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    May 06, 2016 | 6:00 AM

    It’s Electric! Six Powerful Infographics on Clean Energy

    Fast forward a few hundred years and in many places around the world, electricity has become ubiquitous: at once something we can’t live without and something we rarely take time to consider closely. But how we power our world has important implications for, well, our world. To stop climate change, we need to leave fossil fuels in the past – period.

    You might not remember a lot about what you learned about electricity after Benjamin Franklin, though, because the story got pretty complicated in the fight over AC versus DC, Tesla versus Edison, and on and on. So how does our electricity system operate right now? What’s going on with renewable energy, anyway? And how can we leave fossil fuels behind when they power so much of our world today? We brought together six powerful infographics to tell the story.

    The US Department of Energy: Understanding the Grid

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    It’s always a good idea to start with the basics. And who better to get the basics of energy from than the US Department of Energy? This infographic answers a complicated question in a very approachable way: How does electricity get from a power plant – any kind – to your home?

    In this infographic, the grid (which, admittedly, sounds like it could be a live-action blockbuster circa 1998) is broken down into four components: generation, transmission, distribution, and end use. But the Energy Department also points out that the American grid is undergoing a big transformation that’s disrupting this historical structure. It’s modernizing as clean energy gains momentum and other tech advancements make it more efficient and reliable.

    >> Related: What is Grid Parity and Why Does it Matter? <<

    Forbes: Solar, Wind, or Water? Mapping Renewable Energy In the US

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    If an energy infographic could ever be considered beautiful, this one is it. It’s animated, visually engaging, and communicates a great deal of information without a great deal of text. In the graphic, Forbes maps out recent data on the landscape of American renewable energy. This includes the number of people employed by the different renewable energy sectors, annual carbon emissions reductions by solar and wind, and the states that are leading the way in wind, solar, and hydropower.

    While this infographic deals only in facts, the takeaway here is clear: renewable energy is alive and well across the United States, and the economic and environmental benefits are incredible.

    >> Related: The Truth about Climate Action and the Economy <<

    Save On Energy: How Solar Panels Work

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    When it comes to solar energy, there’s a lot to love – and just like any good love story, it all started with a spark. In 1839, French scientist Edmond Becquerel observed that some materials give off electrical sparks when hit by the sun. This property is called the photoelectric effect, and it’s the underlying principle behind harnessing solar energy.

    In this animated infographic, Save On Energy breaks down the science behind solar panels in a way that “you won’t need to remember your physics or chemistry classes to understand.” Unlike most forms of energy generation, there aren’t any moving parts in a solar panel; it’s especially interesting to see the mechanics and chemistry of how one works.

    >>> Related: In one of our previous posts, we highlighted Save On Energy’s infographic on how wind turbines work. <<<

    The US Department of Energy: Geothermal 101  

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    Too often geothermal energy is overlooked. But in another great infographic by the US Energy Department, we get some cool facts on this hot source of energy.

    Geothermal energy comes from the nearly unlimited heat generated by the Earth's core. However, not all places are well-suited to harness this energy. This graphic breaks down a particular form of geothermal energy generation: enhanced geothermal systems (or EGS for short). This technology has the potential to “exponentially increase the reach of geothermal development” because it helps capture energy that was not considered recoverable or economical before.

    Geothermal power plants can run around the clock for continuous energy, produce virtually no greenhouse gas emissions, and tend to use less land per unit of energy produced than other sources. The Energy Department’s infographic helps get this important (but often neglected) clean energy source the attention it deserves.

    Global Wind Energy Council: The Evolution of Wind Power 

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    As early as 7000 years ago, wind energy moved boats along the Nile River. Eventually, simple windmills were pumping water and grinding grain in China and Persia and covered the landscape of countries like the Netherlands. But only within the last few decades has advanced wind power technology really taken off around the world.

    This interactive infographic charts the expansion of wind power between 1982 and 2015 by country, by continent, and worldwide. The outlook is a little sparse at first, but by 2015, things are looking bright and breezy with well over 400,000 megawatts (MW) of wind power capacity installed worldwide. That means that in less than 20 years (between 1999 and 2015) we’ve increased global wind capacity by almost 3200 percent. That is, without a doubt, pretty incredible!

    >>> Related: How Expensive is Wind Energy, Really? <<<

    The Union of Concerned Scientists: Ramping Up Renewables

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    One of the biggest myths about renewable energy is that it just isn’t reliable – that we need dirty fossil fuels to power our homes and our economies. But in this infographic, the Union of Concerned Scientists shows that this argument just doesn’t hold water. We have more tools available to make solar and other variable renewable technologies more reliable than ever, such as larger and more integrated grids, better resource forecasting, and more use of energy storage technologies.

    This infographic lays out a simple, specific plan that would allow the US to achieve an incredible 80 percent of its electricity from renewables by mid-century. Because the reality is clear: We need to transition away from dirty fossil fuels for people and the planet.

    Long Story Short: Renewable Energy is Here to Stay 

    We have every reason to be hopeful about the future of clean energy and our planet. But Big Polluters are spending hundreds of millions of dollars every year to fight policies that would address climate change. Help spread the facts and bust the myths about clean energy: download our free renewable energy social media kit today.

    Then, join our email activist list below and we’ll send you more ways you can join us in the fight for a better, brighter future. We still have a lot of work to do, but in the words of Benjamin Franklin himself, “Energy and persistence conquer all things.”


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