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California remains United States’ green energy leader

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In as much as policies can drive the growth of renewable energy in every state, it takes time before their effects can be felt. Using a time-lag analysis, the United States National Renewable Energy Laboratory identified how states’ policies in 2005 generated more renewable energy only in 2007.

In its report State of the States 2009: Renewable Energy Development and the Role of Policy, the laboratory also stressed the impact of contextual factors in renewable energy development – sociological, economic, political and geographic.

Despite these factors, though, the United States has shown growth in green development, with several states asserting dominance in certain sectors.

Since hydroelectricity accounts for more than half of the renewables that the United States produced in 2007, setting it aside will be helpful in analyzing how states fared in other sectors.

California dominated green energy production, excluding hydroelectric, in terms of megawatt hours generated. The state, which led the country in biomass, geothermal and distributed solar megawatt-hours generated, chalked up nearly 25 million MWh of green energy produced. The figure surpasses by more than half what Texas generated at more than 10 million MWh.

Rounding up the top ten clean energy-producing states are Florida, Maine, Minnesota, Alabama, Washington, Georgia, Louisiana and Iowa.

Texas posted over 9 million MWh of generated wind energy, the only sector which was not ruled by California, which ended second. Each of the other leading wind producers – Iowa, Minnesota, Washington, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Colorado, Oregon and Kansas – generated between 1 million MWh to nearly 3 million MWh each.

Setting aside California’s lead, other sectors show diverse leadership. Florida and Maine each generated more than 4 million MWh for biomass. Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Virginia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and South Carolina follow, each producing between 1 million MWh to 3 million MWh.

The figures are much lower for geothermal, with second placer Nevada being the only other state than California to produce over 1 million MWh. Hawaii generated 229,886 MWh hours while Utah produced 163,925 MWh.

For distributed solar, or grid-connected cumulative installed capacity, California’s 528,626-kilowatt direct current is leagues ahead of New Jersey’s 70,236 kWdc. Meanwhile, Colorado, Nevada, Arizona, New York and Hawaii trail behind with between 13,000 kWdc to 35,000 kWdc each.

Finally, Washington tallied nearly 79 million MWh in generated power for hydroelectric, while Oregon, California and New York each produced between 25 million MWh to more than 34 million MWh.

The 2007 figures actually show that renewable electricity generation was down by 1 percent compared with 2006 figures, but this is due a 14 percent drop in hydroelectric generation between 2006 and 2007.

This was balanced by the rise in the generation of nonhydroelectric renewable sources, from 2.37 percent to 2.53 percent compared with 1.89 percent in 2001.

The report further states that renewable energy growth continues to be largely outstripped by economic growth, as measured by gross state product and population growth. Only 14 states registered a positive percent change in generation from total renewable resources per gross state product between 2006 and 2007. Only 17 states had a positive percent change in total renewable generation per capita during this period.

All in all, the laboratory took into account the percentage of total state electricity generation, state population and gross state product to give a national picture of which states are progressively scaling up green energy production.

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