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Launch of New Online Power Almanac of the American Midwest

This post was written by Nicholas Bianco, Senior Associate, WRI, and Rolf Nordstrom, Executive Director, Great Plains Institute

We are launching a new online tool, the Power Almanac of the American Midwest, that will assist government officials, industry leaders, energy analysts and others in making informed energy decisions in the region. The Almanac integrates key energy and environmental data from some 50 disparate sources, tailored to the Midwest region, in a graphic and easy-to-use way.

The Almanac is built around a dynamic interface that allows users to explore the power sector through interactive Google maps, graphs, and charts. You can use it to learn more about an individual coal mine or power plant, or to compare wind and solar resources in the Midwest to the rest of the United States. You will also find a range of other useful background, including up-to-date information on relevant state and federal energy policies. If you are interested in energy issues in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin, this Almanac is for you.

Why should you care?

Most of us don’t think about electricity until there is a power outage or accident. Yet, electricity is literally the life blood of all of our lives—from cell phones and computers to powering our homes and places of work. We hope this Almanac will help decision makers and everyday consumers alike get a clearer picture of how we produce electricity today, options for the future, and important implications of those choices.

The Midwest represents more than 30 percent of the nation’s manufacturing and accounts for 22 percent — or one-fifth— of total electricity consumed in the United States. It is home to more than 1,800 power plants. The Almanac helps users understand this system, and the various energy strengths and challenges of the states in the region.

The Almanac will help inform each state’s decisions about how best to produce electricity, while considering other important factors, like the economy, environment, public health, and more.

Did you know?

  • Over the past decade, the region consumed three times more coal than it produced;
  • Shale gas plays underlie eight Midwestern states ;
  • Ohio imports more electricity than any other Midwestern State, and Illinois exports more electricity than any other Midwestern State; and
  • Iowa generated more electricity from wind than any other Midwestern state in 2010, producing nearly twice as much as the next closest state.

Here are a few ways that the Almanac can be used:

  • Demonstrate the current and future potential of renewable resources. For example, last year the Midwest produced just over one-third of total wind-powered electricity in the United States. According to an analysis by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the Midwest has potential to do much more. The Almanac allows users to see where wind turbines have been installed and its future potential.
  • Inform decisions regarding aging coal power plants. At least one-quarter of the Midwest's total generation is from coal-fired units that are more than 40 years old, and there are important questions about the next generation of power, particularly in light of the EPA’s introduction of greenhouse gas standards for new power plants. The Almanac provides the latest information about available energy resources, and shows potential opportunities for carbon capture and storage, which could be a factor for future coal plants.
  • Show opportunities to expand the use of “combined heat and power” technologies. Conventional electricity generation wastes two-thirds of the input fuel's energy potential during combustion, and even the most efficient combined-cycle natural gas power plants waste about one-half of the energy. Combined heat and power (CHP, or cogeneration) systems capture this otherwise wasted heat energy. An ICF analysis concludes that the region could generate another 35 GW of electricity from waste heat, roughly the same as what’s generated by 70 coal-fired power plants.

Explore

This is just a sampling of the kinds of information presented in the Almanac. We encourage you to explore it for yourself and let us know what you think.

We welcome feedback on ways to improve it. Go to: http://www.wri.org/midwest-almanac. Send your comments to: Kristin Meek at kmeek@wri.org.

The Power Almanac of the American Midwest was developed by the World Resources Institute and the Great Plains Institute. It used data from 50 sources and has gone through a rigorous review with more than 20 regional and national energy and environmental experts.

Listen

You can listen to WRI's press call launching the Almanac below. The call features experts from WRI, the Great Plains Institute, and the public sector introducing the tool and answering questions from journalists. The call features the following experts:

Nicholas Bianco, Senior Associate, World Resources Institute

Bill Grant, Deputy Commissioner, Minnesota Department of Commerce

Rolf Nordstrom, Executive Director, Great Plains Institute

Doug Scott, Chairman, Illinois Commerce Commission

Midwest Energy Almanac Press Call Audio by World Resources Institute

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