Archive for the 'Infographics' Category

2017 BioenergizeME Infographic Challenge from the U.S. Department of Energy

The 2017 BioenergizeME Infographic Challenge kicks off today!  This year’s theme is  Exploring the Future American Energy Landscape.  The US Department of Energy’s Bioenergies Technologies Office is  asking 9th- through 12th-grade student teams to use technology to research, interpret, apply, and then design an infographic that responds to one of five research topic areas selected for 2017:

History of Modern Bioenergy

Bioenergy and Society
Workforce and Education

Science and Technology

Even better, all of the tools necessary to integrate this challenge into your curriculum or offer it as an after-school activity are provided!

BioenergizeME Toolkit

Five steps to building an infographic

Social media guide

BioenergizeME Research Strategy Guide

BioenergizeME Resource Library

To date no past submissions have come from NC – let’s change this!

To be considered for the competition, teams must register by Feb. 3, 2017 and infographics must be submitted by March 3, 2017.

Check out the 2016 award winning infographics on cellulosic ethanol, algae as a biofuel and energy from biomass You can view all previous winning infographics here. One NC teacher remarked that she would incorporate these  infographics into her AP Environmental Science class by having her students review and critique the infographics to decide which they would fund for further development.


Interactive infographics from the IEA | World’s energy system through 2050

IEA World Energy 2012

The World’s Energy System in 2012

The International Energy Association’s publication Energy Technology Perspectives 2015, is accompanied by a set of interactive visualizations that utilizes the data and figures behind its publication on energy technologies.  I am an advocate for having students visualize the entire energy system – the diversity of energy sources used to provide electricity to homes and industry and to power our various modes of transportation.  I also find it useful to examine how the system is changing over time as our demand for energy grows in light of the need to limit society’s carbon dioxide emissions. These interactive infographics from the IEA illustrate how the world’s energy system will evolve through 2050.  There are three parts to this online tool: an energy flow visualization, an emissions reduction visualization and a transportation visualization. Here I am featuring the energy flow visualization where the  user can hover over a specific energy source, transformation or end user to study a particular energy flow.  The diagram below shows the global energy flow for coal in 2012 and for 2050 (projected); one can easily compare the two graphics to see that coal use will decrease while global energy demand will increase.  Have you considered asking your students to evaluate and explain energy flow diagrams?

IEA World Energy 2012 and 2050_coal

Global energy flow for coal in 2012 and for 2050 (projected).

The emissions reduction visualization tool allows the user to assess how individual countries or regions can reduce carbon dioxide emissions via deployment of technologies and energy efficiency measures under three different warming scenarios (2°C, 4°C and 6°C). The transport visualization tool enables the user to select an “indicator” such as annual road energy consumption for a specific country, region or the world to visualize the extent to which the selected indicator needs to change to limit Earth’s average global temperature to either 2°C, 4°C or 6°C.  According to the IEA website. “the 2°C Scenario is the main focus of ETP 2015. It lays out the pathway to deploy an energy system and emissions trajectory consistent with what recent climate science research indicates would give at least a 50% chance of limiting average global temperature increase to 2°C.”  You can read the Executive Summary of the ETP 2015 here.

And if you want to read more about energy flow diagrams, check out this post.

U.S. Department of Energy BioenergizeME Infographic Challenge

FirstPlaceI recently learned about the U.S. Department of Energy BioenergizeME Infographic Challenge when they announced their 2016 Infographic challenge theme: Exploring the Future American Energy Landscape.  They are asking 9th- through 12th-grade student teams to use technology to research, interpret, apply, and then design an infographic that responds to one of four cross-curricular bioenergy topics:

Bioenergy History
Workforce and Education

Science and Technology
Environmental Impacts

Even better, the Energy Department and the Library of Congress have provided all of the tools necessary to integrate this challenge into your curriculum or offer it as an after-school activity!

BioenergizeME Toolkit

BioenergizeME Research Strategy Guide

BioenergizeME Resource Library

To be considered for the competition, infographics must be submitted by March 4, 2016.

Check out the 2015 winning infographics on cellulosic ethanol (see above), algae and algae biofuel. One NC teacher is already planning to incorporate these winning infographics into her AP Environmental Science class by having her students review and critique the infographics to decide which of the three they would fund for further development.


Exploring 2015 electricity generation data for the United States

Earlier this summer the Washington Post published an online map (using data from the Energy Information Administration) to help users visualize the current state of electricity generation in the United States. In addition to showing electricity generation by energy source from January to May 2015, the location and capacity (in megawatts) of each power plant is also featured. Additional maps show the distribution of power plants utilizing a particular energy source (e.g., coal plants operating from January to May 2015).

I think lots of discussions could arise by studying maps such as these with students.  Prompt students to consider how the sources of electricity that are used by a state or region are influenced by access to those energy sources.  What do students notice about the distribution of coal plants? Natural gas plants?  How might the observed trends relate to energy pricing, policies, etc.? One intention of the graphics is to show users that “Local electric utilities take advantage of the power sources most accessible to them: coal mines, dammed rivers, new supplies of natural gas or nuclear plants to generate the bulk of the nation’s electricity.”

Another interactive tool available let’s the user examine and compare how each state uses a particular energy source.  For instance, with a single click the user can view the states that generate the most electricity from wind.


International Energy Portal (EIA Beta version)

Earlier this week, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)  released the Beta version of its redesigned International Energy Portal, an interactive online tool that enables users to visualize global and country-specific energy data and trends through heat maps, bubble maps, column charts, and time series plots, some of which can be animated.  These data depict international energy use  for petroleum, coal, natural gas and electricity for over 200 countries for over 30 years, starting in 1980.


The screen shot above depicts primary coal production for the year 2012 and the data visualization tool enables you to examine coal production all the way back to 1980 – users can also download the data for further analysis and comparison. Image source:

You can learn more about the new features of this tool here. Features that will likely be of interest to teachers include the ability to:

  • “view and download complete data sets for consumption, production, trade, reserves, and carbon dioxide emissions for different fuels and energy sources.”
  • “compare compare data across different energy sources by converting to British thermal units, terajoules, and tons of oil equivalent.”
  • “choose specific countries, regions, and data series for review and comparison.”
  • examine “how energy production, consumption, reserves, imports, and exports have changed over time.”

If you enjoy using graphics in your instruction and like keeping up with energy news and trends, you may want to consider subscribing to EIA’s Today in Energy newsletter which brings a short article with accompanying graphics to your inbox each weekday.  It is a quick and easy way to stay up to date on “energy facts, issues, and trends.”

Understanding the Grid| Infographic from the Dept of Energy

I missed #GridWeek on which occurred Nov 17-21, 2014. The intent of this social media event was to give the US Department of Energy an outlet for highlighting “some of the exciting progress in transforming our nation’s power grid into a system that is more resilient, reliable and better able to meet the changing demands of our 21st century society.”

Check out the #GridWeek infographic titled Understanding the Grid which not only outlines how electricity gets from a power plant to your home but also features grid innovations (smart meters, energy storage, microgrids) and the job opportunities available in the power grid sector as the current workforce retires and as new technologies become adopted.

Here are a few other related resources from the Department of Energy:

How Energy Works: Explaining Game-Changing Energy Technologies
Microgrids, particle accelerators, 3D printers and wind turbines

How microgrids work

Smart meters and a smarter grid

Energy storage and the grid

Top 9 Things You Didn’t Know About America’s Power Grid



The Solutions Project: 100% clean, renewable energy for each state?

What kind of energy portfolio would your students come up with if you challenged them to design a strategy for NC to be powered by 100% renewable energy by 2050?  They might have fun researching the opportunities and challenges to such a future and comparing their answers!

I recently learned about The Solutions Project upon reading a blog post by UNC graduate student Justin Baumann and was intrigued to see what the renewable energy portfolio could look like for NC if it “transition[ed] to 100% wind, water, and solar (WWS) for all purposes (electricity, transportation, heating/cooling, industry).”  The project’s designers include Mark Jacobson, an engineer from Stanford, and others who are motivated to “use the powerful combination of science + business + culture to accelerate the transition to 100% clean, renewable energy.”

NC Plan

Their projected energy mix for NC in 2050 includes almost 40% of the state’s energy demand being met by solar energy, mostly via solar photovoltaic plants, greater than 50% coming from wind energy, mostly offshore wind, and the rest (<10%) coming from hydroelectric, geothermal, wave and tidal energy. In addition to showing the projected renewable energy portfolio for each state, the infographic for each state also reveals projections for jobs created, avoided health costs and deaths from air pollution, among others.

The data underlying these plans is available as is a suite of related resources from Mark Jacobson, including a PPT titled Powering Countries, States, and the World With Wind, Water, and Sunlight that he presented at the February 2014 AAAS annual meeting and even a 10 minute video of Dr. Jacobson as a guest of David Letterman!

You may also be interested in reading, or having your students read, a 2009 Scientific American article (pdf) titled A Path to Sustainable Energy by 2030 that was co-authored by  Dr. Jacobson.

If you decide to have your students explore what a WWS future would like for NC – or perhaps you already do this – I’d love to hear about it!





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