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States with the fastest growing clean energy production

States with the fastest growing clean energy production
1/Stockr // Shutterstock

States with the fastest growing clean energy production

America got more electricity from renewable sources than from coal for the first time in April 2019. This is a big milestone for a country that has long relied on fossil fuels for energy, but we’re still lagging far behind the rest of the world: In 2015, the most recent year for which the World Bank reports global renewable energy consumption, the U.S. ranked #151 out of 200 nations and territories in the share of its energy coming from renewable sources.

While other countries are adopting carbon taxes and building fleets of electric buses, the U.S. is mired in political turmoil and led by a president who denies the urgent reality of climate change. Legislators are trying: In July, five Senators introduced a bill which would require American utilities to source at least half of their energy from renewable sources by 2050. But this bill has little chance of passing in a Republican-controlled legislature with leaders such as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia).

Because of this national stalling, it’s up to local governments to make headway on renewable energy legislation and clean infrastructure. As of this year, 29 states, Washington D.C., and three territories have adopted Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS), which require utility companies to generate a specific percentage of their electricity from renewable sources by a specific date. On an even more local level, over 90 cities and several counties across the nation have pledged to be powered by 100% renewable energy by 2050; a few cities, like Georgetown, Texas, have already met this goal. And many cities, including New York City, have declared a “climate emergency,” further incentivizing public leaders and ordinary homeowners alike to mobilize in favor of a greener society.

To more closely examine renewable energy in the U.S. on a local level, Stacker used data from the Energy Information Administration to rank all 50 states in terms of how much their clean energy production grew from 2012 to 2017, the most recent year for which data is available. Clean energy in this story includes all energy sources which do not put carbon dioxide into the atmosphere: hydroelectric, wind, nuclear, geothermal, solar thermal, and photovoltaic energy. It is important to note that renewable energy and clean energy are not interchangeable terms: Sources of energy which may be clean are not necessarily renewable, or able to naturally replenish themselves (such as nuclear power), while renewable sources of energy may not be clean (such as biomass).

Read on to find out how your state fares in cleaning up its energy act, and to learn about regulatory challenges and new clean energy projects across the country.

You may also like: States with the least expensive electricity

#50. Vermont
2/Entergy Nuclear/Nuclear Regulatory Commission // flickr

#50. Vermont

- Clean energy production growth 2012-2017: -73.1%
- 2012 clean energy production: 6.3 million MWH
- 2017 clean energy production: 1.7 million MWH
--- Hydroelectric conventional: 59.8% (of all energy production)
--- Wind: 14.3%
--- Nuclear: 0%
--- Geothermal: 0%
--- Solar thermal and photovoltaic: 4.6%

In late 2014, Vermont closed down the Yankee Nuclear Power Station in Vernon, a boiling water reactor which had produced the majority of the state’s energy. Environmental advocates hoped that closing the power station would lead to increasing reliance on other clean energy sources, but the state legislature is dragging its feet; few significant new climate laws were passed this year despite marches and demonstrations.

#49. Wisconsin
3/Lacrossewi // Wikimedia Commons

#49. Wisconsin

- Clean energy production growth 2012-2017: -19.7%
- 2012 clean energy production: 17.4 million MWH
- 2017 clean energy production: 14 million MWH
--- Hydroelectric conventional: 4.1% (of all energy production)
--- Wind: 2.5%
--- Nuclear: 14.8%
--- Geothermal: 0%
--- Solar thermal and photovoltaic: 0%

Although Wisconsin is losing the clean energy race right now, the state’s local governments are catching up: Six communities have committed to becoming 100% carbon emission-free by 2050. La Crosse, the most recent city to make this pledge, recently allocated about $4 million to converting the lighting, heating, and cooling systems in city buildings to renewable alternatives. "In making those commitments on the municipal level, that's sending a signal to their utilities that their customers expect them to keep up with the market and to keep up with the evolution of our energy," said Kate Beaton, a member of the La Crosse City Council.

#48. Arkansas
4/Edibobb // Wikimedia Commons

#48. Arkansas

- Clean energy production growth 2012-2017: -11.5%
- 2012 clean energy production: 17.7 million MWH
- 2017 clean energy production: 15.7 million MWH
--- Hydroelectric conventional: 4.8% (of all energy production)
--- Wind: 0%
--- Nuclear: 20.9%
--- Geothermal: 0%
--- Solar thermal and photovoltaic: 0.1%

Arkansas has one nuclear power plant, Arkansas Nuclear One, in Russellville; it produces electricity for about one-quarter of the state’s population. While nuclear power is the highest source of clean energy in Arkansas now, it may not be for long: The state recently passed legislation allowing third parties to build solar-powered infrastructure, helping to harness what GreenBiz calls the state’s “untapped solar potential.”

#47. Missouri
5/Joseph Sohm // Shutterstock

#47. Missouri

- Clean energy production growth 2012-2017: -8.7%
- 2012 clean energy production: 12.7 million MWH
- 2017 clean energy production: 11.6 million MWH
--- Hydroelectric conventional: 1.4% (of all energy production)
--- Wind: 2.4%
--- Nuclear: 9.8%
--- Geothermal: 0%
--- Solar thermal and photovoltaic: 0.1%

Like Arkansas, Missouri has one nuclear power plant. The plant, run by Ameren Missouri, produces 1,200 megawatts of power at full capacity and recently had its license extended to 2044. Missouri may soon be a leader in another clean industry, though: the state is home to one of the world’s only reservoirs of cobalt, a valuable ingredient in the lithium-ion batteries that power cellphones, electric cars, and other devices.

#46. Washington
6/Wikimedia Commons

#46. Washington

- Clean energy production growth 2012-2017: -7.7%
- 2012 clean energy production: 105.4 million MWH
- 2017 clean energy production: 97.2 million MWH
--- Hydroelectric conventional: 70.9% (of all energy production)
--- Wind: 6%
--- Nuclear: 7%
--- Geothermal: 0%
--- Solar thermal and photovoltaic: 0%

Washington may be low on this list, but the state is already a national leader in clean energy production: This state is the country’s largest producer of hydroelectric power, primarily relying on the high-volume Columbia River. The Grand Coulee Dam, Washington’s biggest power plant, is the seventh-largest power plant and sixth-largest hydroelectric plant in the world. And Governor Jay Inslee, who is running for president on a campaign that centers climate change, is increasing his home state’s environmental momentum: He recently signed a package of bills mandating that the state be coal-free by 2025 and fully reliant on renewable energy for utilities by 2045, among other clean energy goals.

#45. Connecticut
7/Nuclear Regulatory Commission // flickr

#45. Connecticut

- Clean energy production growth 2012-2017: -2.9%
- 2012 clean energy production: 17.4 million MWH
- 2017 clean energy production: 16.9 million MWH
--- Hydroelectric conventional: 1% (of all energy production)
--- Wind: 0%
--- Nuclear: 47.7%
--- Geothermal: 0%
--- Solar thermal and photovoltaic: 0.1%

Connecticut has two nuclear power plants called Millstone 2 and Millstone 3, both located in Waterford, which produce about 40% of the state’s electricity and employ over 1,500 workers. The state will probably rely on these plants for a while yet, as the local legislature is currently focusing on pushing homeowners to switch from oil to natural gas—this year, the state even took tens of millions of dollars out of an energy efficiency program, to the dismay of environmental advocates.

#44. Oregon
8/USACE // Wikimedia Commons

#44. Oregon

- Clean energy production growth 2012-2017: -2%
- 2012 clean energy production: 45.8 million MWH
- 2017 clean energy production: 44.9 million MWH
--- Hydroelectric conventional: 61.1% (of all energy production)
--- Wind: 9.9%
--- Nuclear: 0%
--- Geothermal: 0.3%
--- Solar thermal and photovoltaic: 0.3%

Like their neighbors to the north, Oregonians rely heavily on hydropower: According to the Energy Information Administration, three-quarters of the state’s electricity comes from hydroelectric power plants and other renewable sources. But state lawmakers aren’t doing much to increase Oregon’s commitment to clean energy—in fact, they’re actively pushing against it. Last month, Republican state senators walked out of the Senate, making it impossible for the legislature to pass a policy which would have taxed carbon dioxide polluters and offered incentives for green jobs.

#43. South Dakota
9/Ammodramus // Wikimedia Commons

#43. South Dakota

- Clean energy production growth 2012-2017: -1.4%
- 2012 clean energy production: 8.3 million MWH
- 2017 clean energy production: 8.2 million MWH
--- Hydroelectric conventional: 48.1% (of all energy production)
--- Wind: 27.1%
--- Nuclear: 0%
--- Geothermal: 0%
--- Solar thermal and photovoltaic: 0%

South Dakota is a national leader in wind power. In 2003, then-Governor (now Senator) Mike Rounds created a dedicated wind energy task force, bringing developers into the state to create new, clean-energy jobs while paying local farmers whose land would be used for wind turbines, and many developments have been made in the state since. Most recently, Lincoln Clean Energy bought a 103-megawatt wind project in Butte County, which is expected to be up and running by the end of 2020.

#42. Louisiana
10/Entergy Nuclear/Nuclear Regulatory Commission // flickr

#42. Louisiana

- Clean energy production growth 2012-2017: -0.1%
- 2012 clean energy production: 16.3 million MWH
- 2017 clean energy production: 16.3 million MWH
--- Hydroelectric conventional: 0.9% (of all energy production)
--- Wind: 0%
--- Nuclear: 15.8%
--- Geothermal: 0%
--- Solar thermal and photovoltaic: 0%

After a harsh reminder of the dangers of extreme weather in the form of Tropical Storm Barry, a coalition of New Orleans community leaders, local businesses, and national advocates submitted a proposal to transform the city for full reliance on renewable energy by 2040. Currently, the state’s biggest providers of clean energy are two nuclear power plants, River Bend and Waterford 3, both of which have recently been renewed for operation.

#41. Mississippi
11/Photo courtesy of Entergy Nuclear

#41. Mississippi

- Clean energy production growth 2012-2017: 2.1%
- 2012 clean energy production: 7.3 million MWH
- 2017 clean energy production: 7.5 million MWH
--- Hydroelectric conventional: 0% (of all energy production)
--- Wind: 0%
--- Nuclear: 12.3%
--- Geothermal: 0%
--- Solar thermal and photovoltaic: 0.1%

According to the EIA, Mississippi’s Grand Gulf Nuclear Power Station, in Port Gibson, is the largest single-unit nuclear power reactor in the country and the sixth largest in the world. The plant has been under scrutiny recently: It is one of three plants across the country which is not rated at the highest safety level by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and has often run at reduced or zero power since 2016.

#40. Massachusetts
12/Swampyank // Wikimedia Commons

#40. Massachusetts

- Clean energy production growth 2012-2017: 3.1%
- 2012 clean energy production: 6.9 million MWH
- 2017 clean energy production: 7.1 million MWH
--- Hydroelectric conventional: 3.2% (of all energy production)
--- Wind: 0.7%
--- Nuclear: 15.7%
--- Geothermal: 0%
--- Solar thermal and photovoltaic: 2.4%

In 2017, only one quarter of Massachusetts residents used fuel oil to heat their homes; the majority relied on natural gas and renewable energy. The state is a national leader in solar and photovoltaic generation, ranking fifth across the country as of March 2019. And Boston is a national leader on its own: The city was recently ranked number one for clean energy, according to a scorecard released by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

#39. Wyoming
13/Greg Goebel // Wikimedia Commons

#39. Wyoming

- Clean energy production growth 2012-2017: 3.5%
- 2012 clean energy production: 5.3 million MWH
- 2017 clean energy production: 5.4 million MWH
--- Hydroelectric conventional: 2.4% (of all energy production)
--- Wind: 9.2%
--- Nuclear: 0%
--- Geothermal: 0%
--- Solar thermal and photovoltaic: 0%

Wyoming has long relied heavily on the coal industry—the state produced 40% of America’s coal in 2017. But this industry is now struggling. Cloud Peak, the state’s third-largest mining company, and Blackjewel, the fourth-largest coal company, have both declared bankruptcy in the past three months, putting hundreds of miners out of work and hindering the state’s tax revenue. A turn to clean energy could help the state recover some of those lost jobs and revenue.

#38. Montana
14/JERRYE AND ROY KLOTZ MD // Wikimedia Commons

#38. Montana

- Clean energy production growth 2012-2017: 4.5%
- 2012 clean energy production: 12.5 million MWH
- 2017 clean energy production: 13.1 million MWH
--- Hydroelectric conventional: 38.8% (of all energy production)
--- Wind: 7.6%
--- Nuclear: 0%
--- Geothermal: 0%
--- Solar thermal and photovoltaic: 0%

Like Wyoming, Montana is big on coal—this state has America’s largest recoverable coal reserves—but is slowly decreasing its reliance, as coal plants accounted for less than half of the state’s electricity in 2017. Montana also has a growing clean energy sector, including 21 hydroelectric dams and the state’s first utility-scale solar power facilities, which began operation in 2017.

#37. New Jersey
15/Peretz Partensky // Wikimedia Commons

#37. New Jersey

- Clean energy production growth 2012-2017: 4.7%
- 2012 clean energy production: 33.4 million MWH
- 2017 clean energy production: 35 million MWH
--- Hydroelectric conventional: 0% (of all energy production)
--- Wind: 0%
--- Nuclear: 45%
--- Geothermal: 0%
--- Solar thermal and photovoltaic: 1.2%

New Jersey is definitely phasing out oil. Less than one-tenth of the state’s electricity came from oil in 2017, with natural gas and nuclear power making up the lion’s share. This summer, Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG), New Jersey’s largest and oldest power company, pledged to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The company said it will not build or acquire any new fossil-fuel power plants.

#36. Illinois
16/Christopher Peterson // Wikimedia Commons

#36. Illinois

- Clean energy production growth 2012-2017: 5.1%
- 2012 clean energy production: 104.3 million MWH
- 2017 clean energy production: 109.6 million MWH
--- Hydroelectric conventional: 0.1% (of all energy production)
--- Wind: 6.7%
--- Nuclear: 52.9%
--- Geothermal: 0%
--- Solar thermal and photovoltaic: 0%

As a highly industrial state which focuses on petroleum refining and coal mining, Illinois is the fifth-largest energy-consuming state in the country. It also leads the nation in nuclear power, with 11 power plants in Braceville, Byron, Clinton, Morris, Marseilles, and Cordova. The state passed legislation in 2008 requiring Illinois utilities to obtain 25% of their energy from renewable sources by 2025, but these companies are very far from hitting their targets, according to a report by the Illinois Power Agency. At its current rate, a state program offering incentives for clean energy production will run out of funding by 2021.

#35. Georgia
17/Nuclear Regulatory Commission // Wikimedia Commons

#35. Georgia

- Clean energy production growth 2012-2017: 5.3%
- 2012 clean energy production: 36.2 million MWH
- 2017 clean energy production: 38.1 million MWH
--- Hydroelectric conventional: 1.9% (of all energy production)
--- Wind: 0%
--- Nuclear: 26.4%
--- Geothermal: 0%
--- Solar thermal and photovoltaic: 1.6%

Georgia’s nuclear power comes from two plants, Plant Hatch, near Baxley, and Plant Vogtle outside Waynesboro. Plant Vogtle has two new nuclear reactors under construction, which will be the first new nuclear reactors beginning operation in the U.S. in 30 years. The new reactor project is facing budget and timeline issues—its completion date has been pushed back from April 2017 to May 2021 for one unit and May 2022 for the other.

#34. Ohio
18/Nuclear Regulatory Commission // Wikimedia Commons

#34. Ohio

- Clean energy production growth 2012-2017: 6.1%
- 2012 clean energy production: 18.5 million MWH
- 2017 clean energy production: 19.7 million MWH
--- Hydroelectric conventional: 0.2% (of all energy production)
--- Wind: 1.3%
--- Nuclear: 14.8%
--- Geothermal: 0%
--- Solar thermal and photovoltaic: 0.1%

Although Ohio’s clean-energy production grew in the past five years, the state just took a step backward. Ohio’s legislature passed a bill this July that subsidized uneconomical nuclear and coal-fired power plants—at the cost of renewable energy programs. Dan Sawmiller, Ohio energy policy director for the National Resources Defense Council, called the bill “one of the worst pieces of energy-related legislation we've seen.”

#33. Idaho
19/Charles Knowles // Wikimedia Commons

#33. Idaho

- Clean energy production growth 2012-2017: 6.6%
- 2012 clean energy production: 12.9 million MWH
- 2017 clean energy production: 13.8 million MWH
--- Hydroelectric conventional: 61.3% (of all energy production)
--- Wind: 14.6%
--- Nuclear: 0%
--- Geothermal: 0.5%
--- Solar thermal and photovoltaic: 2.6%

Idaho relies heavily on hydroelectric power, primarily from 17 hydroelectric plants on the Snake River and its tributaries. Idaho Power, the utility company that operates these plants, recently committed to providing 100% clean energy by 2045. Almost 80% of Idaho’s energy came from renewable sources in 2017—that’s the second-largest share in the nation, following only Vermont.

#32. South Carolina
20/Alupus // Wikimedia Commons

#32. South Carolina

- Clean energy production growth 2012-2017: 7%
- 2012 clean energy production: 52.6 million MWH
- 2017 clean energy production: 56.3 million MWH
--- Hydroelectric conventional: 2% (of all energy production)
--- Wind: 0%
--- Nuclear: 58.4%
--- Geothermal: 0%
--- Solar thermal and photovoltaic: 0.1%

Nuclear power is the biggest clean-energy source in South Carolina, with four facilities across the state. The state attempted to expand its nuclear-power capacity with a project to build two new reactors to the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station, but this project failed spectacularly: It cost taxpayers $9 billion to essentially build a hole in the ground and then fill it back in. More recently, the state legislature pivoted to solar with the “Energy Freedom Act,” which encourages solar developers to build and work with utility providers in the state.

#31. Virginia
21/See This // Wikimedia Commons

#31. Virginia

- Clean energy production growth 2012-2017: 7.4%
- 2012 clean energy production: 29.8 million MWH
- 2017 clean energy production: 32 million MWH
--- Hydroelectric conventional: 1.2% (of all energy production)
--- Wind: 0%
--- Nuclear: 33.8%
--- Geothermal: 0%
--- Solar thermal and photovoltaic: 0.3%

Virginia may rely primarily on natural gas and nuclear power, but the state’s greatest clean energy achievement is the Bath County Pumped Storage Station, in the Allegheny Mountains. This station stores energy in the form of gravitational potential: Water is pumped from a lower elevation reservoir to a higher elevation reservoir, and in times of high electrical demand, that water is released to power turbines. The station has been called the “biggest battery in the world,” and it supplies power to 750,000 homes—but it’s also open to the public, with fishing, boating, swimming, and camping facilities.

#30. Alabama
22/Nuclear Regulatory Commission // Wikimedia Commons

#30. Alabama

- Clean energy production growth 2012-2017: 7.9%
- 2012 clean energy production: 48.3 million MWH
- 2017 clean energy production: 52.1 million MWH
--- Hydroelectric conventional: 6.6% (of all energy production)
--- Wind: 0%
--- Nuclear: 30.5%
--- Geothermal: 0%
--- Solar thermal and photovoltaic: 0.1%

Browns Ferry, a nuclear power plant near Athens, Ala., is the second-largest nuclear facility in the country. It’s been operating since 1974, and set records when it opened: Its three nuclear reactors were the first to produce over 1,000 megawatts of power. Today, Alabama is funding future clean energy development through the Energy Storage Research Center, a facility run by the nonprofit Southern Research to develop new energy storage technology.

#29. Alaska
23/Switchbladesista // Wikimedia Commons

#29. Alaska

- Clean energy production growth 2012-2017: 10.7%
- 2012 clean energy production: 1.6 million MWH
- 2017 clean energy production: 1.8 million MWH
--- Hydroelectric conventional: 25.3% (of all energy production)
--- Wind: 2.2%
--- Nuclear: 0%
--- Geothermal: 0%
--- Solar thermal and photovoltaic: 0%

Alaskans consume a lot of energy through a combination of the state’s harsh winters and energy-intensive industries. This northern state still relies heavily on oil, natural gas, and diesel generators, but its hydroelectric sector is steadily growing, with over 30 projects across the state. The largest of these projects, a facility called Bradley Lake at the head of Kachemak Bay, is undergoing a $46 million expansion.

#28. Arizona
24/Cuhlik // Wikimedia Commons

#28. Arizona

- Clean energy production growth 2012-2017: 11.3%
- 2012 clean energy production: 40.1 million MWH
- 2017 clean energy production: 44.7 million MWH
--- Hydroelectric conventional: 6.5% (of all energy production)
--- Wind: 0.5%
--- Nuclear: 30.6%
--- Geothermal: 0%
--- Solar thermal and photovoltaic: 4.7%

Arizona is home to the largest nuclear power plant in the United States. The Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, in Tonopah (about 50 miles west of Phoenix), has a net summer capacity of 3,937 megawatts—enough power to serve about four million people. The state will shut down its last operating coal mine, Kayenta, this fall.

#27. New York
25/Kokkarani // Wikimedia Commons

#27. New York

- Clean energy production growth 2012-2017: 11.9%
- 2012 clean energy production: 68.5 million MWH
- 2017 clean energy production: 76.6 million MWH
--- Hydroelectric conventional: 23.5% (of all energy production)
--- Wind: 3.2%
--- Nuclear: 32.9%
--- Geothermal: 0%
--- Solar thermal and photovoltaic: 0.1%

Democratic lawmakers in New York state are taking the climate crisis seriously. Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently signed a law setting clean-energy targets which David Roberts of Vox called “the most ambitious… in the country.” These targets include completely carbon-free electricity by 2040 and economy-wide net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Meanwhile, New York City was the first U.S. city with over one million residents to declare a climate emergency, setting a precedent for more aggressive green legislation.

#26. Pennsylvania
26/Z22 // Wikimedia Commons

#26. Pennsylvania

- Clean energy production growth 2012-2017: 13.1%
- 2012 clean energy production: 79.6 million MWH
- 2017 clean energy production: 90 million MWH
--- Hydroelectric conventional: 1.5% (of all energy production)
--- Wind: 1.7%
--- Nuclear: 38.9%
--- Geothermal: 0%
--- Solar thermal and photovoltaic: 0%

Pennsylvania ranks second in the nation for electricity generated from nuclear power, but that may change soon as the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant, famous for a meltdown and ensuing commercial crisis in 1979, is slated to shut down later this year. Other clean-energy industries in the state are lagging: The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that, although Pennsylvania completed over 1,000 solar installation projects in the first quarter of this year, nearby states such as New Jersey had far more installations.

#25. Maryland
27/Jbs666 // Wikimedia Commons

#25. Maryland

- Clean energy production growth 2012-2017: 14.9%
- 2012 clean energy production: 15.6 million MWH
- 2017 clean energy production: 17.9 million MWH
--- Hydroelectric conventional: 5.8% (of all energy production)
--- Wind: 1.6%
--- Nuclear: 44.3%
--- Geothermal: 0%
--- Solar thermal and photovoltaic: 0.8%

Maryland’s only nuclear power station, the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay, generates 1,756 megawatts of electricity—44% of the state’s total electric needs, or enough to power over 1 million homes. The state is aiming to diversify its clean energy, though: Industrial company Tradepoint Atlantic and Ørsted U.S. Offshore Wind recently announced a partnership to build Maryland’s first offshore wind staging center, where ships can transport and deliver wind turbine parts. This staging center will be a key first step in increasing the state’s wind power capacity.

#24. North Carolina
28/Murr Rhame // Wikimedia Commons

#24. North Carolina

- Clean energy production growth 2012-2017: 19.7%
- 2012 clean energy production: 43.3 million MWH
- 2017 clean energy production: 51.8 million MWH
--- Hydroelectric conventional: 3% (of all energy production)
--- Wind: 0.4%
--- Nuclear: 33%
--- Geothermal: 0%
--- Solar thermal and photovoltaic: 4%

Last fall, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper set a goal of cutting the state’s greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2025. Many state lawmakers are on his side, but Duke Energy, North Carolina’s largest electricity provider, produces 105 million tons of carbon dioxide a year (comparable to the emissions of a small country, according to NPR), and is not eager to go green. A bill which would regulate this utility company is stalled in the state House of Representatives.

#23. Tennessee
29/Photorush // Wikimedia Commons

#23. Tennessee

- Clean energy production growth 2012-2017: 21.5%
- 2012 clean energy production: 33.5 million MWH
- 2017 clean energy production: 40.6 million MWH
--- Hydroelectric conventional: 11% (of all energy production)
--- Wind: 0.1%
--- Nuclear: 40.3%
--- Geothermal: 0%
--- Solar thermal and photovoltaic: 0.1%

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is the nation’s largest public power corporation; it owns over 90% of the state’s electricity, including its four nuclear power facilities in Soddy-Daisy and Spring City, and provides energy for 10 million customers. This past July, TVA released a plan to add up to 14 gigawatts of solar energy and 5 gigawatts of energy storage by 2038. However, the plan also includes adding 2 to 17 gigawatts of natural gas-fired energy during that same timeframe, a move which has drawn criticism from environmental advocates.

#22. New Hampshire
30/Jim Richmond // Wikimedia Commons

#22. New Hampshire

- Clean energy production growth 2012-2017: 22.5%
- 2012 clean energy production: 9.6 million MWH
- 2017 clean energy production: 11.8 million MWH
--- Hydroelectric conventional: 8.1% (of all energy production)
--- Wind: 2.4%
--- Nuclear: 57.3%
--- Geothermal: 0%
--- Solar thermal and photovoltaic: 0%

Over one million New Hampshire residents get their electricity from Seabrook Station, the largest nuclear power reactor in New England. This past March, the plant was granted a 20-year license extension through 2050, despite concerns about its safety raised by scientists like civil engineer Victor Saouma

#21. West Virginia
31/AlbertHerring // Wikimedia Commons

#21. West Virginia

- Clean energy production growth 2012-2017: 22.9%
- 2012 clean energy production: 2.7 million MWH
- 2017 clean energy production: 3.3 million MWH
--- Hydroelectric conventional: 2.3% (of all energy production)
--- Wind: 2.3%
--- Nuclear: 0%
--- Geothermal: 0%
--- Solar thermal and photovoltaic: 0%

West Virginia is the second-largest coal producer in the country after Wyoming; in 2017, 93% of the state’s electricity came from coal-fired plants, while 2.2% came from natural gas and only 4.6% came from renewable sources. Like Wyoming, this state may need to find new energy sources soon: Increasing bankruptcies of coal companies and health issues for miners have exacerbated the challenges in this dangerous industry.

#20. Maine
32/Fredlyfish4 // Wikimedia Commons

#20. Maine

- Clean energy production growth 2012-2017: 24.0%
- 2012 clean energy production: 4.6 million MWH
- 2017 clean energy production: 5.7 million MWH
--- Hydroelectric conventional: 30.1% (of all energy production)
--- Wind: 20.7%
--- Nuclear: 0%
--- Geothermal: 0%
--- Solar thermal and photovoltaic: 0%

Besides clean energy from hydroelectric dams and wind turbines, Maine gets about 20% of its electricity from biomass, or living things like plants, wood, and waste. The state has six stand-alone biomass power plants that draw energy from burning wood, as well as biomass markets at pulp mills. Still, while biomass is technically a renewable energy source because you can replant trees, burning it still emits a lot of carbon dioxide, so Stacker did not count it as a clean energy source in this story. To clean up the state’s energy further, Gov. Janet Mills signed three bills this summer requiring the state’s utilities to increase their solar and wind use by 2030.

#19. Michigan
33/Pixabay

#19. Michigan

- Clean energy production growth 2012-2017: 29.5%
- 2012 clean energy production: 30.4 million MWH
- 2017 clean energy production: 39.3 million MWH
--- Hydroelectric conventional: 1.5% (of all energy production)
--- Wind: 4.6%
--- Nuclear: 28.8%
--- Geothermal: 0%
--- Solar thermal and photovoltaic: 0.1%

Although nuclear power produced nearly a third of Michigan’s energy via three plants across the state in 2017, the energy source is in decline: Some plants in the state have closed years ahead of schedule, and others required government subsidies to stay open. Instead, Michigan is increasing its wind power. DTE Energy, a Detroit-based utility company, recently bought three wind parks which it plans to build into the largest clean-energy operation in the state.

#18. Minnesota
34/Tony Webster // flickr

#18. Minnesota

- Clean energy production growth 2012-2017: 30%
- 2012 clean energy production: 20.7 million MWH
- 2017 clean energy production: 26.9 million MWH
--- Hydroelectric conventional: 2.1% (of all energy production)
--- Wind: 19%
--- Nuclear: 23.7%
--- Geothermal: 0%
--- Solar thermal and photovoltaic: 1%

Minnesota is industrially reliant on oil; about 30% of America’s crude oil imports come in through this state, and they process much of that oil at the Pine Bend Refinery. But when it comes to electricity, the state’s clean options are increasing through two nuclear power plants, Monticello and Prairie Island, and wind farms which take advantage of the state’s wide-open prairie landscape.

#17. Iowa
35/Carol M. Highsmith/Rawpixel Ltd // flickr

#17. Iowa

- Clean energy production growth 2012-2017: 44.3%
- 2012 clean energy production: 19.1 million MWH
- 2017 clean energy production: 27.6 million MWH
--- Hydroelectric conventional: 1.8% (of all energy production)
--- Wind: 36.9%
--- Nuclear: 9%
--- Geothermal: 0%
--- Solar thermal and photovoltaic: 0%

Nearly 5,000 wind turbines produce over one-third of Iowa’s electricity, the second-highest wind power share of any state. MidAmerican Energy, a utility company that serves most of Iowa and parts of other Midwestern states, uses many of those wind turbines. The company used renewable sources for more than half of its energy in 2018. But not everyone in Iowa loves wind power: the city of Fairbank recently sued its county over the development of three new wind turbines.

#16. Hawaii
36/Reegan Moen/ U.S. Department of Energy // flickr

#16. Hawaii

- Clean energy production growth 2012-2017: 44.4%
- 2012 clean energy production: 758,420 MWH
- 2017 clean energy production: 1.1 million MWH
--- Hydroelectric conventional: 0.7% (of all energy production)
--- Wind: 5.4%
--- Nuclear: 0%
--- Geothermal: 3.3%
--- Solar thermal and photovoltaic: 1.8%

Hawaii made waves as the first state to set a deadline for zero-carbon energy, with the state committing to generating all energy from renewable sources by 2045. Current energy projects in Hawaii include the Lawai solar and storage facility on Kauai Island, the largest of its kind in the world and the generator of 40% of the island’s power, and research into further geothermal energy potential, as the state’s only geothermal plant closed in 2018.

#15. Texas
37/Leaflet // Wikimedia Commons

#15. Texas

- Clean energy production growth 2012-2017: 52.6%
- 2012 clean energy production: 71.4 million MWH
- 2017 clean energy production: 108.9 million MWH
--- Hydroelectric conventional: 0.2% (of all energy production)
--- Wind: 14.8%
--- Nuclear: 8.5%
--- Geothermal: 0%
--- Solar thermal and photovoltaic: 0.5%

Texas leads the nation in producing crude oil and natural gas, but it also leads the nation in wind power, with over 10,000 wind turbines producing one-fourth of all wind electricity in America. The state’s most recently opened wind farm, the Lockett Wind Farm in Wilbarger, can generate 700,000 megawatt-hours of energy per year, enough to power 70,000 homes.

#14. Indiana
38/Huw Williams // Wikimedia Commons

#14. Indiana

- Clean energy production growth 2012-2017: 55.7%
- 2012 clean energy production: 3.6 million MWH
- 2017 clean energy production: 5.7 million MWH
--- Hydroelectric conventional: 0.3% (of all energy production)
--- Wind: 5.1%
--- Nuclear: 0%
--- Geothermal: 0%
--- Solar thermal and photovoltaic: 0.3%

Duke Energy, the utility company which is butting heads with legislators in North Carolina, is also the largest utility provider in Indiana. Environmentalists claim the energy company is stalling on its promise to retire nine large coal-fired plants by 2038 and transition to cleaner sources. The only major sources of renewable energy in the state right now are about 1,000 wind turbines on seven large farms and some smaller projects.

#13. California
39/Swenty/USFWS/Pacific Southwest Region // Wikimedia Commons

#13. California

- Clean energy production growth 2012-2017: 58%
- 2012 clean energy production: 69 million MWH
- 2017 clean energy production: 109 million MWH
--- Hydroelectric conventional: 20.6% (of all energy production)
--- Wind: 6.2%
--- Nuclear: 8.7%
--- Geothermal: 5.6%
--- Solar thermal and photovoltaic: 11.8%

California residents have won increased clean-energy options through championing community choice agencies, which purchase or generate electricity from clean sources, redistribute that energy to the public, and reinvest revenue in further energy research. According to a recent article by Ann Hancock, executive director of the Center for Climate Protection in Santa Rosa, 10 million Californians (or about one in four) are now being served by the state’s 19 community choice agencies, and those agencies are delivering 88% greenhouse gas emission-free electricity.

#12. Colorado
40/Joshua Heyer // Wikimedia Commons

#12. Colorado

- Clean energy production growth 2012-2017: 59.4%
- 2012 clean energy production: 7.6 million MWH
- 2017 clean energy production: 12.2 million MWH
--- Hydroelectric conventional: 3.5% (of all energy production)
--- Wind: 17.3%
--- Nuclear: 0%
--- Geothermal: 0%
--- Solar thermal and photovoltaic: 1.8%

Since 2010, Colorado has more than doubled its renewable energy. The greatest clean energy source in the state right now is wind power from about 2,000 turbines, but Colorado is also investing in solar energy. Unico Solar, a solar investment group, recently announced that it will fund 19 solar projects in the state’s Front Range, part of the southern Rocky Mountains. Still, the state continues to rely heavily on coal—annual coal production in the state actually rose in 2017, thanks to foreign demand for American coal.

#11. Nebraska
41/Michel Rathwell // flickr

#11. Nebraska

- Clean energy production growth 2012-2017: 61.8%
- 2012 clean energy production: 8.3 million MWH
- 2017 clean energy production: 13.5 million MWH
--- Hydroelectric conventional: 4.2% (of all energy production)
--- Wind: 14.4%
--- Nuclear: 19.5%
--- Geothermal: 0%
--- Solar thermal and photovoltaic: 0%

Nebraska has a high electricity demand due to its large industrial farms and intense climate with hot summers and harsh winters. Although it is still primarily reliant on coal, this state has three nuclear power plants (Cooper Station, Fort Calhoun Station, and Hallam Station), and is embracing wind power after years of lagging behind its fellow Midwest states. Last winter, the Rattlesnake Creek wind farm began operation on 55 square miles in Dixon County—it’s now the state’s second-largest wind farm, with 310 megawatts of power going to serve Facebook’s data centers.

#10. Florida
42/NASA Image Library/Rawpixel LTD // flickr

#10. Florida

- Clean energy production growth 2012-2017: 66%
- 2012 clean energy production: 18.2 million MWH
- 2017 clean energy production: 30.2 million MWH
--- Hydroelectric conventional: 0.1% (of all energy production)
--- Wind: 0%
--- Nuclear: 12.2%
--- Geothermal: 0%
--- Solar thermal and photovoltaic: 0.4%

Florida is one of only four states that can boast utility-scale solar thermal technology, but it still falls behind far less sunny states like Massachusetts and New York in harnessing the sun’s rays. Ivan Penn wrote in the New York Times last month that large utility companies are to blame, through lobbying, political contributions, and preventing homeowners from using their solar panels. And despite the threat of rising sea levels, local clean energy policies differ across Florida’s coastal cities: Orlando was recently ranked the best in the Southeast for clean energy, while Jacksonville, Miami, Tampa, and St. Petersburg all got lower scores.

#9. Nevada
43/Amble // Wikimedia Commons

#9. Nevada

- Clean energy production growth 2012-2017: 78.3%
- 2012 clean energy production: 5.4 million MWH
- 2017 clean energy production: 9.6 million MWH
--- Hydroelectric conventional: 4.7% (of all energy production)
--- Wind: 0.9%
--- Nuclear: 0%
--- Geothermal: 8.6%
--- Solar thermal and photovoltaic: 10.9%

A desert state with comparatively low precipitation, Nevada has the most solar energy potential in the country. In 2017, this state ranked fourth in the nation for electricity generation from solar power, and state lawmakers are promoting further clean energy expansion. New laws passed this year set targets of 50% clean energy across the state by 2030, and 100% carbon-free energy by 2050.

#8. North Dakota
44/USFWS Mountain-Prairie // Wikimedia Commons

#8. North Dakota

- Clean energy production growth 2012-2017: 79.8%
- 2012 clean energy production: 7.8 million MWH
- 2017 clean energy production: 13.9 million MWH
--- Hydroelectric conventional: 6.2% (of all energy production)
--- Wind: 27.4%
--- Nuclear: 0%
--- Geothermal: 0%
--- Solar thermal and photovoltaic: 0%

North Dakota is in the top-ten states for coal production and ranks second for crude oil production, but the state is also a national leader in wind energy. In both 2017 and 2018, wind power provided over one-fourth of the state’s electricity, powering over one million homes. And soon, the state will open its first major solar farm, thanks to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, which was at the center of oil pipeline protests in 2016 and 2017.

#7. Kentucky
45/Tennessee Valley Authority // Wikimedia Commons

#7. Kentucky

- Clean energy production growth 2012-2017: 91.6%
- 2012 clean energy production: 2.4 million MWH
- 2017 clean energy production: 4.5 million MWH
--- Hydroelectric conventional: 6.2% (of all energy production)
--- Wind: 0%
--- Nuclear: 0%
--- Geothermal: 0%
--- Solar thermal and photovoltaic: 0%

Despite its high ranking on this list, Kentucky still relies heavily on coal: In 2018, three-quarters of its electricity came from coal plants, the largest share of any state save West Virginia and Wyoming. Kentucky’s primary clean-energy source is hydroelectric power from nine dams across the state, including a facility in Smithland, which opened in 2017. According to the Kentucky Sustainable Energy Alliance, this state has significant potential to grow its hydropower using existing dams on the Ohio River.

#6. Delaware
46/Max Pixel

#6. Delaware

- Clean energy production growth 2012-2017: 110.9%
- 2012 clean energy production: 26,197 MWH
- 2017 clean energy production: 55,250 MWH
--- Hydroelectric conventional: 0% (of all energy production)
--- Wind: 0.1%
--- Nuclear: 0%
--- Geothermal: 0%
--- Solar thermal and photovoltaic: 0.7%

Delaware has significantly shifted from coal-powered energy to natural gas in the past decade, but the state’s utilities still have a lot of work to do to meet the government’s mandate of 25% energy from renewable sources by 2025. Danish energy company Ørsted is planning a massive offshore wind farm off of Delaware’s coast, which would power half a million homes; but Delaware Business Now warns that the project could face public opposition as wind turbines might hurt tourism.

#5. New Mexico
47/Northern Pueblos Housing Authority/U.S. Department of Energy // flickr

#5. New Mexico

- Clean energy production growth 2012-2017: 115.4%
- 2012 clean energy production: 2.8 million MWH
- 2017 clean energy production: 6 million MWH
--- Hydroelectric conventional: 0.6% (of all energy production)
--- Wind: 13.7%
--- Nuclear: 0%
--- Geothermal: 0%
--- Solar thermal and photovoltaic: 3.5%

The Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM), an energy holding company, recently announced that it will retire a 1,800-megawatt coal power station in San Juan and replace it with a solar power station. Meanwhile, the Hale Wind Project, a $700-million wind farm in Plainview, Texas, which will serve Texas and New Mexico, started commercial operation this past June. Both announcements serve the New Mexico Energy Transition Act, which mandates 30% clean energy by 2030 and 100% clean energy by 2045.

#4. Kansas
48/Drenaline // Wikimedia Commons

#4. Kansas

- Clean energy production growth 2012-2017: 117.0%
- 2012 clean energy production: 13.5 million MWH
- 2017 clean energy production: 29.3 million MWH
--- Hydroelectric conventional: 0.1% (of all energy production)
--- Wind: 36.5%
--- Nuclear: 20.9%
--- Geothermal: 0%
--- Solar thermal and photovoltaic: 0%

Kansas has a larger share of electricity generated by wind (36%) than any other state, thanks to sprawling wind farms in the wide, western High Plains region. But wind developers have faced resistance recently as they attempt to expand into more populated areas. Landowners in Reno County who feared damaged property values and health issues launched a campaign against NextEra Energy’s plans to build 80 turbines, causing the project to be blocked.

#3. Utah
49/Ileen Kennedy // National Guard

#3. Utah

- Clean energy production growth 2012-2017: 170.9%
- 2012 clean energy production: 1.8 million MWH
- 2017 clean energy production: 4.8 million MWH
--- Hydroelectric conventional: 3.5% (of all energy production)
--- Wind: 2.3%
--- Nuclear: 0%
--- Geothermal: 1.3%
--- Solar thermal and photovoltaic: 5.9%

Solar energy is growing quickly in Utah: The state’s solar-power capacity multiplied by 25 times from 2015 to 2017. Summit County and the nonprofit Utah Clean Energy are working together to continue that growth, with a community program which will help homeowners conduct energy audits and purchase solar technology at discounted rates. This county’s leaders, as well as politicians from Salt Lake City and Park City, are committed to local clean energy goals.

#2. Oklahoma
50/duggar11 // flickr

#2. Oklahoma

- Clean energy production growth 2012-2017: 175.9%
- 2012 clean energy production: 9.3 million MWH
- 2017 clean energy production: 25.7 million MWH
--- Hydroelectric conventional: 2.8% (of all energy production)
--- Wind: 32%
--- Nuclear: 0%
--- Geothermal: 0%
--- Solar thermal and photovoltaic: 0%

Oklahoma has a lot of wind-power potential, especially in the western half of the state. Blue Canyon Wind Farm, the state’s largest wind facility, near Apache, powers about 100,000 homes each year. Some state utilities are supporting the further growth of wind power: This summer, the Western Farmers Electric Cooperative signed an agreement to receive 500 megawatts of energy from Skeleton Creek, a new renewable energy project, which will result in the largest combined wind, solar, and battery storage facility in the U.S.

#1. Rhode Island
51/Ionna22 // Wikimedia Commons

#1. Rhode Island

- Clean energy production growth 2012-2017: 2,828.7%
- 2012 clean energy production: 5,646 MWH
- 2017 clean energy production: 165,357 MWH
--- Hydroelectric conventional: 0% (of all energy production)
--- Wind: 2%
--- Nuclear: 0.0%
--- Geothermal: 0.0%
--- Solar thermal and photovoltaic: 0.2%

America’s smallest state had the biggest clean energy growth, largely thanks to the Block Island Wind Farm, an offshore wind farm which began operating in 2016. It has five wind turbines, 600 feet tall with 250-foot-long blades, which could power Block Island ten times over. This facility is the first commercial offshore wind farm in the U.S., and has paved the way for future offshore wind projects in this state and elsewhere.

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