Which states rank best – and worst – for wind power?

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By Arthur Murray

Texas leads the nation in wind power.

Editor’s note: Today begins a two-part series on wind power. Part 1 examines the status of wind power today and where it has come during the past year.

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Wind power generates about 8 percent of the nation’s electricity, but that amount should be rising. The U.S. added about 17.3 percent to its wind generation capacity in 2019, with 22,114 megawatts more under construction this year, according to the American Wind Energy Association. Which state is the leader? Texas, with nearly three times as much wind energy capacity as No. 2 Iowa.

Nine states, scattered throughout the South, have no wind generation capacity, though Arkansas and Virginia are adding it.

The best states for wind power

All figures from the American Wind Energy Association, unless otherwise noted.

Texas
The Lone Star State generates the most electricity of any state, and that goes for wind generation as well. It has 28,843 megawatts of installed capacity. That capacity comes from 14,874 turbines. The state has enough capacity to power nearly 7.3 million homes.

The state’s status as No. 1 likely won’t change soon. It added the most capacity in 2019 – nearly double that of No. 2 Iowa – and has the most under construction this year.

Iowa
Iowa ranks second in installed capacity, with 10,190 megawatts of capacity from 5,410 turbines. Those can generate enough electricity to power nearly 2.1 million homes. The state added 2.878 megawatts of capacity during 2019 and has 1,175 megawatts under construction.

Oklahoma
If there seems to be a pattern here, it’s only because there is. The pattern, of course, is that the top states for wind are found in Tornado Alley, that portion of the Midwest where powerful winds can cause devastation as well as generate power. (Spoiler alert: The fourth-ranked state for wind energy also is part of the region.)

Oklahoma has 8,172 megawatts of wind capacity, supplied by 4,103 turbines. That’s enough to power nearly 2.7 million homes.

Kansas
Kansas gets more than 40 percent of its electricity from wind. Its wind capacity is 6,128 megawatts coming from 3,160 turbines. It can produce enough energy for more than 1.8 million homes.

California
The outlier among the top five is California. Its 6,613 turbines can generate nearly 6,000 megawatts of electricity, enough for 1.3 million homes.

The worst states for wind

Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Virginia have no wind generation capacity. Other states with light wind power are New Jersey, Connecticut, and Delaware.

Following is a chart that shows the installed capacity (in megawatts) of wind power for every other state, the number of wind turbines, and the equivalent number of homes powered by wind.

State Ranking (installed wind capacity) Installed capacity (thousand MWs) Wind turbines Equivalent homes powered (thousands)
Texas 1 28,843 14,874 7,283.9
Iowa 2 10,190 5,410 2,085.1
Oklahoma 3 8,172 4,013 2,653.2
Kansas 4 6,128 3,160 1,855.3
California 5 5,973 6,613 1,312.5
Illinois 6 5,350 2,933 1,231.9
Minnesota 7 3,843 2,379 1,091.0
Colorado 8 3,762 2,275 944.1
North Dakota 9 3,628 1,875 1,035.0
Oregon 10 3,423 1,924 686.3
Washington 11 3,085 1,725 707.3
Indiana 12 2,317 1,264 538.2
Michigan 13 2,190 1,165 512.5
Nebraska 14 2,142 1,045 497.9
New York 15 1,987 1,128 421.4
New Mexico 16 1,953 1,110 593.1
Wyoming 17 1,589 1,003 402.6
South Dakota 18 1,525 804 266.0
Pennsylvania 19 1,459 751 347.6
Idaho 20 973 541 246.3
Missouri 21 959 499 282.8
Maine 22 923 386 231.9
Montana 23 800 524 209.7
Ohio 24 738 388 170.4
Wisconsin 25 737 452 188.4
West Virginia 26 686 376 171.1
Utah 27 391 205 82.2
Arizona 28 268 144 56.3
New Hampshire 29 214 84 41.7
North Carolina 30 208 105 52.2
Hawaii 31 206 119 52.2
Maryland 32 191 80 52.9
Nevada 33 152 66 35.4
Vermont 34 149 71 37.8
Massachusetts 35 120 88 22.9
Rhode Island 36 75 32 15.7
Alaska 37 64 104 14.1
Tennesee 38 29 18 5.0
New Jersey 39 9 6 2.2
Connecticut 40 5 3 1.3
Delaware 41 2 1 0.5
U.S. 105,458 59,743 26,437.4

Which states have added the most capacity?

The U.S. increased its wind energy capacity by 17.3 percent during 2019 – adding 15,580 megawatts of generation capacity. As stated earlier, Texas added the most capacity. But nine states added more than 500 megawatts to their total.

Following are the states that added the most capacity last year:

State Increase in MW State Increase in MW
Texas 5,581 Oklahoma 677
Iowa 2,878 Colorado 656
Kansas 1,018 North Dakota 632
Illinois 886 South Dakota 548
Nebraska 697 California 287

Looking at the numbers another way, the state that increased its capacity by the largest percentage was South Dakota, which consistently is among the leaders in generating the largest percentage of its electricity from wind.

Following are the states that increased their capacity by the largest percentages last year:

State % change State % change
South Dakota 56.1 Colorado 21.1
Nebraska 48.2 North Dakota 21.1
Iowa 39.4 Kansas 19.9
Rhode Island 38.9 Illinois 19.8
Texas 24.0 Ohio 19.6

Which states have the largest projects under construction?

As for this year, more than 22,000 megawatts of capacity are under construction. Once again, Texas leads the pack, with more than 6,200 megawatts under construction.

Following are states with projects under construction in 2020:

State MW under construction in 2020 State MW under construction in 2020
Texas 6,211 North Dakota 449
Wyoming 3,753 Kansas 396
Oklahoma 1,415 Ohio 376
Iowa 1,175 Washington 257
Illinois 1,039 Indiana 232
New Mexico 1,020 Arkansas 180
Nebraska 1,011 New York 126
Colorado 969 California 104
South Dakota 899 Montana 89
Missouri 879 Oregon 40
Michigan 805 Hawaii 27
Minnesota 650 Virginia 12

Coming Friday: Electricity from wind power isn’t the only benefit of that method of generation. The environmental impact of wind power stretches well beyond green power.

Arthur Murray directs ChooseEnergy.com’s newsroom, taking advantage of nearly 30 years of newspaper and magazine experience. His articles have appeared on Zillow.com, Business.com, Nasdaq.com, and USNews.com, among others. You may reach him at amurray@chooseenergy.com.

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