I am an advocate for having students engage with real data and when that data is locally relevant, even better! Access to real data about the electrical grid is what I like about the newly released U.S. Electric System Operating Data tool from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. This tool provides “analysis and visualizations of hourly, daily, and weekly electricity supply and demand on a national and regional level for all of the 66 electric system balancing authorities that make up the U.S. electric grid.”
There are three Duke Energy balancing authorities (BAs) in NC – Duke Energy Carolinas (DUK), Duke Energy Progress West (CPLW) and Duke Energy Progress East (CPLW). From the tool’s interactive Status Map, you can view demand (actual & forecasted) and supply data for the BA that is servicing your school. Hourly, daily, weekly and monthly demand data is available and can even be downloaded in excel should you want your students to conduct a graphing activity.
Status map showing NC’s three Duke Energy BAs in blue, with data for Duke Energy Carolinas (DUK) shown (Sept 7, 2016). The size of the circle roughly corresponds to the system size. By clicking on the corresponding blue dot you will find hourly, daily, weekly and monthly demand curves with these data available for download into excel for a graphing activity.
There is also a live feed that runs across the top of the tool that shows how many total megawatthours the US (the lower 48 states) consumed yesterday (approximately 9.77 million MWh on September 6th, 2016) as well as the latest US hourly demand and yesterday’s peak demand values.
From the Grid Overview home page students can also examine national or regional demand curves, like the weekly demand curve shown here for the Carolinas (CAR) region.
Weekly demand curve for the Carolinas (CAR) region.
What can students learn by examining a daily or weekly demand curve? In addition to seeing how many megawatt hours of electricity the Carolinas (CAR) region or a specific BA requires in any given day or week, students may also be able to examine and explain trends in electrical consumption over time and even seasonally. For example, students could be tasked with examining the extent to which electrical consumption is tied to the weather and recent weather events. For example, the recent hurricane that passed through this region on Sept 3rd brought cooler weather and perhaps some power outages that reduced demand for electricity compared to the days before the hurricane.
This tool also enable users to assess the demand-supply balance for a given region (see below) or balancing authority such as Duke Energy Carolinas. What can students learn by examining a visualization of demand and supply? They will observe that demand and supply closely match (they need to!) and that energy transfers (interchanges) occur to address any differences between demand and supply. The EIA’s About the Grid page in addition to the glossary may also be useful as you familiarize yourself with this tool and the terminology encountered.
Comparing demand and supply for the Carolinas region.