The West is America’s Clean Energy Capital

The American West is the key to transitioning away from dirty energy. Whether it’s harnessing the southwest’s nearly limitless solar potential or the Great Plains’ blustery supply of wind, the West is blessed with clean, renewable energy. 


The Renewable Energy Atlas of the West found the solar potential of the western states is 920 megawatts, enough to meet four times California’s current electricity needs. That’s not all.

A study by the New Rules Project further found that western states could meet anywhere from 15-50% of their total electricity needs just by installing photovoltaic solar panels on existing structures. 

In total, the study found that states could reliably depend on solar energy by developing only a fraction of their total landbase. For example, California could meet its energy needs solely from photovoltaic panels if only 0.32% of the state was developed, an area only half the size of Orange County.

Check out the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s solar potential maps for more information.

Solar Photovolatic National Map pc NREL


The potential for wind to power our future is monumental. The New Rules Project found for example that states like Montana, North and South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico could meet their energy needs by upwards of 140 times. 

Check out the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s wind potential maps for more information.

On Track for Continued Gains

Renewable energy is here and now. Eleven western states have already adopted ambitious renewable energy standards, with Colorado’s, which is one of the largest in the nation, now at 30%.

Nationally, renewable energy provides nearly 10% of our nation’s energy needs, with wind power now providing over half of all non-hydroelectric renewable energy. 

The renewable power industry also continues to grow by leaps and bounds. Just between 2007 and 2008, for example the amount of wind energy brought online in the United States increased by over 7%. And in 2010, solar installations in the country increased by 67%.

We have the potential. We have the know-how. We can make a full transition to clean energy, and the American West will help to lead the charge.

photo credit: NREL