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The 7 States Leading the Charge for Clean Energy

Solar, wind and other green power projects are sprouting even in the most polluted of places.
 
 
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A solar farm near Rifle, Colorado.
Photo Credit: Tara Lohan

 
 
 
 

Full disclosure. I'm greenvesting thousands in solar and other no-brainer renewable energy alternatives, because I want to help save the world from an exponential mass extinction thanks to crap energy policy. 

Sure, some bigshot and small-time "investors" and "innovators" may be in it for the money (see: Anschutz Corporation, below), but these days who cares? Climate change's clock is short. Thankfully, solar, wind and other green power projects are popping even in the most polluted of places.

What brings them all together are the inevitable political and economic compromises born of resource shortages and shared cosmology. For all of our imagined differences, we share the same singular paradise spinning through space. But we're knowingly trashing it at light-speed, when we could be living clean off the sun, sea and wind.

"Civilization has been around for thousands of years," the Solar Energy Industries Association's new spokesveep Ken Johnson told AlterNet. "The idea that we're going to pretty much blow through most of our natural energy resources in a couple hundred years is pretty frightening. What are we going to do about future generations? Just shrug our shoulders and say, Sorry! We enjoyed it while we were here. Good luck, and try burning wood again! That's just not an option."

The solar sector's explosive year so far is one brilliant alternative Johnson is aware of, having migrated to SEIA from the cozy political and industry environs of Capitol Hill, Homeland Security, PhRMA and more. He's following the money like the rest of us. From massive investments from billionaires like Warren Buffet to recent stock-market performances that shame new-school blue-chips like Apple and Google, the renewables sector is on an evolutionary roll, gaining significant momentum across what advertisers like to call Democrat and Republican territories. 

Here's a refresher on the realities of recent green blooms in red states and blue, including some who may be worse polluters than you think, like the so-called Golden State, land of airborne lung death.

1. California

For all of the Golden State's leadership when it comes to pathbreaking the green economy, it remains the United States' most confused paradise. American Lung Association's list of America's most polluted cities scores several California notables across brackets, led by Los Angeles and cities smack dab in the state's breadbasket. California also ranks second in America's highest CO2 emissions, after Texas, which is the worst state in the country. Sure, California's per-capita CO2 emissions are lower than almost every state in the country, but it still annually spews out nearly 400,000 metric tons of CO2 on top of its reigning particle and ozone pollution. As a figurative country within a country, populated by so-called red and blue cities the size of states, California still has a long way to go before it can truly call itself a green state.

But it's on the right track, said Johnson. "We're trending in the right direction. Lancaster, which is under Republican leadership, has mandated solar on all new construction. Palo Alto recently approved contracts which will have the city getting 18 percent of its electricity from solar." 

Ivanpah—billed as "the largest solar plant under construction in the world" by its bankrollers Brightsource, Google and NRG—will bring on hundreds of megawatts of generating capacity. Warren Buffet's twin Solar Star farms in nearby Antelope Valley are together larger than Ivanpah, which is why he doubled down a cool billion to further fund construction. It's no accident that after he did just that, Sunpower, who built his solar stars, watched its stock skyrocket to a 52-week high. (Full disclosure: It's also no accident that I've greenvested in Sunpower since last year.) Because rich and poor alike know that solar is simply a no-brainer.

 
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