A View of U.S. Electricity, by NPR

I just discovered a map created by NPR in April called Visualizing the U.S. Electric Grid and I think it’s the coolest thing I’ve seen, maybe ever. There’s a few things I’d do differently (scaling of power plant dots, etc.) but it does a far better job of presenting a ton of data than almost anything else I’ve seen (and I just read The Visual Display of Quantitative Information — which was good, but not as creative as I’d hoped).

It’s highly relevant to what I’ll be doing over the next few years and to probably 30% of my conversations with people these days — energy policy. I think everyone would benefit from staring at its many views for 20 minutes. Especially people who think wind and solar (or hydro!) will save us sometime soon.

I wish I’d built it.

4 Responses to “A View of U.S. Electricity, by NPR”

  1. Tyler King Says:

    So I’m pretty clueless regarding this whole energy thing. Since you’re becoming the expert, I expect a post summarizing everything you want people like me to know.

  2. Tom Says:

    TK: my first reaction to your comment was, “Sure! What do you want to know?” Then I realized that you had already told me: “everything you want people like me to know.”

    Consider the above post my first attempt, and I’ll post more if I come up with something that seems like it’d be interesting to more people than me (i.e. my 3 readers). I think “overhyped trends in clean energy” could be one…

  3. Bracken King Says:

    I’m late to the party here, it would appear, but I’ll ask what is likely a very dumb question: Isn’t just about every “renewable” energy source essentially solar driven? If not, what am I not thinking of; if so, what is the advantage of filtering the raw solar energy through more processing (and presumably lossy) steps? Regardless, this will all be moot whenever I finish my reverse-entropy machine.

  4. Tom Says:

    Dang that might the most interesting comment ever on my blog. Mostly yes — it’s all solar-driven except geothermal and, theoretically, fusion. Converting solar energy into wind is lossy (physically), but the conversion is free and abundant (economically). So while solar is always physically more efficient than wind, that doesn’t always to translate to economic efficiency, which is how people decide what type of plant to build (well, that and politics/regulation).

    There’s enough of both sunshine and sunshine-turned-to-wind energy out there for us to capture a lot without having much impact on the environment (we won’t stop the wind or cool down the earth’s surface). But there are also issues of local availability (some places aren’t sunny) that impact the economics. Transmitting power is pretty efficient but new power lines cost a whole lot up-front (and it’s ridiculously hard to obtain new rights-of-way in developed countries).

    Let me know right before you finish that machine, I’ll buy you some pizza or something in exchange for co-authorship.