At a time when many people propose transforming the U.S. energy system, it is useful to understand its scale. The U.S. Energy Infrastructure Visualization project documents all long-lived infrastructure (> 20 years service life) associated with extracting, processing, transporting, and converting energy in the U.S.
The energy system that delivers power to U.S. residents now consists of approximately $10 trillion in long-lived infrastructure, of which over $6 T is exclusive to fossil fuels. This system was built up over the past hundred years and many components are very old. The mean age of U.S. pipelines, for example, is over 30 years.
The project is an effort of the University of Chicago’s Center for Robust Decision-making on Climate and Energy Policy (RDCEP). Its research is documented in Chen et al 2020, “A Physical Inventory of the U.S. Energy System”, which includes documentation on data sources, validation, and comparison to estimates of depreciated value (~50% of replacement value). This paper is currently in preparation for peer review and is available here as a preprint. See also www.rdcep.org for further information. All data are available on request. Note that we show 2012 infrastructure, and values are 2012 replacement costs at 2012 dollars and prices.
- Click items in menu to show a category of energy infrastructure.
- Total replacement cost of all displayed items is shown in header bar.
- Costs for some items not displayed (e.g. foreign oil wells, or electricity distribution) are shown in menu bar for reference.
- Symbol sizes for power plants, refineries, and coal mines are scaled by their capacities.
- “Layers” category in menu allows displaying state boundaries or mean wind speeds.
- Zoom in or out with the mouse or the +/- buttons on the menu; pan with the mouse. Menu and legend can be minimized or moved.
- Click on oil and gas wells, pipelines, and refineries to see the U.S. network for liquid and gaseous fuels. High refinery capacity on the Gulf coast serves both domestic offshore oil and crude oil imports.
- Click on coal mines, coal power plants, and railroads to see the U.S. coal network. Note that many power plants are located near coal mines. Add in high-voltage power lines to see how much of our high-voltage system is designed to serve specific plants.
- Click on wind farms, wind speeds, and high-voltage power lines to understand the siting of wind turbines. U.S. wind turbines are not located in the center of the mid-continent “wind belt” but cluster on its eastern side where they can tap into the existing transmission network.
- Click on solar facilities to understand the factors controlling their siting. Solar facilities cluster in the high-sunshine Southwest but also in locations with high state incentives, including North Carolina, New Jersey, and Massachusetts.
Contributors. This project is led by Liz Moyer, U. Chicago Dept. of the Geophysical Sciences and RDCEP. The research lead is Hsin-Yi Chen, U. Hawaii Dept. of Electrical Engineering. Design and development of the software was led by Nathan Matteson and Benjamin Kleeman, DePaul University College of Computing and Digital Media.
Context. This visualization is part of our larger effort to assess and visualize energy usage and energy history. See also our animation of historical U.S. energy use at us.sankey.rdcep.org. We hope to expand our infrastructure visualization to also show the historical growth of the U.S. energy system.
Contact. Comments, questions, and suggestions are welcome; send to firstname.lastname@example.org. We would especially welcome input from energy and industry experts, from teachers and professors interested in using this resource in the classroom, and from programmers and researchers interested in contributing to this effort.
License. This code will be released at github.com/rdcep in 2021, and will be licensed for public use under the Apache License, Version 2.0.