containing the Refinery Candidates Buffer Statistics Databases.  Each set contains a database for each of the 10 Central Piedmont counties. Click here to learn more.