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Big Picture

Page history last edited by Soren 11 years, 2 months ago Saved with comment

The Big Picture

(cf. Right Now, e.g. CA ISO)



(-html; Petroleum-html; Natural Gas-html; Coal-html; Electricity-html -- check the conversion losses!)



U.S. Energy Information Administration

The EIA is the standard source of aggregate energy consumption information for the United States. In addition to basic pie charts (parent) and awesome diagrams, they have good historical information and lots of interesting details (2005 update?). The EIA is mostly focussed on totals and averages, but these totals put everything into perspective and the averages help us gauge the utility of our projects.


Sustainable Energy, Without the Hot Air (see also Books) offers a ton of interesting graphs ... 

"Ecotechnia" takes a high-level look at energy consumption in a theoretically-renewable/efficient world.

A pessimistic outlook on getting to the ~12GW needed to power such a world (via 6% growth of current renewables).


State Energy Profiles

should help us figure out how much energy costs in various places and perhaps whether many states have scaled pricing, etc. This fuel mix map highlights the differences generation in different states, from CA's 1% coal (10%+ non-hydro "other") to OR and WA's 70%+ hrdro -- HOWEVER, do not confuse (as I did for a while) generation with consumption; the highly populous west coast states buy lots(?) of coal-fired electricity from their mountain-state neighbors.  Even The Economist made this mistake (see alert comment at Nov 12th 2009 9:00 GMT).


We need to analyze how much each state generates vs. how much it consumes to get an idea of where it comes from. Some (many?) utilities offer a breakdown of their sources, but I'm not sure there is good per-state data on how the power consumed there is generated. For personal purposes, knowing the fuel mix for your utility is often enough.  PG&E's 2007 fuel mix suggests that many northern California residents are not getting a lot of coal-fired electricity (the footnote even explains "direct purchases" are at 1.6%).


Misc EIA


On household appliances

  • 2005 Household Electricity Report (summary of following link?)
    • 2001 fridge consumption: 1,239 kWh unit average; 1,462 kWh household average
    • 61 million electric dryers; 17 million gas
  • Appliances in U.S. Households (selected years)
    • suggests they do household surveys every four years
    • 2001: 57% of households have electric dryers; ~17% have gas (how are multi-family shared dryers counted?)
    • since 1997: 99% of households have had a color TV; since 1990: 99% some sort of TV; 1980: 98% some sort
    • meanwhile, we're up to 17% with two fridges or more (14% in 1980)
  • 2001 summary of electricity use by appliance per household:
    • "No single appliance dominated the use of electricity. Refrigerators consumed the most electricity (14 percent of total electricity use for all purposes), followed by lighting (9 percent), clothes dryers (6 percent), freezers (3 percent), and color TV’s (3 percent); [...]"
    • "The largest use of electricity in the average U.S. household was for appliances (including refrigerators and lights), which consume approximately two thirds of all the electricity used in the residential sector (Figure 1, Table 2);
    • "Air-conditioning accounted for an estimated 16 percent, space heating 10 percent, and water heating 9 percent;
  • The U.S. uses 66 billion kWh per year to dry clothes (Xinh)


Annual Energy Review 2010

The annual energy review is exciting to me (Soren) because I read a book from the library based on said information ... written in the 90's, it talked about cheap oil from the recession causing no one to be interested in better/cleaner technologies. Things have changed a bit, though the kids plastics site says it was only recently (2005 Hurricane season) that "virgin resin" became more expensive than recycled plastic. I have also been trying to understand better why so much energy (66-75%) is lost when generating electricity. That book (and many web sites since have) alluded to the issue due to "laws of thermodynamics" and I am curious. "co-generation" seems to be the art of making use of the excess heat.




The Rocky Mountain Institute

RMI is full of huge-picture plans. One of their co-founders spoke on NPR and was one of the first Data Points links. They are focussed on making better use of resources and on encouraging businesses to take advantage of "natural capitalism." Doomsday types (like some of the posters at theoildrum.com) don't believe the efficiency gains can continue as far as RMI thinks they will. RMI's founder, Amory Lovins is linked to green.yahoo under "ENVIRONMENT VS. ECONOMY: do we have to make a choice." :)




Misc Infographics


Big-picture issues

  • Water vs. Power Generation (CSM) hints at what's happening to that that excess heat energy: it's going up in steam (and/or dirty water).  Many opportunities
  • Water 
  • Pickens looks clearly at the economics / security of America's oil consumption and then proposes converting a significant fraction of the vehicle fleet to natural gas. Wind power would make up the difference in his plan. The connection is a bit weak, but building more wind generation is a good idea.
  • Could we scale wind production (TOD) to 50+% of the United States need for Electricity: at least one guy thinks so ... good numbers on total capacity (power)vs generation (energy).
  • Wind power costs are are almost entirely financing costs (TOD) which has various interesting implications. One is that that wind farms can go out of business easily if they can't produce enough cash to service their debts (but those cash-producing businesses still have plenty of value :).  The other is that however wind significantly decreases the "peak" prices whenever it is present.

Comments (1)

Jonah said

at 2:09 pm on Apr 23, 2009

It seems that a spanish company will start building a 200 MW concentrated solar plant in Arizona, which can hold heat overnight in vats to continue to generate power 24/7. They apparently use molten salt!


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