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We're going to create an extension within ArcMap that uses python to process information within a shapefile that the user drags into a toolbox. The program is supposed to determine as final output the best routes for laying collector cables.

The model will need to account for, among other things, road allowances, properties signed onto the project, the maximum number of Wind Turbines per electrical circuit, environmental features, cost for running x number of collector cable circuits overhead, cost for running x number of collector cable circuits underground etc

It's a pain because i've got to learn a new language from scratch. Anyway, i understand that such models exist already and i was wondering if someone could shoot me off in the right direction by pointing one or more out and possibly any other useful resources as well.

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

It sounds like you are looking for something like a least cost path analysis. These analyses take in multiple inputs which are weighted and combined to create a cost raster, then, given a start and end point, the path of least 'cost' is calculated (cost can be virtually anything: a dollar amount, energy exertion/consumption, probability of human contact, etc). You could design a model that creates your cost raster based on your knowledge of the subject and the different variables involved assuming you have data associated with them.

This could easily be implemented into a model as opposed to a python script, so don't feel like you have to learn python to accomplish this.

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