Quantcast
Energy
iStock

2017 Clean Energy By the Numbers: A State-by-State Look

By Amanda Levin

As part of its Electric Power Monthly series, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) released its year-end 2017 energy figures this week, detailing electricity production, use and costs at a state-level. 2017 was another big year for wind and solar, with many leading states continuing to add to their clean energy portfolios and a few states getting into the game for the first time.


You can click on a state in the interactive map below to see where they rank on wind and solar energy, as well as preliminary carbon emissions for each state (from the U.S. EPA). Click on the legend (far left arrow on the screen) to turn on and off information about wind, solar and carbon pollution.

Over the last few years, the U.S. has seen remarkable growth in clean, renewable energy like wind and solar power. In 2017, renewables—such as hydropower, wind, solar and geothermal energy—made up 16 percent of the electricity powering the nation's homes and businesses. This is almost double their contribution at the start of the decade.

While this is positive progress, much more still needs to be done: a recent NRDC report concluded that the U.S. should generate at least 80 percent of its electricity from renewable resources by 2050 in order to meet the Paris accord's target of holding global warming to no more than a 2-degree increase. Without stronger policies in place, the most recent government forecast has America achieving only half that, or 40 percent from renewables, by 2050. However, there's reason to think that the forecast is overly conservative, as wind and solar continue to grow across the country and states, cities and corporations continue to ramp up their climate and clean energy commitments.

U.S. Electricity Mix: 2000-2017

The State of Wind: The Great Plains Leads

At the end of 2016, wind became the largest source of renewable power capacity in the nation, overtaking hydropower. In 2017, the U.S. added another 6,250 megawatts (MW) of capacity, which is enough to power 2 million homes.

While one may not think of Iowa, Kansas, or Oklahoma as leaders on clean energy, these states actually have some of the cleanest power in the nation. The Midwest has some of the best wind resources in the country, and utilities, policymakers, and U.S. businesses are taking advantage of this low-cost energy resource. Iowa's largest electric utility, MidAmerican, expects to be generating 85 percent of its electricity from wind by 2019. In Kansas, the utilities are on track to supply 50 percent of the state's power with wind by the beginning of 2019.

Below are the top five states, as of the end of 2017, both in terms of total wind power and greatest proportion of power from wind. Texas, alone, hosts more than a quarter of all wind capacity in the country, and the state expects to add even more wind farms in the next four years before the expiration of the renewable tax credits. (In fact, Texas now has more wind power capacity than coal-fired capacity in the state).

While wind is still non-existent in certain parts of the country, it is making footholds in a number of states, including New Mexico and Missouri. In 2017, these five states saw the greatest growth in wind energy generation: And while wind power has historically been strongest in the Great Plains and Midwest regions, improvements in wind power technology—such as taller turbines—have allowed for more economic wind development in other parts of the country. Currently, nine states have no wind installed at all, including almost all of the southeast. Some of these states, like Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia, have large offshore wind potential. The U.S. currently only has one offshore wind farm operating, but as costs fall for these offshore wind projects across the world, there is a growing interest by many states to support new offshore wind projects.

The State of Solar

The solar industry faced some significant setbacks in the last year. The threat of a solar import tariff loomed over the industry for most of the year (and Trump did impose tariffs on solar cell imports in January of 2018). Given this market uncertainty, the U.S. saw less solar growth than it did during a record-breaking 2016 and the solar industry reported its first year-over-year job loss, shedding around 9,800 jobs last year after multiple years of double-digit growth.

However, solar energy still enjoyed lots of bright spots in 2017. The Department of Energy officially hit its "Sunshot" Goal of $1-a-watt solar—about three years early. Minnesota, which has seen a massive increase in "community" solar projects, saw almost a 50 percent increase in solar jobs in 2017. Utilities in the west have reported record-low costs for solar generation projects, including solar + storage and smaller-scale projects. And businesses across the U.S. are still making new investments in solar energy to power their operations.

However, states that may currently find themselves at the bottom of the list can quickly turn things around. In 2016, Mississippi was in the bottom five—but the state has seen remarkable growth in 2017. Mississippi added more than 160 MW of solar—or enough to power 25,000 homes every year. That is also a 25-fold increase in the state's solar capacity, in just one year. While solar is cheapest in the sunniest places, like the Southwest or Southeast, we see solar growing across the country. Every state has at least one megawatt of solar operating as of today, though many could be adding much more.

The Upshot

Increasing renewable energy development, a switch to lower-carbon fuels, and energy efficiency have helped the power sector slash its carbon pollution—the main contributor to climate change—over the last few years. And 2017 follows this trend. In 2016, emissions from the power sector fell to 25 percent compared with 2005 (the highest emissions year for the U.S.). In 2017, emissions have fallen by another 4 percent, down to 28 percent below 2005 levels.

Clean energy is thriving in the U.S., but there is much more we can be doing. Leading states, cities, and businesses have proven that clean energy is a smart investment for the economy, our pocketbooks and our climate. In the next few years, it will be up to them to continue to pursue the many clean energy opportunities and investments available. Hopefully next year's EIA numbers will reflect such progress.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Energy
Pipe being transported to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Photo credit: Mark Levisay / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Atlantic Coast Pipeline Work Restarts as Opponents Decry 'Rushed Decisions'

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) ruled Monday that work could resume on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which opponents call "unnecessary and a boondoggle," the Charlotte Business Journal reported.

Work on the controversial pipeline halted last month after a federal appeals court vacated two permits required for the project to complete its 600 mile route from West Virginia, through Virginia, to North Carolina.

Keep reading... Show less
Business
zodebala / iStock

Investigators Find Slave Labor on Starbucks-Certified Brazil Coffee Plantation

By Daniela Penha and Roberto Cataldo, Translator

This story was produced via a co-publishing partnership between Mongabay and Repórter Brasil and can be read in Portuguese here.

At first sight, the Córrego das Almas farm in Piumhi, in rural Minas Gerais state, seems to be a model property. "No slave or forced labor is allowed," reads one of several signs that display international certifications—including one linked to the U.S. based company Starbucks corporation.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
Oil and gas companies flare natural gas that cannot be processed or sold. Varodrig / Wikimedia Commons

Trump Lets Fracking Companies Release More Climate-Warming Methane

As expected, the U.S. Department of the Interior on Tuesday released a final rule that reverses Obama-era restrictions on methane emissions from oil and gas operations.

President Obama's 2016 methane waste rule, which never went into effect, required fossil fuel companies on tribal and public lands to reduce emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that's about 86 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. It called on drilling operators to capture leaking and vented methane and to update their leak-detection equipment.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
Smoke from the Carr Fire in northern California, July 2018. Eric Coulter, Bureau of Land Management / Public Domain

U.S. Air Pollution Is 'Completely Outrageous'

By Juanita Constible

How do you think the U.S. stacks up against other countries for protecting its citizens from the health threats of air pollution?

That's the question Christiana Figueres, one of the world's leading climate warriors, posed at last week's Global Climate and Health Forum, an official side event of the Global Climate Action Summit. The answer, said Ms. Figueres, is "completely outrageous."

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Politics

Top EPA Watchdog Since 2010 Announces Departure

The head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) internal watchdog organization announced plans to leave for a job outside the federal government Tuesday, The Associated Press reported.

Arthur A. Elkins Jr., who has held the position of Inspector General since he was appointed by former president Barack Obama in 2010, will spend his last day at the agency Oct. 12, The Hill reported.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
A man outside his flooded home in Lokoja in the Kogi state of Nigeria following heavy rains there. SODIQ ADELAKUN / AFP / Getty Images

100 Dead in Nigeria Following Severe Flooding

Nigeria declared a national disaster in four states Monday in response to deadly flooding that National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) spokesperson Sani Datti partly attributes to climate change, CNN reported.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Politics
L: Michael Coghlan / Flickr R: Coloured chest X-ray of a male patient showing evidence of a mesothelioma lung cancer, which is usually associated with exposure to asbestos. Zephyr / Science Photo Library / Getty Images

Report: 140 House Members Vote Against Chemical Safeguards Every Time

The Environmental Working Group Action Fund, the political arm of the Environmental Working Group (EWG), released a first-ever report that scores how each member of the U.S. House of Representatives voted on chemical policy and safety.

The scorecard shows that 140 House members voted against chemical safeguards every time, while 149 members consistently voted for chemical safety protections.

Keep reading... Show less
Food
grobery / CC BY SA 2.0 (Flickr)

What’s for Dinner? A Preview of the People, Process and Politics Updating Federal Dietary Guidelines

By Sarah Reinhardt

Months behind schedule, two federal departments have officially kicked off the process for writing the 2020-2025 iteration of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Updated and reissued every five years, these guidelines are the nation's most comprehensive and authoritative set of nutrition recommendations. And although the process is meant to be science-based and support population health—and has historically done so, with some notable exceptions—there are plenty of reasons to believe that the Trump administration is preparing to pitch a few curveballs.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!