Red, White and Renewable: The Top Ten U.S. States for Alternative Energy0

Ysabel Yates | Wed Oct 3 2012

Renewable energy accounted for roughly 13 percent of the electricity capacity in the United States in 2010, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The figures, the most current from the EIA, paint a picture of a grid in transition. Hydroelectric power represents almost 8 percent of the nation’s overall capacity and is a mainstay, particular in Northern and Western states. But wind is creeping onto the grid in states like Texas and Iowa and now represents almost 4 percent. Solar is still less than 1 percent of the capacity but it too is gaining steadily.

With almost 133 gigawatts (GW) of renewable power, the U.S. currently has the largest installed capacity for non-hydroelectric sources in the world, followed by Germany. In 2035, the energy capacity of non-hydropower renewables in the U.S. is expected to double, according to EIA estimates.

Here, we take a look at the top ten states at renewable energy capacity to see what sources are the most popular in the United States, and which are up-and-coming.

1. Washington
Washington is the number one state for renewable energy, with a total installed capacity of 23.884 gigawatts (GW). Hydropower provides more than two-thirds of the state’s overall capacity and consumption while wind is becoming an increasingly important contributor to the grid, with 7.5 percent of the overall capacity.

2. California
With 16.460 GW of capacity, it’s not suprising that California has one of the largest and most balanced mixes of renewables, with hydro, geothermal and wind all making significant contributions to the grid. Solar, however, has only just begun to make a dent in that mix.

3. Oregon
Another northwestern state with a strong hydropower portfolio, Oregon has steadily been increasing its wind capacity in recent years. Biomass and landfill gas both make small contributions to the total capacity of 10.684 GW.

4. Texas
The Lone Star State has been adding wind capacity at a healthy clip and is the only state in the top five where hydro isn’t the number one renewable source. Wind power accounts for all but 1 GW of the 10.985 GW renewable capacity.

5. New York
The 6.033 GW of renewable capacity comes largely from hydropower in New York, followed by wind, landfill gas, and biomass.

6. Alabama
With 3.855 GW of capacity, hydropower and biomass make up Alabama’s renewable energy profile.

7. Iowa
With 3.728 GW of renewable energy capacity, Iowa is the only other state in the top ten to get most of its renewable energy from wind, then hydropower, landfill gas, and finally biomass.

8. Montana
With 3.085 GW of renewable capacity, hydropower and wind make up Montana’s renewable energy profile.

9. Idaho
Renewables make up almost 80 percent of the state’s capacity. The 3.140 GW comes largely from hydropower with a 352 megawatt contribution from wind.

10. Arizona
Finishing the list, Arizona has 2.901 GW of energy capacity, getting most of its renewable energy from hydropower, then biomass, wind, and solar.

Image credits:

Solar panels on the roof of a Wal-Mart in Covina, California. Courtesy Walmart on Flickr.
Hydropower at Bonneville Dam in Oregon. Courtesy Flickr user Anomieus.
A fumarole in Harbin Springs, California. Courtesy Flickr user kqedquest.