California leads US in electricity from emerging renewable energy

California generates more electricity from geothermal, solar and wind energy sources than any other state in the US, according to the latest energy profiles from the Department of Energy (DoE).

Washington state leads in power generated from hydroelectric facilities and, when hydro is included, is rated top in green power output from all renewables combined.

California leads in generation from non-hydroelectric renewable energy sources, including geothermal, wind, fuel wood, landfill gas and solar, and is also a leading generator of hydroelectric power. Two solar power plants are proposed for central regions of the state which will cover 12.5 square miles and generate 800 MW of electricity, the profile notes.

Although it is the most populous state with total energy demand is second only to Texas, California’s per-capita energy consumption is low, partly due to mild weather that reduces demand for heating and cooling energy. It is rich in both conventional and renewable energy resources, with large crude oil and substantial natural gas deposits, and is home to 17 of the 100 largest oil fields in the USA.

Natural gas generates half of the state’s electricity, with hydroelectricity generating 20%. Its two nuclear reactors account for 17% and, due to strict emission laws, only a few small coal-fired power plants operate in California.

California top in geothermal output

California is the top producer of geothermal energy in the USA with 2.5 GW of capacity, of which 700 MW is located at The Geysers north of San Francisco, the largest complex of geothermal power plants in the world. California holds 10% of the country’s wind energy capacity and has the world’s largest solar power facility in the Mojave Desert.

In 2006, California amended its renewable portfolio standard to require investor-owned utilities, electric service providers, small and multi-jurisdictional utilities, and community choice aggregators to provide at least 20% of retail sales from renewable sources by the end of this year and 33% by the end of 2020.

Washington is the leading hydroelectric power producer in the US, where output accounts for three-quarters of state electricity generation. The 7079 MW Grand Coulee hydroelectric plant on the Columbia River is the highest capacity electric plant in the country.

The state has few fossil fuel resources but has tremendous renewable power potential, the profile explains, due to immense hydroelectric resources of the Columbia and Snake Rivers. The western forests offer fuel wood resources, and large areas of the state are conducive to wind and geothermal power development, with high-temperature geothermal areas holding the potential of 300 MW of capacity.

Washington top in hydroelectric

Washington is a major electricity exporter, supplying power to the Canadian power grid and to US markets as far away as California. Its non-hydro renewable sources contribute 3% of the state’s total generation, and is ranked fifth in the US for wind capacity. It is a substantial producer of energy from wood and wood waste, accounting for 3% of US production.

In 2006, Washington adopted a renewable energy standard that requires all utilities serving at least 25,000 people to produce 15% of their energy from renewable sources by 2020.

The DoE profiles examine all states, with details on oil and gas leases, petroleum refineries, natural gas pipeline hubs, electricity transmission lines and power plants, and coal mines.