Top States in Renewable Energy Production

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A solar farm on a capped landfill in Greenfield, Massachusetts. Jake Wyman/Aurora/Getty

The Clean Power Plan proposes guidelines for individual states to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from fossil-fuel power plants. The national reduction goal is 26% of the 2005 carbon dioxide emissions by year 2020, and 30% by 2030. The plan will set specific emissions limits for each state, based on their current mix of electricity generation sources. States must present how they anticipate meeting those goals in a proposal due June 30, 2016.

How far is each state from its goal? Earthjustice is a non-profit dedicated to using litigation and leveraging environmental law to protect wildlife, ensure healthy communities, and advance clean energy. In 2014 the group released an analysis of each state’s electricity production, and the challenges they face to meet the goals set forth by the Clean Power Plan.

Ranking Data Examined

Earthjustice started by using 2012 data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration about the sources of electricity produced in each state. In addition, consideration was given to more recent advancements in solar and wind power, voluntary or mandatory state-issued goals, and documented reductions in carbon emissions.

Energy from biomass and nuclear fuel was not included in the renewable energy totals, as Earthjustice considers phases of their production, use, and waste management either not renewable or unsustainable.

Similarly, power from hydroelectric sources was not considered one of the preferred renewables, as there are many environmental issues associated with medium and large hydroelectric projects.

The Top States

In alphabetical order:

California has a state-mandated goal to have a third of its electricity coming from renewable resources by 2030, a higher target than EPA’s suggested 20%.

California currently ranked 1st in installed solar capacity, and 3rd in wind energy. In 2012 60% of the state’s electricity came from natural gas power plants, and 14% from hydroelectric plants, but the role of solar more than doubled since then.

Colorado’s mandatory state goals exceed the EPA’s for 2030, and it is a leader in both wind and solar energy production. Already by 2012, 11% of Colorado’s electricity was produced by wind, and the state is building the largest solar energy plant east of the Rockies, a 156-megawatt solar farm near Pueblo.

Connecticut. Along with aggressive mandatory state goals increasing reliance on renewables for 27% of its electricity production, Connecticut put online the Somers Solar Center, a 50-acre, 5-megawatt photovoltaic plant providing energy for 5,000 homes.

Massachusetts has the attention of the wind energy sector with the development of the first off-shore wind project in the country. In 2013, the state ranked 4th nationwide in installed solar energy capacity, putting to shame much sunnier states.

Minnesota obtains 15% of its electricity from wind energy. Its mandatory state goals for renewables are over twice those suggested by the EPA’s Clean Power Plan.

New York’s goals are ambitious: to have 29% of its electricity produced from renewable resources by 2015. It has shown success in the past, reducing its carbon emissions by 42% from 2005 to 2012. However, threatening New York’s ambitions are proposals to bring previously sidelined coal-fired plants back into production.  

Oregon tripled its renewable electricity generation between 2007 and 2012. Most of it comes from wind, including the gigantic 845 megawatt Shepherds Flat Wind Farm in northeastern Oregon, with 338 wind turbines.

Vermont is exempt from any Clean Power Plan goals, since none if its electricity comes from fossil fuels. In 2012 the breakdown in electricity sources was 76% from nuclear, 17% hydro, and 5% from biomass burning. Several active wind farms along with more in the works will produce over 200 megawatts of electricity.

Source

Earthjustice. 2014. Coming Clean: The State of U.S. Renewable Energy.