There are lots of problems with wind power.
Wind turbines are ugly and loud. They kill lots of birds. They only produce electricity if the wind is blowing, obviously. Plus, they’re expensive, relying on lots of government subsidies to get up and running. Combined with the fact that green energy is associated with left wing politics, it’s surprising to find out that states like deep red Texas and Oklahoma lead the country in wind power capacity.
We gathered our data from the American Wind Energy Association, a national trade association advocating for public policies friendly to the wind power industry. We used turbines in place of a bar chart to indicate how much electrical capacity each state generates. We then color-coded each turbine to highlight the number of homes the industry can power, combined with the total investment each state has made in the industry as of 2018. This approach gives you a quick snapshot of wind energy investments around the country.
Wind is a tricky thing to harness for electrical power, but there appears to be a correlation between the amount invested and total power returned. For instance, Indiana forked over some $4.5B to the wind industry and created in 2,117 MW of power. Texas put forward $42B and received 23,262 MW for the money, or about 10 times as much as Indiana. That being said, there are clearly some start-up costs associated with wind turbines. Unless a state is willing to spend or subsidize at least several billions of dollars, it won’t ever see substantial levels of power generation. Delaware, Connecticut and New Jersey have a long way to go.
At first glance, it also appears that the sheer amount of electrical capacity is directly related to the number of homes able to subsist on that power. After all, it makes intuitive sense that states generating the most power can supply more homes. But look at North Dakota, which only has 2,996 MW of installed capacity supplying some 1M+ homes. How can that be?
Part of the answer is that there is another dynamic hiding beneath the surface of our visualization. It’s critical to bear in mind differences between rural and urban states when looking at a chart like this. For example, Iowa and Kansas both have comparable wind capacity to California, but California is the most populous state in the country by far, with just under 40 million people. Iowa (30th most populated) and Kansas (35th) are several orders of magnitude smaller, not to mention Oklahoma (28th), which by this measure is truly the nation’s leader in green energy. If California invested in wind energy at the same rate as Kansas, it’d have some 10 times more electrical capacity.
Data: Table 1
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