Which State Is The Leader In Renewable Energy?

Which state is the leader in renewable energy?

Renewable energy comes from natural sources or processes that are constantly replenished, such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves, and geothermal heat. Some of the most common renewable energy sources used today are solar, wind, hydroelectric, geothermal, and biomass. Renewable energy provides an alternative to the finite fossil fuels coal, oil, and natural gas that power our homes, buildings, and transportation today. Unlike fossil fuels, renewable energy sources are generally unlimited in availability. Renewable energy is important because:

  • It’s sustainable and available indefinitely, unlike fossil fuels which are finite.
  • It produces little to no global warming emissions, which is crucial for mitigating climate change.
  • It enhances energy security by relying on domestic energy sources.
  • It benefits local economies and creates jobs in emerging clean energy industries.

This article examines which U.S. state leads in renewable energy production and adoption. It provides an overview of renewable energy use by state, analyzing total energy generation from renewables as well as the portion of a state’s energy that comes from renewable sources. The article also explores the main renewable energy resources utilized in top states and discusses the policies, natural advantages, and other factors driving renewable growth in different parts of the country. It aims to identify best practices that could be replicated to accelerate the renewable energy transition.

Leading States by Total Renewable Energy Production

When it comes to total renewable energy production, the top states are:

  1. Texas – According to Governing, Texas generated over 25,300 thousand megawatt hours of renewable electricity in 2022, making it the leader in total renewable energy production.
  2. California – California produced over 60,300 thousand megawatt hours of renewable electricity in 2022, ranking it #2 in total production (Governing).
  3. Washington – Washington state generated over 22,600 thousand megawatt hours of renewable electricity in 2021, ranking #3 in total renewable energy production (EIA).
  4. Oregon – In 2021, Oregon produced over 13,100 thousand megawatt hours of renewable electricity, placing it #4 in total production (EIA).
  5. Oklahoma – Oklahoma generated around 10,500 thousand megawatt hours of renewable electricity in 2021, ranking #5 for total renewable energy output (EIA).

Texas and California are the clear leaders when looking at overall renewable energy generation in terms of total output.

Leading States by Percentage of Energy from Renewables

When looking at the percentage of energy that comes from renewable sources, the top states are:

Iowa generates the highest percentage of its energy from renewable sources at around 60% according to this analysis.

South Dakota generates approximately 83% of its electricity from renewable sources, mainly wind and hydropower, as reported by this article.

Vermont gets over 40% of its total energy from renewables, with hydro, biomass, solar and wind contributing according to this top 10 list.

Other top states include Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Maine, and New Hampshire, which all generate over 30% of their power from renewable sources.

Growth in Renewable Energy by State

Some states have seen dramatic growth in renewable energy adoption over the past decade. According to a report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (1), the top states with the fastest growth rates in non-hydroelectric renewable energy generation between 2009-2019 were:

  • Texas – over 16,000% increase
  • Oklahoma – over 5,000% increase
  • Iowa – over 4,000% increase
  • Kansas – over 3,500% increase
  • South Dakota – over 3,000% increase

Much of this rapid growth has been driven by investments in wind and solar power. For example, Texas increased its wind generation capacity from around 2.7 GW in 2009 to over 31 GW by 2019 (1). The growth rates highlight how quickly some states have transitioned their energy mixes towards renewable sources over the past decade.

Types of Renewable Energy by State

The most common types of renewable energy being utilized across the leading renewable energy states are solar, wind, and hydroelectric power. Some key breakdowns by state:

California generates the most solar power of any state by a wide margin, accounting for over 40% of total U.S. solar generation in 2020 according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) State Energy Profile Data. The state also utilizes significant geothermal and biomass energy sources.

Texas leads in wind energy, producing over 30% of total U.S. wind power. The state also utilizes growing amounts of utility-scale solar energy. According to the EIA, wind accounted for 25.5% of Texas’s total electricity generation in 2020, by far the highest of any state.

Washington and Oregon both produce the majority of their renewable energy from hydroelectric dams. Washington generates over 70% of its renewable electricity from hydro sources while Oregon generates roughly 90% from hydro, more than any other state.

Other leading renewable states like Iowa and Kansas rely heavily on wind but also utilize biofuels from corn and other crops. These states have ideal conditions for wind and bioenergy production from their significant agricultural sectors.

Factors Driving Renewable Energy Growth

Several key factors are fueling the growth of renewable energy across different states in recent years:

Policy incentives play a major role. Many states have implemented renewable portfolio standards that require utilities to source a minimum percentage of their electricity from renewable sources. For example, California has a target of 60% renewable energy by 2030 and 100% zero-carbon energy by 2045 [1]. Tax credits and rebates for installing renewable energy systems also boost adoption.

Favorable natural resources enable some states to tap into abundant solar, wind, hydropower, or geothermal energy. For instance, Texas leads in wind power generation due to strong onshore wind resources [2].

Public sentiment and corporate sustainability goals are shifting toward renewable energy in many states. For example, over 200 cities and towns in Massachusetts have commited to 100% renewable energy, driving utility investments [3].

As costs for wind and solar power have plummeted, renewables have become increasingly cost-competitive with fossil fuels in many regions. This improves the economics of investing in clean energy.

Challenges to Further Adoption

While renewable energy has seen impressive growth in recent years, states still face obstacles to greater adoption of renewables. Some key challenges include:

Policy and regulations – Many states lack strong renewable portfolio standards or incentives for renewable energy. Uncertainty around tax credits for renewables can also hamper growth. For example, the expiration and renewal of federal tax credits have created a boom-bust cycle in wind energy development (1).

Infrastructure limitations – Inadequate transmission capacity can prevent renewable energy generated in prime resource areas from reaching population centers. Interconnection issues can also hamper distributed renewable energy like rooftop solar. Large-scale energy storage is needed to address renewables’ intermittent nature (2).

Market barriers – Wholesale energy market rules, electric rate structures, and lack of mechanisms to value renewables’ environmental attributes can limit renewables deployment. High soft costs like permitting and financing can hinder distributed renewable energy (3).

Land use conflicts – Utility-scale renewable projects often face local opposition and hurdles in siting and permitting. This “NIMBY” (not in my backyard) effect has constrained growth in states like New York and California (3).

While state policies and investments have spurred renewable energy so far, overcoming remaining challenges will be key for states to continue the transition to a clean energy economy.

Outlook for the Future

Many states have set ambitious goals for renewable energy growth and expansion over the coming years and decades. California, for example, has mandated 100% carbon-free electricity by 2045. To reach this target, the state plans major investments in solar, wind, geothermal and other renewable sources. Key projects include the $2.5 billion TransWest Express transmission line to bring wind power from Wyoming to California and a huge expansion of rooftop solar (renewable-energy-by-state.html).

Texas, already the nation’s leader in wind power capacity, expects strong continued growth in both wind and solar energy. The state could double its wind capacity by 2030, aided by new transmission lines and competitive power market pricing. Major solar farms are also planned, including the $1.6 billion Gemini project that will be one of the largest in the country upon completion (usnews.com).

Other states with major renewable energy growth potential include Iowa, Kansas, New York, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and Oregon. Offshore wind projects along the East Coast from Massachusetts to Virginia have massive capacity for expansion. Overall, most states have set goals to significantly increase renewable energy production over the next 10-20 years.

Key Takeaways

Texas, California, Iowa, Oklahoma, and Kansas are currently the top five states leading in renewable energy production and adoption. Texas generates the most total renewable energy, while Iowa sources over 40% of its energy from renewables. Solar and wind power have seen dramatic growth, now accounting for over 10% of electricity generation in many states. Declining costs, favorable policies, and abundant resources are driving factors, but challenges remain around integrating intermittent sources and upgrading infrastructure. The outlook is positive, with most states likely to continue expanding their renewable share, but fossil fuels will remain part of the energy mix for now.

In summary, renewable energy is growing rapidly in many states due to economical and environmental benefits, but work remains to transition towards a high renewable grid. The leading states provide examples of policies and resources that have enabled renewables growth.


This article was researched and written based on data from the following sources:

  • U.S. Energy Information Administration
  • National Renewable Energy Laboratory
  • American Council on Renewable Energy
  • Bureau of Land Management
  • U.S. Department of Energy
  • American Wind Energy Association
  • Solar Energy Industries Association
  • Geothermal Resources Council
  • American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy
  • California Energy Commission
  • Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts
  • Iowa Utilities Board

Statistics and data points were compiled from reports, analyses, and databases provided by these agencies and organizations. The author drew upon his expertise in the energy industry to synthesize key findings and insights from the data.

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