[Slideshow] Powering New York
Imagine that overnight all power infrastructure in New York were to disappear. Then, starting from scratch, we could build anything we wanted: a giant solar array that stretches to the horizon, the world’s biggest windfarm, or a mega nuclear facility.
What would it take to power the Big Apple for a year with each individual energy source?
We’ve crunched the numbers for oil, natural gas, liquefied natural gas, solar, wind, and hydro. Then, we visualized what is needed for each to be hypothetically feasible as the city’s only source of energy. (Note: we’ve included some notes on our calculations at the bottom of this page.)
The results are quite mind boggling. For example, to facilitate New York City’s average power needs, you would need 12.8 km² of solar panels, enough to cover a good chunk of New Jersey. The average distance one can see into the horizon is 5km, which means that one would be able to see solar panels as far as the eye can see.
Another interesting example: powering New York City with hydroelectric based on average power needs would mean 14 Hoover Dams, each which produce about 4.2 billion kWh per year in energy. Using wind power, about half of Long Island would need to be converted into the world’s biggest wind farm to power New York City. That’s exponentially bigger than the current biggest wind farm in the United States, which is in the Tehachapi-Mojave region in California and has a nameplate capacity of 1,320 MW.
Quick notes on calculations
This presentation is for visualization purposes, and isn’t fully realistic on a technical basis because in reality, the supply and demand of energy is not constant. The city’s power needs fluctuate during base and peak load times. In terms of supply, the wind is not always blowing and the sun isn’t always shining. We based our numbers off of average electricity consumption, assuming that energy can be banked in times of surplus and used during times of deficiency.
We used some assumptions for the efficiency as well. For example, that a power plant burning oil has an efficiency of 533 kWh per barrel, or that our wind farm uses 1.5 MW turbines that have a capacity factor of 25%.
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Map: The Countries With the Most Oil Reserves
See the countries with the most oil reserves on this map, which resizes each country based on how many barrels of oil are contained in its borders.
Map: The Countries With the Most Oil Reserves
There’s little doubt that renewable energy sources will play a strategic role in powering the global economy of the future.
But for now, crude oil is still the undisputed heavyweight champion of the energy world.
In 2018, we consumed more oil than any prior year in history – about 99.3 million barrels per day on a global basis. This number is projected to rise again in 2019 to 100.8 million barrels per day.
The Most Oil Reserves by Country
Given that oil will continue to be dominant in the energy mix for the short and medium term, which countries hold the most oil reserves?
Today’s map comes from HowMuch.net and it uses data from the CIA World Factbook to resize countries based on the amount of oil reserves they hold.
Here’s the data for the top 15 countries below:
|Rank||Country||Oil Reserves (Barrels)|
|#1||🇻🇪 Venezuela||300.9 billion|
|#2||🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia||266.5 billion|
|#3||🇨🇦 Canada||169.7 billion|
|#4||🇮🇷 Iran||158.4 billion|
|#5||🇮🇶 Iraq||142.5 billion|
|#6||🇰🇼 Kuwait||101.5 billion|
|#7||🇦🇪 United Arab Emirates||97.8 billion|
|#8||🇷🇺 Russia||80.0 billion|
|#9||🇱🇾 Libya||48.4 billion|
|#10||🇳🇬 Nigeria||37.1 billion|
|#11||🇺🇸 United States||36.5 billion|
|#12||🇰🇿 Kazakhstan||30.0 billion|
|#13||🇨🇳 China||25.6 billion|
|#14||🇶🇦 Qatar||25.2 billion|
|#15||🇧🇷 Brazil||12.7 billion|
Venezuela tops the list with 300.9 billion barrels of oil in reserve – but even this vast wealth in natural resources has not been enough to save the country from its recent economic and humanitarian crisis.
Saudi Arabia, a country known for its oil dominance, takes the #2 spot with 266.5 billion barrels of oil. Meanwhile, Canada and the U.S. are found at the #3 (169.7 billion bbls) and the #11 (36.5 billion bbls) spots respectively.
The Cost of Production
While having an endowment of billions of barrels of oil within your borders can be a strategic gift from mother nature, it’s worth mentioning that reserves are just one factor in assessing the potential value of this crucial resource.
In Saudi Arabia, for example, the production cost of oil is roughly $3.00 per barrel, which makes black gold strategic to produce at almost any possible price.
Other countries are not so lucky:
|Country||Production cost (bbl)||Total cost (bbl)*|
|🇬🇧 United Kingdom||$17.36||$44.33|
|🇺🇸 U.S. shale||$5.85||$23.35|
|🇺🇸 U.S. non-shale||$5.15||$20.99|
|🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia||$3.00||$8.98|
Even if a country is blessed with some of the most oil reserves in the world, it may not be able to produce and sell that oil to maximize the potential benefit.
Countries like Canada and Venezuela are hindered by geology – in these places, the majority of oil is extra heavy crude or bitumen (oil sands), and these types of oil are simply more difficult and costly to extract.
In other places, obstacles are are self-imposed. In some countries, like Brazil and the U.S., there are higher taxes on oil production, which raises the total cost per barrel.
Mapped: Every Power Plant in the United States
What sources of power are closest to you, and how has this mix changed over the last 10 years? See every power plant in the U.S. on this handy map.
This Map Shows Every Power Plant in the United States
Every year, the United States generates 4,000 million MWh of electricity from utility-scale sources.
While the majority comes from fossil fuels like natural gas (32.1%) and coal (29.9%), there are also many other minor sources that feed into the grid, ranging from biomass to geothermal.
Do you know where your electricity comes from?
The Big Picture View
Today’s series of maps come from Weber State University, and they use information from the EPA’s eGRID databases to show every utility-scale power plant in the country.
Use the white slider in the middle below to see how things have changed between 2007 and 2016:
The biggest difference between the two maps is the reduced role of coal, which is no longer the most dominant energy source in the country. You can also see many smaller-scale wind and solar dots appear throughout the appropriate regions.
Here’s a similar look at how the energy mix has changed in the United States over the last 70 years:
Up until the 21st century, power almost always came from fossil fuels, nuclear, or hydro sources. More recently, we can see different streams of renewables making a dent in the mix.
Maps by Source
Now let’s look at how these maps look by individual sources to see regional differences more clearly.
Here’s the map only showing fossil fuels.
The two most prominent sources are coal (black) and natural gas (orange), and they combine to make up about 60% of total annual net generation.
Now here’s just nuclear on the map:
Nuclear is pretty uncommon on the western half of the country, but on the Eastern Seaboard and in the Midwest, it is a major power source. All in all, it makes up about 20% of the annual net generation mix.
Finally, a look at renewable energy:
Hydro (dark blue), wind (light blue), solar (yellow), biomass (brown), and geothermal (green) all appear here.
Aside from a few massive hydro installations – such as the Grand Coulee Dam in Washington State (19 million MWh per year) – most renewable installations are on a smaller scale.
Generally speaking, renewable sources are also more dependent on geography. You can’t put geothermal in an area where there is no thermal energy in the ground, or wind where there is mostly calm weather. For this reason, the dispersion of green sources around the country is also quite interesting to look at.
See all of the above, as well as Hawaii and Alaska, in an interactive map here.
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