10 solar-lagging states

10 solar-lagging states

Summary: (Updating post to correct writer's poor math skills.)We all know the states that rank at the top of the solar heap in terms of projects (refresher: California, here we come).

TOPICS: Open Source

(Updating post to correct writer's poor math skills.)

We all know the states that rank at the top of the solar heap in terms of projects (refresher: California, here we come). They get held up a lot as example. But did you ever wonder which states are last in terms of solar investments? And why they are there. The answer may surprise you.

You can keep tabs on this at the Open PV Project Web site, which tracks photovoltaic installations across the United States. So, while I'm always surprised and tickled to see my home state, New Jersey, show up so high, today I chose to highlight the 10 states that show up at the bottom of solar photovoltaic installations:

Kansas Idaho Rhode Island New Hampshire Delaware Maine Iowa Nebraska Utah Oklahoma

I am sure there are myriad reasons why these locations are slow on the solar uptake, to many to list here. Let's start with obviously geographic and weather conditions such as lots of mountains, too many other important land uses. Other natural resource considerations. Very reasonable reasons.

In fact, my first gut reaction was that many of the states listed were probably investing in wind power projects, although that actually wasn't really the case when I checked some of those statistics. Only Iowa is really big into wind projects, with the second highest number of wind projects in the United States (after Texas), according to the American Wind Energy Association. (Iowa is also the largest producer of ethanol, which makes a lot of sense.) Delaware also appears to have its own on wind technology: the state recorded a utility scale deployment in the second quarter of 2010.

Then I guessed, somewhat accurately, that some of these states must be producing energy from other sources or they must not be using that much energy. I suspected coal production might be a factor, but I was wrong -- something I figured out by poking around on the site for the Energy Information Association (aka, EIA). This is a great resource that I will use in the future when reporting on renewable energy projects for perspective. Here's what I discovered, according to EIA:

  • Oklahoma and Utah are two of the nation's top-producing natural gas states
  • Kansas ranks among the top 10 U.S. states in terms of crude oil production
  • Nebraska (like Iowa) is a big corn-based ethanol producer
  • Maine uses a lot of fuel oil, but also uses more renewable electricity from nonhydroelectric sources than any other state
  • Hydroelectric is big for Idaho
  • Although New Hampshire may not be investing in generation projects, the state has adopted a mandate to source 25 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2025
  • Rhode Island, with the lowest per-capita energy consumption of all states, relies heavily on natural gas

Solar isn't the only answer to better energy efficiency or more sustainable electricity generation, of course, and supporting renewable energy investments is a complicated economic proposition when there are competing interests at stake. I write this post simply to encourage you to understand where your own state stands on these matters, if for no other reason than to really understand where it might be investing instead.

Topic: Open Source

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Oklahoma is doing a lot of wind, too

    With a number of the projects just being put in place, and therefore probably not showing in the totals in the stats ( <a href="http://www.okcommerce.gov/State-Energy-Office/Oklahoma-Wind" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://www.okcommerce.gov/State-Energy-Office/Oklahoma-Wind</a> ). In addition, with the kind of hail storms we had this spring (think baseball size, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eLxoeiD21gs ), you'll think twice about installing solar panels - even though I love the idea.
    • RE: 10 solar-lagging states


      You'd think Oklahoma would be a good place for solar: Lots of flat, open land. But then you remember the tornadoes and baseball-sized hail storms and go, "Oh yeah..."
  • RE: 10 solar-lagging states

    Rhode Island may be lagging in solar panels but they do have wind mills installed throughout the state.
    Loverock Davidson
    • RE: 10 solar-lagging states

      @Loverock Davidson...

      And I can't find the article at the moment (maybe I'm thinking of Maine), but back in 2003 or something, I think Rhode Island was one of the first states to give real consideration to tidal energy. Not sure if that project ever got off the ground or not.
  • RE: 10 solar-lagging states

    One might also assume that the four mid-west states on the above list in or near Tornado Alley would look for options other than solar or wind.
  • Solar Rank vs. State's Population Rank

    I compared the ten state's solar rank against their population rank and found a fairly strong correlation.

    Kansas, Idaho, Iowa and Oklahoma tend to have a lower solar ranking than their population ranking. But the other six have solar ranks very close to their population ranks.

    Solar Rank / Pop. Rank...

    s.48 / p.33 - Kansas
    s.47 / p.39 - Idaho
    s.46 / p.43 - Rhode Island
    s.45 / p.41 - New Hampshire
    s.44 / p.45 - Delaware
    s.43 / p.40 - Maine
    s.42 / p.30 - Iowa
    s.41 / p.38 - Nebraska
    s.40 / p.34 - Utah
    s.39 / p.28 - Oklahoma