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America's Electrical Grid, Present and Future

NPR just released an extremely good interactive map that shows how America makes and moves electricity. You can see what our current electrical...

NPR just released an extremely good interactive map that shows how America makes and moves electricity. You can see what our current electrical grid looks like, where there's solar and wind power to harvest, a breakdown of each state's power sources, and various proposed improvements to the grid.


It's fascinating to see where states currently get their power (the Pacific Northwest relies heavily on hydroelectric; hippie Vermont gets 71 percent of its power from nuclear). Then looking at the available solar and wind resources, you can begin to see how entire areas of the nation could start to switch to renewable energy. And with the right transmission grid, of course, that clean energy could be distributed across the nation.But getting the grid up to snuff is expensive. As NPR reports "The stimulus bill signed in February includes $11 billion for improvements. But that's just a drop in the bucket. It will take hundreds of billions more (total estimates are impossible to find), years of work, and new technologies to turn the current grid into the smart grid of the future."That's not the only problem, though. Building lots of new power lines creates local political battles all over the country about their aesthetics and health impacts. There's not a federal body that handles the planning so new lines would have to be cleared in many different jurisdictions. It could be very slow going.See the NPR interactive piece here. For more on the subject from GOOD, see Ben Jervey's column on the need for a smart grid.Via PSFK.