Analysis of Power Generators in the USA

Ryan Willett
Posted on Sep 5, 2019

Introduction

Ever since the first steam-powered electrical generation station came online in January, 1882 at Holborn Viaduct in London, the progress of civilization has relentlessly marched towards an electrical world. The next major innovation in the electrical grid came with the development of the first public power distribution utility by Thomas Edison and his Edison Illuminating Company, which when switched on in September 4, 1882, provided reliable DC power to 59 customers in the direct vicinity of their generating station on Pearl Street in Lower Manhattan. The span of time from these early beginning until recently has seen the development of a range of technologies capable of extracting, storing, and distributing power from myriad resources to people all over the world. This app serves as a browser and summary report for the geographic distribution and power output of power generation stations throughout the United States of America.

Organization and Links

Specifically, this app is based on the data from the EIA-860M report, released every month by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), which contains data on all generators in the US with greater than 1 megawatt (Mw) nameplate capacity.

App: https://rtwillett.shinyapps.io/powergenerators_shiny/
Githubhttps://github.com/rtwillett/PowerGenerators

The app is organized into 4 tabs: 

  • Introduction
    Provides generation information about power, the source of data and the purpose for this application
  • Power Generator Summary (National)
    The user may select a power generator technology. One map displays a scalable mapping of all inventoried power generators of this type from the report in the USA and a summary of power production (both visual and tabular) in megawatts for this technology in each state. 
  • Power Generator Summary (State)
    The user may select a state and 2 figures summarize the number of generators of each power generation technology as well as the megawatt power output for each technology in that state. Infoboxes also display the largest power company in the state (from the perspective of the number of generators and total power output).
  • Age of Generators by Technology:
    This page displays a box plot of the year of construction for generators of each technology, which provides a general impression of the age of the national inventory of that power generation technology in the USA. 

Power Generator Summary (State)

This page is useful for observing differences in regional investment and development of various power generation technologies. For example, Nevada stands out prominently as a leader of geothermal power in the United States (800 MW). Texas as earned the reputation as a driver of petroleum-based power in the USA, but it produces the most energy from onshore wind turbines (24,000 MW). 

Power Generator Summary (State)

This page enables the user to see how each state is producing its energy. To use the examples from the previous section, although Nevada is a leader of geothermal power, it has far more petroleum liquids and natural gas internal combustion engine generators, and produces most of its power from conventional steam coal generators.

Similarly, despite the observation that Texas produces more wind turbine power than any other state, natural gas is the primary fuel utilized by the Texan power industry. 

Age of Generators by Technology

Tracking the year of construction of power generators offers insight into the lifetime of investment into various power technologies in the USA. Which technology sectors are getting old and which are areas of active development and investment? 

From this view, we are able to determine immediately that there was a very narrow period of nuclear reactor construction in the country  (1970s-1980s), famously stopping after the accidents at the Three Mile Island and Chernobl reactor stations. The technology sectors with the most new constructions recently are solar thermal (with and without energy storage), solar photovoltaic, wind turbines, and coal integrated gasification combined cycle. 

About Author

Ryan Willett

Ryan Willett

Ryan completed the NYCDSA program in June 2019. He holds a PhD in Pharmacology and Molecular Signaling from Columbia University, and BS and BA in Biology and Biochemistry, respectively, from Brandeis University. After a postdoctoral research fellowship in...
View all posts by Ryan Willett >

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