Electricity | How States Make It

How is electricity generated where you live? That question was addressed in a New York Times story by Nadja Popovich on 24 Dec 2018. Electricity is made from several energy sources including coal, natural gas, petroleum, nuclear, water flow, wind, solar, and biomass. The mixture of sources for each state is quite different and depends on the availability and cost of resources for that state.

The article looked at the range of time from 2001 to 2017. The mixture of energy sources has varied over time for each state and for the United States as a whole. Here we see the sources charted for the United States. Note the increase trend of natural gas and the decrease of coal. Nuclear and hydroelectric have remained constant. Wind grew to 6%. Solar in yellow is barely visible in the lower right. Click image for detail.

New York Times | Nadja Popovich and Josh Williams | 24 Dec 2018

My state of Iowa has invested heavily in making energy from wind. We currently make over 37% of our electricity from wind and are on track to reach 40% and overtake coal in a few years. We don’t make the most electricity from wind of any state due to our smaller size. But, our percentage is highest.  Second place Texas is at 15%.

New York Times | Nadja Popovich and Josh Williams | 24 Dec 2018

Iowa Wind Energy Association

Explore the NYT article. Find your state and the accompanying chart like those above. See what energy sources your state uses and how they are trending. You might be surprised.


8 thoughts on “Electricity | How States Make It

  1. As it happens, I recently read this article about some of the complexities faced by Georgetown, TX, after their decision to go to 100% wind/solar power. You might be interested in reading it. It’s not an argument against green power, but it does point out that transitions can be more difficult than some people realize.

    • I read that through several times and discussed it with Melanie. I agree it is not a criticism of renewables. More, it was bad planning by the city. They appeared to expect price trends that simply didn’t happen.

      Our next door neighbors put solar panels on their house this fall. They are producing electricity now but not in excess of their needs most of the time. When excess is made, it is metered back (sold) to the utility grid at a rate about ⅓ of the rate when they buy from the grid. It makes for a long payback time for investment. If that drops to ¼ or less due to market surplus, they get hurt financially. Like any investment, it is a gamble on what you think will happen.

  2. The trend is happily positive, despite the actions of the current administration. The graph would have been better without the crossovers and the covered y axis from 2016 onward.

  3. Very interesting. Hooray for you guys, using the wind. I saw a large array of solar panels go up on the roof of our middle school, and so was encouraged by that. And there is a small solar “farm” along a back road. I don’t know whether the energy they generate is available to consumers or what they are really doing.
    The trend for natural gas concerns me. I read of a law recently that basically says it is illegal for a county to ban fracking if the governor of that state has ok’d it. What a frightening law! The harm fracking does is irreversible, while the energy it generates will play out fairly quickly. Another disturbing law here in Illinois~ it is illegal, evidently, to go off the grid. If you put solar panels on your house you can sell it to the power company, but you must be connected to them. So, if they are using nuclear or coal, you’re stuck with little to say about it. Hopefully more people will put solar panels on their houses, and over time the scary and dirty power plants will become unnecessary. We still have the spent fuel sitting there next to Lake Michigan at a defunct nuclear plant in Zion, IL. Nobody ever thought up what to do with the spent but still very dangerous fuel! I hear the “solution” is to ship it west and store it there. Hmmm.

    • We are seeing more large arrays of solar panels. Some of them are part of farmsteads. Ironically, one of the largest is in the heart of Amish country not far from us. A rural electric coop sees the future in it. https://www.google.com/maps/@41.5570198,-91.7415839,496m/data=!3m1!1e3?hl=en

      I agree that fracking is not a good thing. Our son was in north central OK for pilot training a few years ago. The number of earthquakes in the area has gone up a great deal, but not actually due to fracking. Oil extraction and resulting wastewater pumped into the ground seems to be the cause. https://earthquake.usgs.gov/research/induced/myths.php

      I visited that nuclear plant a long time ago as part of a class. We looked into the storage pool and saw those spent fuel rods. At the time they started storage, the plan was to reprocess them to extract the still useful uranium for future use. Money was never allocated to carry through that plan. Now we have a growing problem of what to do with them. hmmmmm indeed

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