Mapping Every Power Plant in the United States
The Washington Post has put together an extraordinary data visualization that shows how the United States has generated its electricity so far this year. Using data from the Energy Information Administration, they have mapped every power source and categorized it by type and size.
Related Topic: What it Takes to Power New York (Slideshow)
I will recap the most interesting parts of their project here, but we highly recommend that you visit their online interactive version of this visualization to get the most out of their work.
Plant Capacity by Megawatt
This above visualization is a little overwhelming, as it includes every power source in America. However, later on we will show various visualizations by power type, which make it easier to make sense of.
Power Generated by Source: Coal
Data visualized like this shows there is still a large reliance on specific energy types such as coal, hydro, and nuclear. For example, 28 states still rely on coal in 2015 to produce at least 25% of their electricity.
Meanwhile, the following chart on solar shows how far photovoltaics still have to go to make a significant impact in the overall energy mix.
Power Generated by Source: Solar
While community solar farms are starting to take off in the United States, solar technology as a whole still does not provide substantial amounts of electricity. It is clear that California is the leader in solar capacity, but it actually only accounts for 8% of total electricity generation in the state.
Coal Power Map
The United States has 511 coal-fired power plants that generate 34% of the nation’s electricity. Coal produces the majority of energy in 14 sates.
Natural Gas Power Map
The United States has 1,740 natural gas power plants that generate 30% of the nation’s electricity. Natural gas is the most important source of power in 15 states.
Nuclear Power Map
The United States has 99 nuclear reactors that generate 20% of the nation’s electricity. 20 states get no power from nuclear at all.
Hydro Power Map
The United States has 1,436 hydroelectric dams that generate 7% of the nation’s electricity. The Grand Coulee Dam in Washington State has 6,809 MW of installed capacity, making it the largest contributor in nameplate capacity in the country. (However, as Forbes notes, actual electricity generated depends on capacity factor.)
Wind Power Map
The United States has 843 wind power plants that generate 5% of the nation’s electricity. The best source for wind is in the Great Plains, where it blows very reliably. Around 2010, China leapfrogged the USA with parabolic wind power growth.
Solar Power Map
The United States has 722 solar power plants that generate 1% of the nation’s electricity. 39 states have no solar plants.
Oil Power Map
The United States has 1,098 oil-fired power plants that generate 1% of the nation’s electricity. America is shaking off its addiction to oil and no longer relies on it for generating electricity because of price swings. Hawaii is the only state to get the majority of its energy from oil.