WindmillTexas became the No. 1 state in wind-power generation in 2006. Last year, it lengthened that lead, according to an annual ranking report issued Monday by the American Wind Energy Association:

Texas once again installed the largest amount of new capacity in 2008— 2,671 MW (megawatts) — moving it into a league of its own. More new wind capacity was added in Texas during the year than in any country except China and the U.S. If Texas were a country, it would rank sixth in the world, behind Germany, the rest of the U.S., Spain, China, and India.

Iowa surged into second place in the U.S., behind only Texas. California, once the location of practically all the wind power activity in the U.S., now ranks third for wind project capacity.

Oregon moved into the club of states with more than 1,000 MW installed, which now numbers seven: Texas, Iowa, California, Minnesota, Washington, Colorado, and Oregon.

Overall, Texas had 7,118 MW of wind power installed, compared to No. 2 Iowa, with 2,791 MW, and No. 3 California, with 2,517 MW, according to the report.

Three Texas congressional districts were among the top five with the most installed wind power facilities, the association reported. They were the 19th, a Northwest Texas district including Lubbock and Abilene (No. 1); the 11th, which extends from Central Texas to New Mexico and includes Midland and Odessa (No. 2), and the 17th, stretching from Fort Worth’s suburbs to Bryan-College Station  (No. 4). Iowa districts were in the No. 3 and No. 5 places on the list.

In another ranking in the report, Texas had six of the 10 largest wind farms in the country – the four largest, plus the wind farms in the No. 6 and No. 8 spots. Three of the Texas wind farms on the list came online during 2007 and 2008 and one in 2008.

Among other state government actions to boost the wind industry in recent years, the Public Utility Commission last year approved plans [pdf] to increase capacity for transmission of wind-produced energy from West Texas and the Panhandle to the state’s major metropolitan areas.

Commenting on the association report, Wall Street Journal blogger Keith Johnson viewed the wind rankings of Texas and California in a larger context:

Wind power has thrived because Texas is wide-open—both geographically and politically. There are plenty of open spaces to put wind farms and few barriers to building them.

That’s a sharp contrast with California, once the national leader in wind power but which has been stuck in neutral for two years, and now ranks third nationally behind Iowa. In 2008, Texas installed 25 wind farms; California built two and rejigged one existing wind farm. For every 100 megawatts of wind power Texas installed last year, California built 3 megawatts.

Why do California’s wind-power woes matter? Because the state aims to get 33% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020, just as the federal government is mulling national renewable-energy targets.

For California—not to say the entire country–that will be a really uphill struggle unless it overcomes the problems that have hamstrung wind-power development there. Those boil down to problems getting permits for new wind farms and problems building new transmission [pdf] lines to carry the juice.

California’s progress tackling those twin obstacles will likely show just how viable national plans for a huge increase in clean energy really are.

– Bill Dawson

Wind chart

Wind power capacity installations by state

Photo Credit© Michael Flippo –