As clean energy development gains momentum across the United States, some surprising front-runners are emerging in the race for renewable energy leadership—traditionally red states like Iowa and Wyoming.
A recent study by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) highlights state-by-state successes in advancing clean energy. The rankings used a dozen metrics in three primary areas to gauge state leadership: Technical progress, direct visible effects on daily lives, and policies that build momentum for the future. And the results point directly to legislative choices that have translated into growth within the renewable energy sector.
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While many of the findings were predictable—California topped the list, followed by Vermont and Massachusetts—there were also surprises: Kansas is ranked first for increasing its share of renewable energy in electricity (it tripled its wind power in four years), and North Dakota led in terms of wind energy per capita.
The report explains not only that market forces play a significant role in the transition to renewable resources, especially as clean energy becomes cheaper and more efficient, but that policy is also important, both at the state and federal level. In fact, the study shows that very few states made it into the top 10 without strong energy efficiency resource standards or climate targets.
“When we tallied the top 10 states, we found six headed by Democrats and four by Republicans,” John Rogers, an energy analyst with the UCS and the lead author of the report told Scientific American. “Leadership doesn’t have to be a red state-blue state thing. Wherever they live and whichever party they vote for, people care about jobs and clean air.”
Increased interest in clean energy in traditionally red states is particularly notable as deployments of solar and wind surge in agricultural applications. In Missouri Farmer Today, writer Benjamin Herrold explains that hog farms, dairies, and chicken facilities are installing solar in an effort to control energy costs. Rodney Pittford, CEO of OTG Solar says that with utility prices on the rise, farmers are interested in locking in energy costs.
“Almost 75 percent of our quotes going out the door right now are for farmers who have hog barns or chicken facilities,” he says. Pittford also attributes a portion of the momentum within the agricultural community to incentives such as the 30 percent solar Investment Tax Credit and USDA grants that help offset some installation costs.
Dan Whitten, the vice president of communications for the Solar Energy Industries of America (SEIA), explained that while Missouri currently has capacity of a little over 150 megawatts of solar power, that “Farmland represents a lot of opportunity for solar energy.”
How do you think the increased deployments of clean energy projects in red states and for agricultural applications will influence the US energy landscape?
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