Earth Day report card on states and green energy

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By Arthur Murray
For business

A report card on how states are performing on green energy generation on Earth Day.Forty-nine years ago today, 20 million Americans celebrated the first Earth Day – a time to express concern for the environment. Most had never heard of global warming, and green energy wasn’t a thing. Things have changed, but Earth Day 2019 provides a great time to look at how states have responded – particularly in the generation of electricity.

That’s why Choose Energy® will take a look at the top 10 states – in most cases – for solar, wind, hydroelectric, and geothermal generation of electricity, according to the latest data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Solar – the sun shines on California

No surprises when it comes to solar power. California tops the rest of the states in generation of electricity from solar power – by a wide margin. It generates more than four times the power of the next state. That’s not likely to change, given state laws requiring solar panels on new construction.

Here are the top 10 states for solar generation and how much they produce in thousand megawatt hours:

State solar
California 1,344,631
North Carolina 404,887
Arizona 265,974
Texas 238,444
Nevada 237,095
Florida 235,235
Georgia 113,396
Utah 105,231
Minnesota 73,832
Massachusetts 67,254

California also generates the highest percentage of its electricity from solar. Here are the rest of the top 10 and the percentage of total electricity powered by the sun:

State % from solar State % from solar
California 9.0 Utah 2.8
Nevada 7.6 Massachusetts 2.7
Vermont 4.1 New Mexico 2.2
North Carolina 3.6 Georgia 2.1
Arizona 2.9 Idaho, Hawaii 1.7

Wind – the Lone Star State doesn’t blow it

When most folks think about Texas and energy, oil comes to mind. But the state generates the most electricity from wind than any other state – nearly three times as much, in fact.

Here are the top 10 states for wind generation and how much they produce in thousand megawatt hours:

State wind
Texas 6,842,265
Oklahoma 2,436,705
Iowa 2,312,419
Kansas 1,723,195
Illinois 1,405,683
North Dakota 1,061,688
Minnesota 1,047,920
California 1,012,302
Colorado 939,878
Indiana 610,780

However, Texas doesn’t rank first in the percentage of a state’s power that comes from the wind. Here are the top 10 states and their percentages.

State % from wind State % from wind
Iowa 39.0 Maine 21.6
Kansas 38.5 Minnesota 19.3
Oklahoma 34.0 New Mexico 18.7
South Dakota 28.6 Colorado 18.4
North Dakota 27.6 Texas 17.9

Hydroelectric – others are all wet compared with Washington

Hydroelectric power is one of the cleanest – and cheapest – ways to generate power. That’s why Washington state consistently ranks among the states with the cheapest electricity rates. It produces more than twice as much electricity from its rivers and dams as any other state.

Here are the top 10 states in electricity generated by hydroelectric sources, in thousand megawatt hours:

State Hydro
Washington 5,958,447
Oregon 2,957,173
New York 2,684,044
California 1,500,367
Alabama 1,384,762
Tennessee 1,009,685
Montana 811,016
Idaho 791,716
North Carolina 695,213
Arizona 461,387

All that said, it narrowly beats out another state in the largest percentage generation of its electricity from the source. Following are the top 10 states and their percentages:

State % from hydroelectric State % from hydroelectric
Washington 63.2 Maine 35.2
Vermont 61.7 Montana 30.8
Idaho 53.4 New York 23.2
Oregon 50.3 Alaska 19.4
South Dakota 38.5 Tennessee 13.9

Geothermal – the heat’s on other states to catch the leader

Warmth from the Earth itself is another clean energy source, but it’s only utilized in seven states. California is tops among them.

Here are the top states and their electricity generation from geothermal sources, in thousand megawatt hours:

State Geothermal
California 1,005,259
Nevada 356,247
Utah 39,607
Hawaii 27,223
Oregon 15,902
Idaho 6,667
New Mexico 5,075

And here’s how those states rank in percentage of their electricity that comes from the Earth itself:

State % from geothermal State % from geothermal
California 6.7 Oregon 0.3
Nevada 11.5 Idaho 0.4
Utah 1.0 New Mexico 0.17
Hawaii 3.4

Obviously, the planet still has a long way to go – and more issues besides generation of electricity – before the Earth can be considered safe from environmental threats. But the above states have made a great start toward healing the current home of humanity.

For more information on electricity sources in the U.S., check out the Choose Energy Data Center.

Arthur Murray directs’s newsroom, taking advantage of nearly 30 years of newspaper and magazine experience. A native of Virginia, Arthur attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and graduated with a bachelor’s in journalism.