visualizing the grid

April 30, 2009 — 4 Comments

NPR has posted a great visualization of the US power grid. It shows the transmission grid, the mix of power sources in each state, locations of power stations and the densities of solar and wind power across the country. It makes the complexity of the power system and the challenge of replacing carbon based sources all too clear.

Tim Brown


4 responses to visualizing the grid

  1. When you remove the proposed grid and see what a patchwork the existing grid currently is, it becomes obvious that electrical power should become a continental if not a global grid.

    R. Buckminster Fuller in his book critical path proposed a grid that could span the globe and distribute power based on the day night cycle.

    We should be thinking about power on a global scale in this day and age not simply on a national scale. If we did it would help us to shed inefficient energy systems and buy us time to switch to increasingly efficient sources.

  2. Mmm.. When you think about the idea of mains powered electric cars: In a lot of those states where they’re >75% coal, you’d be driving an inefficient coal-fired car.

  3. The reality is that we have 3 separate grids that need to be “smarter” and moderninzed first. Before we go global or even national, we need to use a good chunk of federal stimulus money set aside for energy to improve capacity between the NW and Calif and in other areas where power exchange is widely used and where the grid is most in need of repair.

    Then we can move on to improving industrial and commercial usage through demand side improvements and energy efficiency.

    After that we move on to “smart” appliances and other ways to reduce residential consumption.

    While we do this, we work to build more wind and solar capacity (if one set of enviros and NIMBYs would stop whining about wind turbines in their view).

  4. Well said Grant.

    The moment I saw the map I saw it as a ‘narrower’ version of Fuller’s project, which by the way, it still an ongoing effort.

    Check out the Global Energy Network Institute ( website:

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