Good News! Renewables Make Major Strides in 2011

April 13, 2012 | 3:31 pm
Ellen Vancko
Former contributor

Good News! State renewable energy policies combined with the federal production tax credit have borne measurable fruit. New EIA data show that non-hydroelectric renewables have made great strides across the United States in the past decade. This is particularly true in the western and central parts of the nation, where five states got more than 10 percent of their electricity from wind in 2011 while 13 states saw penetrations of more than 5 percent.

South Dakota saw the largest improvement, with the renewables share of total electricity generation jumping from less than 1 percent in 2001 to more than 15 percent in 2011 thanks to impressive wind development. Maine held onto its early leadership position in the 15 percent club to be joined by Iowa, also a significant gainer. Notably, North Dakota, Iowa, Idaho, Wisconsin, California, and Nevada all saw their renewable shares exceed 10 percent in 2011, while states in the central southwest and the northeast and Hawaii made meaningful progress.

Unfortunately, except for Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire, the eastern states are lagging behind their western counterparts, although most states in the East have renewable standards in place that will boost renewable’s share in years to come. On the west coast, California raised the bar for the nation by adopting a 33 percent renewable energy standard in 2011, while the laggards — Arizona, Ohio, Kentucky, and Alaska — have plenty of potential but need to do more to give renewable energy a boost.

Congress must also act quickly to extend the production tax credit for renewables before it expires at year-end. EIA’s map shows that we need to redouble our efforts at both the state and federal levels if we’re going to achieve an across-the-board clean energy transformation of the electricity sector in our lifetimes.

Shares of electricity generation from renewable energy sources up in many states

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Form EIA-923, Power Plant Operations Report.

Notes: Non-hydroelectric renewables include generation from wind, solar, geothermal, and other renewable sources such as wood and wood wastes, municipal solid wastes, landfill gas, etc. Data for 2011 are preliminary.

Despite these challenges, I see the cup as more than half full. According to the American Wind Energy Association’s latest annual report, the U.S. wind industry installed 6,816 MW in 2011, 31 percent higher than 2010, for a total of 46,916 MW installed to date. Wind capacity has achieved an average annual growth of 35 percent year-over-year over the past five years. Wind captured 31 percent of new power plant construction in 2011 behind natural gas, which took 42 percent of the total.

The top states for wind generation as a percentage of their portfolio:

1. South Dakota: 22.3%

The answer is blowing in the wind.

2. Iowa: 18.8%

3. North Dakota: 14.7%

4. Minnesota: 12.7%

5. Wyoming: 10.1%

6. Colorado: 9.2%

7. Kansas: 8.3%

8. Oregon: 8.2%

9. Idaho: 8.2%

10. Oklahoma: 7.1%

11. Texas: 6.9% (8.5% on ERCOT)

12. New Mexico: 5.4%

13. Washington: 5.3%

Top ten states for wind projects under construction in 2012:

1. Kansas: 1,189 MW

2. Texas: 857 MW

3. California: 847 MW

4. Oregon: 640 MW

5. Illinois: 615 MW

6. Pennsylvania: 520 MW

7. Iowa: 470 MW

8. Oklahoma: 393 MW

9. Michigan: 348 MW

10. Washington: 331 MW

Source: U.S. Wind Industry 2011 Market Report. American Wind Energy Association. April 12, 2012.