Sunday, May 3, 2009

Renewable planning map for the USA

One thing I've wanted to do, after the Energy book, is to make an interactive tool that conveys the scale of renewable facilities required to make a difference, and gives the user choices, subject to the "it has to add up" constraint. Here is an NRDC Google map; it's a start - it shows "where renewables have potential" in the USA; but it's not quantitative - it just shows "lowest potential" and "highest potential" on a colour scale, for one renewable at a time. The image above shows the map of Montana for Cellulosic Bioethanol. I suspect the main uses of this map will be (1) wishful thinking [about the 'HUGE' potential of renewables] and (2) NIMBYism [using the argument 'this isn't the best place for it'].
PS - when you drill down into the meaning of the map, the colour scales are given a quantitative meaning, but it's not human friendly and it does not use comparable units. For example the colour code of the Cellulosic map is explained thus:
Each county is color-coded based on total dry tons of cellulosic biomass per year, by county. [12,000; 50,000; 100,000; etc]
If I understand right, they are showing potential per county. That is bizarre. So if there are two identical regions but one happens to be divided into 10 counties and one is a single county, the single-county region will be shown as having big potential and the ten-county region will come out two notches lower.


GHS said...

David - you're almost certainly already well aware of these resources, but the US Dept. of Energy's Renewable Energy Lab has US and global maps of, for example, regions with potential geothermal resources ( and more for solar, wind, etc. (Such as: They may not entirely answer your desire/need for downloadable quantitative info. (which lies behind the graphics) but they are based on solid research data (heat, depth, etc.) Cheers...

Brian O' Hanlon said...

Came across a very good blog today. I was searching for Charlie Gay's solar energy talk, when I noticed a link to the blog exclusively devoted to solar PV I think.


Brian O' Hanlon said...

You can see from the scale of the spaces in the videos here:

how much ground you are likely to require for PV.

Brian O' Hanlon said...

Speaking of maps etc . . . it is well worth seeing this historical account of the London Underground map making.