The electric grid is a hot topic right now, with improved smart grid technologies and alternative power sources coming online every day. It's also massively complex—an aging network of local and regional fiefdoms. But NPR has created a series of five maps that make it easier to understand by enabling you to zoom in on an individual power plant to learn about its primary source of fuel, how much power it generates, and how it's connected to the rest of the system.
The first map shows the entire grid, the second it's primary fuel sources, and the third plots the 5,000 power producing facilities across the country. The fourth is a solar power map that shows the solar capacity of the U.S., as well as a plan to bring solar energy to the grid using high-capacity electric transmission lines. The fifth is a wind power map showing areas with the most potential for wind energy production, and how theoretical high-capacity transmission lines could increase wind power's contribution to the U.S. energy supply. The first grid map ties everything together by showing where major high-capacity electric lines are located, along with proposals for extending transmission lines.
The sources of power map is the most useful depiction of gas, hydroelectric, geothermal, biomass, wind, oil, coal, and solar power use by state that I've seen. Among the eye-opening details to be found: Indiana derives 94% of its energy from coal, while neighboring Kentucky still gets 91% of its power from coal. This map is a reminder of the massive amount of work that remains in our quest to transition to alternative energy.