Interactive Maps Featuring Energy Generation Capacity and Renewable Projects Track Growing Progress of Industry in the U.S.

Interactive Maps Featuring Energy Generation Capacity and Renewable Projects Track Growing Progress of Industry in the U.S.

As energy generation shifts progressively towards more sustainable options, comparing historical performance, current status, and expected progress can shed light on which regions perform better than others, and which would benefit from further development.

A variety of industries and communities are impacted by shifting supply and demand of fuel sources. Team Gemini has previously highlighted improving baseline costs of renewables, as well as future prospects of fossil fuels. These have contributed to a rising rate of installing renewable energy facilities like solar and wind around the country [and world].

On the energy-use side, information about the lifecycle of U.S. energy generation provides perspective on how resources are supplied and used in different sectors, and where better efficiencies can still be implemented. And while many communities are developing their own resilience for energy and other resources, and reaping the many benefits of doing so, it will still take time before renewables surpass all other sources of energy.

Team Gemini offers possibilities using multiple sustainability technologies to provide full-fledged energy independence, along with numerous options for food and related resource production. There are many benefits that come into effect for this kind of approach, as can be highlighted by microgrids in remote regions, and ways in which combinations of technologies can solve multiple problems together.

The United States is seeing a transition of numerous energy sources—from declining coal and oil, stagnating nuclear, to a dominant display of natural gas and improving presence of renewables.

As hundreds of old coal and oil units have retired, wind and solar technologies have come of age and thousands of sites have sprung up across the country. Yet coal, along with an expanding gas fleet, still supplies most of the country’s electricity.

[W]ind and solar saw unprecedented expansion, adding more than 3,000 units and growing net capacity seven-fold to 122GW, thus eclipsing nuclear, hydro and oil.

Total electricity output peaked in 2007 at 4,165 terawatt hours (TWh), before dipping after the financial crisis. It has remained below this 2007 peak, despite economic growth and a rising population, thanks in large part to improvements in energy efficiency.

Like capacity, the electricity generation mix has also changed dramatically over the past 10 years. Coal generation peaked in 2007 before plummeting 38% in a decade. It was replaced by gas as the US’s top source of electricity for the first time ever in 2016.

Meanwhile, wind and solar have overtaken hydro as the fourth-largest source of electricity in the US, generating nearly four times as much as they did a decade earlier. Nuclear has held steady and still generates slightly more electricity than all renewables combined.

Energy efficiency, coal-to-gas switching and renewables together explain three-quarters of the 14% decline in overall US CO2 emissions since 2005, according to previous analysis by Carbon Brief. Though electricity generation accounts for less than a third of total US emissions, there have been minimal CO2 reductions in other sectors such as heat and transport.

This analysis also showed that electricity sector CO2 emissions in 2016 were 46% lower than they would have been, had patterns of power consumption per capita and the fuel mix stayed the same.

As a growing number of examples show, the pros of sustainability infrastructure and improving resource efficiency ultimately outweigh the cons. Energy resources for communities are manifold, and include utilities like electricity, thermal energy, and water. Specific to Team Gemini’s offerings in supplying these resources, team members like 2G Energy (combined heat and power), Viessmann (thermal energy et al), ABB (resource management and monitoring), and A3 (wastewater treatment and conservation) contribute solutions.

Beyond these, sustainable agriculture also plays an important role in sustainable communities, as food resources are critical for survival. These companies, among others, provide outstanding technology and service options to fulfill a variety of energy efficiency needs for countless industries.

Where are Sustainability Projects Being Built?

Throughout the country, many new facilities are being planned and built in the renewables sector. While numerous sites are identified in the above map, another model that serves as an evolving repository of information is the Community Power Map. Moreover, it also highlights a number of factors related to policy landscapes.

The map provides markers to show local activity and layers to highlight state policies. The markers include:

  • Local Community Renewable Energy Projects, mostly community solar and community wind.
  • Community Groups that are helping take charge of their community’s energy future.
  • 100% Renewable commitments by cities, either for electricity for municipal use (small markers) or on behalf of the entire city (large markers).
  • Utility (Feed-in) Tariffs that allow small power producers a simplified path to selling energy from new, distributed renewable energy projects into the electric system.

The map also includes layers, including:

  • The State Community Power (CP) Score, a value assigned each state based on its policies supporting local energy action.
  • Net Metering policies, including those that allow customers to aggregate their energy use across multiple buildings or generate energy off-site.
  • Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing that allows communities to set up repayment programs for energy efficiency and renewable energy through the property tax system.
  • Community Choice Aggregation laws allowing cities to choose their energy suppliers on behalf of all residential and small commercial customers.
  • State (Feed-In) Tariffs that allow small power producers a simplified path to selling energy from new, distributed renewable energy projects into the electric system.
  • Residential Energy Building Codes that allow cities to set higher standards than the state, or give cities the ultimate authority.
  • State Renewable Portfolio Standard Carve-Outs for solar or distributed renewable energy that require utility companies to purchase renewable electricity specifically from small-scale sources.

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For the original articles featured in this post, you can check out the Carbon Brief and Community Power Map pages.