Red states lead the US in solar and wind production, a new report shows | Renewable energy End-shutdown
a new report by Climate Central shows how the US’s capacity to generate renewable energy skyrocketed last year and surprisingly, red states lead the nation in solar and wind energy production.
National wind and solar capacity grew 16% compared to 2021. In total, renewables generated enough electricity to power 64 million US homes. The report comes as the Biden administration begins making billions of dollars available for renewable energy projects. The administration has committed to fully decarbonizing the grid by 2030 and getting the US to net zero emissions by mid-century.
“We are getting close to the targets we need to hit to reach net zero,” said Jennifer Brady, a senior data analyst at Climate Central. “We have a free natural resource in the form of weather that can be captured to generate energy.”
Climate action has often been stymied at the local and federal levels by Republican leaders. But the new report shows that Iowa and Oklahoma, all of which have Republican governors and mostly Republican state legislatures, led the nation in wind energy production, while California and Florida were the largest producers of solar energy. Texas is a leader in solar and wind energy.
“It’s nice to have a national distribution of renewable energy, and to see states develop it is a positive thing,” Brady said. The growth of renewable energy capacity in these states shows the effectiveness of state and federal incentives.
There are several reasons why wind power has grown by leaps and bounds in Texas. The state has been proactive in building transmission lines to bring wind power to businesses and homes, meaning future wind farms can easily connect to this grid. These investments allow the state to take advantage of its renewable natural resources.
The laws that deregulate the energy market in Texas have also favored the leasing of land for wind turbines; only 2% of the land in Texas is regulated by the federal government.
“Texas is rich in wind speed and rich in sunshine,” said Irfan Khan, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Texas A&M. “While there is a large initial investment, after the wind turbines are installed, the cost of wind is cheaper.”
In the last five years, the participation of wind energy in more than doubled from 15% to 34%. In that same time, gas production has fallen from 49% to 34%.
“Texas is a huge oil and gas producing state, but I think wind power is being recognized as another opportunity to generate energy that can be a source of revenue,” said Eric Larson, a senior research engineer at Princeton University.
Elsewhere, state and federal incentives were a major driver of year-over-year growth in renewable power generation. In 2018, California mandated that most new single-family and multi-family homes up to three stories must include rooftop solar panels by 2020. In 2005, Iowa enacted the highest state tax credit rate for energy generated from from the wind, at $0.015 per kilowatt. -hour (kWh). It’s also the only state where the credits are transferable, meaning tax credit recipients can sell the credit to third parties who can then use the purchased credit to offset their own Iowa taxes.
The United States generated 683,130 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of electricity from solar and wind power last year, according to Climate Central findings, up from 588,471. GWh in 2021. The report shows that solar generation is understandably highest in the summer, while wind power peaks in the spring and fall.
Experts agree that the biggest step to increase wind and solar capacity is to build more transmission lines.
“It is extremely important to build transmission lines, because there is more wind power generation than could be connected to the grid,” Khan said. Wind turbines and solar farms are typically built in rural areas far from where the greatest electricity needs are, and require transmission lines to supply power to municipalities. “Currently, the grid can’t handle all the renewable energy that already exists in Texas, and if we don’t have transmission lines to support the renewable energy that feeds the grid, then it’s useless.”
As of 2021, there were more 8,100 projects in the US seeking approval to connect to the grid already operating at full capacity. More than 90% of these energy projects in the queue to be connected to the grid are for wind, solar and battery storage. While the Cut Inflation Act includes $2 billion for financing transmission facilities, the backlog of wind and solar projects is holding up the urgently needed shift to renewables. Some states and local municipalities are implementing microgrids to guard against regional grid outages that have occurred with increasing frequency due to weather disasters and aging infrastructure.
“They’re smaller than the grid and therefore more agile,” Brady said. “A city can create a microgrid that is used more for back-up and comes on if it needs emergency power. But that may be a faster way to bring some of these renewables online.”