Rethinking wind rankings

There's still a lot of gol-durn wind turbines in Texas.

Linda Taylor, a colleague at Fresh Energy, makes a good point in her comment on yesterday’s post about wind capacity rankings. Ranking states on installed capacity alone doesn’t make sense, she argues, because you’re comparing big states (in terms of both area and population) like California and Texas to smaller states, like Iowa.

So I whipped up a spreadsheet that includes the leading wind producing states, using AWEA’s numbers, and then added their populations (according to April 2010 Census figures) and their total electricity generation (according to Energy Information Administration stats).

A caveat – yes, I realize that we’re using megawatts of wind capacity and megawatt-hours of electricity generation, and that those are two different units. The EIA doesn’t break out wind generation as a separate stat, and since we’re doing relative comparisons from state-to-state, it shouldn’t make a difference.

According to AWEA, the top states for wind power generation are as follows:

1. Texas
2. Iowa
3. California
4. Minnesota
5. Washington
6. Oregon
7. Illinois
8. Oklahoma
9. North Dakota
10. Wyoming

But when you factor in population (wind capacity per capita), here’s how it shakes out:

1. Wyoming
2. North Dakota
3. Iowa
4. South Dakota
5. Oregon
6. Minnesota
7. Texas
8. Oklahoma
9. Kansas
10. Washington

And if you rank the states by wind power as a percentage of total power generated, here’s what you get:

1. Iowa
2. South Dakota
3. Minnesota
4. North Dakota
5. Oregon
6. Wyoming
7. Colorado
8. Texas
9. Kansas
10. Oklahoma

California, the #2 wind producer overall, doesn’t show up on either of the lists. Illinois also drops out of both rankings, as it has both a large population and is a net exporter of electricity.

It’s also worth noting that the percentages I’m dealing with here are small – in the case of per capita wind capacity, they’re carried out to four or five decimal places. Meaning that wind power is still a very small part of the picture.

Photo by Danish Wind Industry Association via Creative Commons

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