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[Slideshow] Powering New York

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[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%.

Use and share this presentation

Feel free to use or share this presentation by either:

  • Using the embed code on the slideshow
  • Saving the images and using them directly. Here’s a dump of all images used in a zip..
  • Sharing and/or linking directly to this page

If you use this, it is appreciated if you can give attribution credit back to Visual Capitalist

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Energy

Soaking up the Sun: Visualizing the Changing Patterns of Daylight in One Year

The length of your days can change depending on the seasons, and where you are on Earth. Watch how these patterns unfold over a year.

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The darkest days are upon the residents of the Northern Hemisphere as daylight dwindles and the night lingers longer. Meanwhile, those in the Southern Hemisphere bask in their warmest and longest days—and those at the Equator continue to observe consistent days and nights.

These changing lengths of days and nights depend on where you are on Earth and the time of year. The tilt of the Earth’s axis and its path around the sun affect the number of daylight hours.

Today’s post highlights two simple and elegant animations that help demonstrate how different latitudes experience the sun’s light over the course of one year. The first comes from Reddit user harplass, while the second comes from data scientist Neil Kaye.

Longer and Shorter Days

The Ancient Greeks envisioned the movement of the sun as a Titan named Helios who rode across the sky in a horse-drawn chariot, illuminating the known world below. A rosy-fingered dawn would herald his imminent arrival, while the arrival of the dusk god Astraeus, ever on Helios’ heels, marked the passage of day into night.

Today, time is not at the whims of Greek mythology but by the measurable and consistent movement of celestial bodies. A day on Earth is 24 hours long, but not every day has 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of night. The actual time of one Earth rotation is a little shorter–about 23 hours and 56 minutes.

Daytime is shorter in winter than in summer, for each hemisphere. This is because the Earth’s imaginary axis isn’t straight up and down, it is tilted 23.5 degrees. The Earth’s movement around this axis causes the change between day and night.

During summer in the Northern Hemisphere, daylight hours increase the farther north you go. The Arctic gets very little darkness at night. The seasonal changes in daylight hours are small near the Equator and more extreme close to the poles.

Length of a Rotation: Equinoxes and Solstices

There are four events that mark the passing stages of the sun, equinoxes and solstices.

The two solstices happen June 20 or 21 and December 21 or 22. These are the days when the sun’s path in the sky is the farthest north or south from the Equator. A hemisphere’s winter solstice is the shortest day of the year and the summer solstice the year’s longest.

Equinoxes and Solstices

In the Northern Hemisphere the June solstice marks the start of summer: this is when the North Pole is tilted closest to the sun, and the sun’s rays are directly overhead at the Tropic of Cancer.

The December solstice marks the start of winter when the South Pole is tilted closest to the sun, and the sun’s rays are directly overhead the Tropic of Capricorn.

The equinoxes happen around March 21 and September 23. These are the days when the sun is exactly above the Equator, which makes day and night of equal length.

Stand in the Place Where You Are

It is always darkest before the dawn, and every passing of solstice marks a time of change. As the Northern Hemisphere heads into the winter holiday season, it also marks the advent of longer days and the inevitable spring and summer.

The lengths of days and nights are constantly changing, but every one will get their time in the sun, at some point.

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Mapped: The 1.2 Billion People Without Access to Electricity

A surprising number of people around the world are still living without access to reliable electricity. This map shows where they live.

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global electricity access map

For anyone reading this article, the benefits of electricity need not be explained.

Access to electricity is now an afterthought in most parts of the world, so it may come as a surprise to learn that 16% of the world’s population — an estimated 1.2 billion people — are still living without this basic necessity. Lack of access to electricity, or “energy poverty”, is the ultimate economic hindrance as it prevents people from participating in the modern economy.

Where are people still living in the dark, and how are these energy challenges being addressed? Let’s dive in.

Where the Grid Reaches, and Beyond

At this point in time, a majority of countries have 100% electricity access rates, and many more have rates above 95%. This includes most of the world’s high-population countries, such as China, Brazil, and the United States.

India is fast approaching that benchmark for access. The massive country has made great strides in a short amount of time, jumping from a 70% to 93% access rate in a single decade.

Meanwhile, North Korea is an obvious outlier in East Asia. The Hermit Kingdom’s lack of electrification isn’t just conspicuous in the data — it’s even visible from space. The border between the two Koreas is clearly visible where the dark expanse of North Korea runs up against the glow of South Korea’s urban areas.

It’s been estimated that more than half of North Korea’s people are living in energy poverty.

Africa’s Access to Electricity

In 1995, a mere 20% of sub-Saharan Africa’s population had access to power. While today’s figure is above 40%, that still means roughly 600 million people in the region are living without access to electricity.

Not surprisingly, energy poverty disproportionately impacts rural Africans. Nearly all of the countries with the lowest levels of electricity access have rural-majority populations:

Global RankCountryElectricity AccessRural Population
#197🇧🇮 Burundi9%87%
#196🇹🇩 Chad11%77%
#195🇲🇼 Malawi13%83%
#194🇨🇩 D.R.C.19%56%
#193🇳🇪 Niger20%84%
#192🇱🇷 Liberia21%49%
#191🇺🇬 Uganda22%77%
#190🇸🇱 Sierra Leone23%58%
#189🇲🇬 Madagascar24%63%
#188🇧🇫 Burkina Faso25%71%

Nonexistent and unreliable electricity isn’t just an issue confined to rural Africa. Even Nigeria — Africa’s largest economy — has an electrification rate of just 54%.

Where there is an electrical grid, instability is also causing problems. A recent survey found that a majority of Nigerian tech firms face 30 or more power outages per month, and more than half ranked electricity as a “major” or “severe” constraint to doing business.

This is pattern that is repeated in a number of countries in Africa:

reliability of electricity africa

Mini-Grids, Big Impact

It has taken an average of 25 years for countries to move from 20% to 80% access, so history suggests that it may be a number of years before sub-Saharan Africa fully catches up with other parts of the world. That said, Vietnam was able to close that gap in only nine years.

Traditional utility companies continue to make inroads in the region, but it might be a smaller-scale solution that brings electricity to people in harder-to-reach rural villages.

Between 2009 and 2015, solar PV module prices fell by 80%, ushering in a new era of affordability. Solar powered mini-grids don’t just have the potential to bring electricity to new markets, it can also replace the diesel-powered generators commonly used in Africa.

For the 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa who are still unable to fully participate in the modern world, these innovations can’t come soon enough.

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