10 solar-lagging states

(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).
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

(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.

Editorial standards