Visualizing the US Electric Grid

Did you catch the NPR story about the US electric grid? NPR created some interesting online content to accompany the story – check it out:

NPR’s Visualizing the US Grid.

Some details that stand out:

Less coal. Large sections of the US are powered by less than 30% coal. In other words, many populous and energy hungry states have proven that coal is not as essential for economic growth as coal politics might lead you to think.

Nuclear states. Vermont (71%) and South Carolina (52%) are the only two states with over 50% nuclear.

Gas states. Top 5 Gas states: Alaska (57%), Texas (49%), California (47%), Louisiana (47%), Nevada (47%).

Hydro states. Hydro is dominant in the Pacific Northwest; second only to coal in Montana.

Oil states. 79% of Hawaii’s electricity is generated with oil. Florida (17%) and New York (16%) also use oil. Otherwise the national average is 1% or less of each state’s grid portfolio.

Solar states. Advances in solar technology are making PV a more viable option across the country, even in states with relatively low average irradiance. Impressive the degree to which high insolation states (Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico) dominate the solar map (compare: 2004 solar radiation map).

Wind technology. Wind speed capacity map suggests that we should look forward to a hugely disruptive design breakthrough in wind generating technology. Perhaps it’ll be a variation on the high altitude approach?

Distributed generation. Are the states without any massive scale generation facilities better prepared to transition their grid in the direction of more distributed generation? Do they have a technological advantage in terms of managing a major increase in productive nodes?