This interactive three-dimensional visualization displays the seasonal variation of hydroelectric plants in California. The visualization shows generation and pumped storage projects of over 10 MW with their capacity factors (CF) on a base map of rivers and lakes. Projects are plotted on a base map that depicts rivers of approximately 60 km or longer and lakes of approximately 10 square km or larger. The map also shows county boundaries for reference.

The height and color of columns at project locations are scaled and shaded to represent CFs of the projects. (Capacity factor is the ratio of the energy produced to the amount that could have been produced in the same period using the nameplate capacity.) Generators also change capacity over time, and the capacity used is the mean of the reported capacities in the same year. Some hydroelectric generators can run at more than nameplate capacity, and the CF can be over 100 percent in some months.  

Several hydroelectric plants operate as pumped storage plants, and the energy consumed for pumping is displayed as a negative CF, also based on the nameplate capacity.  The negative factors appear as columns below the map surface. 

The map is best viewed using the current versions of Chrome and Firefox web browsers. If using Internet Explorer, be sure Compatibility View is turned off. If you have trouble viewing the map content, contact us, and we will provide the information in an alternative format.

Visualization of Seasonal Variation in California Hydropower

The map loads with controls displayed on the page.  The 3-D map can be rotated, tilted, and panned using the buttons of the mouse and zoomed using the mouse wheel. The display is an animation that steps from one month to the next, either forward or backward in time. Controls allow the viewer to switch features of the display, including the month and year and the animation speed and direction. A switch can turn on an augmented reality feature, which locates the reader and moves with the reader’s position.  An “Orbit around here” feature allows the reader to rotate the map about a certain point.  To stop orbiting, click the stop button the top left corner.  To get details on a plant, click on the column for a dropdown table.  CFs are shown in decimal fractions in the table.  

Renewable energy resources occur in each state and have a size and geographic distribution within each state. Planning and land use constraints limit how much of the resources are used and where they are used.  National, state, and local policies set limits on energy generation and use. An example of resource planning in California is the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan.

By exploring the visualization, a viewer can gain a three dimensional understanding of seasonal variation in generation CFs, along with the locations and distribution of generation projects. Moving through the 3-D space gives a conception of generation CFs across the state. The viewer can observe that most project generation and energy consumption peaks in different months, depending on where the project is and how it is operated. The large range in CFs is also apparent.

Values displayed are subject to revision when more accurate data is available. Base map, data analysis and visualization are by Energy Commission staff.