Mapped: Average Wind Speed Across the U.S.
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Mapped: Average Wind Speed Across the U.S.

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a map of average wind speed across the continental U.S. in 2021

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Mapped: Average Wind Speed Across the U.S.

Wind energy is a hot topic in North America and around the world as a decarbonization tool, but full utilization requires a lot of wind.

This graphic from the team at the Woodwell Climate Research Center maps the average wind speed of the continental U.S. based on NOAA data from 2021.

Zooming in, you can examine North America’s wind regions and patterns in great detail. Clearly visible is the concentration of high wind speeds in the Great Plains (known as the Prairies in Canada), which has the greatest potential for wind power. You can also follow westerly winds traveling through the North American Cordillera of mountains, including the Rocky Mountains and Cascades.

Meanwhile, the Eastern U.S. and Canada have significantly lower average wind speeds, especially in the American South. That’s despite hurricanes with extremely high winds occasionally moving northward along the Eastern Seaboard towards the North Atlantic.

For more on on U.S. energy, head to Visualizing the Flow of U.S. Energy Consumption.
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This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.

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Energy

Visualizing the World’s Largest Hydroelectric Dams

Hydroelectric dams generate 40% of the world’s renewable energy, the largest of any type. View this infographic to learn more.

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Visualizing the World’s Largest Hydroelectric Dams

This was originally posted on Elements. Sign up to the free mailing list to get beautiful visualizations on natural resource megatrends in your email every week.

Did you know that hydroelectricity is the world’s biggest source of renewable energy? According to recent figures from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), it represents 40% of total capacity, ahead of solar (28%) and wind (27%).

This type of energy is generated by hydroelectric power stations, which are essentially large dams that use the water flow to spin a turbine. They can also serve secondary functions such as flow monitoring and flood control.

To help you learn more about hydropower, we’ve visualized the five largest hydroelectric dams in the world, ranked by their maximum output.

Overview of the Data

The following table lists key information about the five dams shown in this graphic, as of 2021. Installed capacity is the maximum amount of power that a plant can generate under full load.

CountryDamRiverInstalled Capacity
(gigawatts)
Dimensions
(meters)
🇨🇳 ChinaThree Gorges DamYangtze River22.5181 x 2,335
🇧🇷 Brazil / 🇵🇾 ParaguayItaipu DamParana River14.0196 x 7,919
🇨🇳 ChinaXiluodu DamJinsha River13.9286 x 700
🇧🇷 BrazilBelo Monte DamXingu River11.290 X 3,545
🇻🇪 VenezuelaGuri DamCaroni River10.2162 x 7,426

At the top of the list is China’s Three Gorges Dam, which opened in 2003. It has an installed capacity of 22.5 gigawatts (GW), which is close to double the second-place Itaipu Dam.

In terms of annual output, the Itaipu Dam actually produces about the same amount of electricity. This is because the Parana River has a low seasonal variance, meaning the flow rate changes very little throughout the year. On the other hand, the Yangtze River has a significant drop in flow for several months of the year.

For a point of comparison, here is the installed capacity of the world’s three largest solar power plants, also as of 2021:

  • Bhadla Solar Park, India: 2.2 GW
  • Hainan Solar Park, China: 2.2 GW
  • Pavagada Solar Park, India: 2.1 GW

Compared to our largest dams, solar plants have a much lower installed capacity. However, in terms of cost (cents per kilowatt-hour), the two are actually quite even.

Closer Look: Three Gorges Dam

The Three Gorges Dam is an engineering marvel, costing over $32 billion to construct. To wrap your head around its massive scale, consider the following facts:

  • The Three Gorges Reservoir (which feeds the dam) contains 39 trillion kg of water (42 billion tons)
  • In terms of area, the reservoir spans 400 square miles (1,045 square km)
  • The mass of this reservoir is large enough to slow the Earth’s rotation by 0.06 microseconds

Of course, any man-made structure this large is bound to have a profound impact on the environment. In a 2010 study, it was found that the dam has triggered over 3,000 earthquakes and landslides since 2003.

The Consequences of Hydroelectric Dams

While hydropower can be cost-effective, there are some legitimate concerns about its long-term sustainability.

For starters, hydroelectric dams require large upstream reservoirs to ensure a consistent supply of water. Flooding new areas of land can disrupt wildlife, degrade water quality, and even cause natural disasters like earthquakes.

Dams can also disrupt the natural flow of rivers. Other studies have found that millions of people living downstream from large dams suffer from food insecurity and flooding.

Whereas the benefits have generally been delivered to urban centers or industrial-scale agricultural developments, river-dependent populations located downstream of dams have experienced a difficult upheaval of their livelihoods.
– Richter, B.D. et al. (2010)

Perhaps the greatest risk to hydropower is climate change itself. For example, due to the rising frequency of droughts, hydroelectric dams in places like California are becoming significantly less economical.

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Energy

The Top 10 EV Battery Manufacturers in 2022

Despite efforts from the U.S. and Europe to increase the domestic production of batteries, the market is still dominated by Asian suppliers.

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The Top 10 EV Battery Manufacturers in 2022

This was originally posted on Elements. Sign up to the free mailing list to get beautiful visualizations on natural resource megatrends in your email every week.

The global electric vehicle (EV) battery market is expected to grow from $17 billion to more than $95 billion between 2019 and 2028.

With increasing demand to decarbonize the transportation sector, companies producing the batteries that power EVs have seen substantial momentum.

Here we update our previous graphic of the top 10 EV battery manufacturers, bringing you the world’s biggest battery manufacturers in 2022.

Chinese Dominance

Despite efforts from the United States and Europe to increase the domestic production of batteries, the market is still dominated by Asian suppliers.

The top 10 producers are all Asian companies.

Currently, Chinese companies make up 56% of the EV battery market, followed by Korean companies (26%) and Japanese manufacturers (10%).

The leading battery supplier, CATL, expanded its market share from 32% in 2021 to 34% in 2022. One-third of the world’s EV batteries come from the Chinese company. CATL provides lithium-ion batteries to Tesla, Peugeot, Hyundai, Honda, BMW, Toyota, Volkswagen, and Volvo.

RankCompany2022 Market ShareCountry
#1CATL34%China 🇨🇳
#2LG Energy Solution14%Korea 🇰🇷
#3BYD12%China 🇨🇳
#4Panasonic10%Japan 🇯🇵
#5SK On7%Korea 🇰🇷
#6Samsung SDI5%Korea 🇰🇷
#7CALB4%China 🇨🇳
#8Guoxuan3%China 🇨🇳
#9Sunwoda2%China 🇨🇳
#10SVOLT1%China 🇨🇳
Other8%ROW 🌐

Despite facing strict scrutiny after EV battery-fire recalls in the United States, LG Energy Solution remains the second-biggest battery manufacturer. In 2021, the South Korean supplier agreed to reimburse General Motors $1.9 billion to cover the 143,000 Chevy Bolt EVs recalled due to fire risks from faulty batteries.

BYD took the third spot from Panasonic as it nearly doubled its market share over the last year. The Warren Buffett-backed company is the world’s third-largest automaker by market cap, but it also produces batteries sold in markets around the world. Recent sales figures point to BYD overtaking LG Energy Solution in market share the coming months or years.

The Age of Battery Power

Electric vehicles are here to stay, while internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles are set to fade away in the coming decades. Recently, General Motors announced that it aims to stop selling ICE vehicles by 2035, while Audi plans to stop producing such models by 2033.

Besides EVs, battery technology is essential for the energy transition, providing storage capacity for intermittent solar and wind generation.

As battery makers work to supply the EV transition’s increasing demand and improve energy density in their products, we can expect more interesting developments within this industry.

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