Washington Renewable Energy

Darian Brooks
December 9, 2015

Submitted as coursework for PH240, Stanford University, Fall 2015


Fig. 1: Wind power estimates for Washington state. (Courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy)

Washington state, also known as the Evergreen State, generates more electricity from renewable sources than any other state in the U.S. [1] This is probably due to the vast amount of resources that the Pacific Northwest provides. The actual change in seasons from rainfall to sunshine through the seasons grants wind for windmills, provides trees for biomass energy, and keeps the Columbia River flowing for hydroelectric power. Overall, Washington truly embraces "going green" by progressively making changes to the way it produces power for its citizens in a cleaner fashion.

Washington Renewable Energy Sources And Statistics

The majority of Washington's energy comes from renewable sources with the leading source being hydroelectric power. [2] On the Columbia River lies the biggest producer of hydroelectric power in the U.S., the Grand Coulee Dam. It along with several other hydroelectric generators provided 72.6% of the electricity generated in the state in 2010. [2] All of these contribute to one quarter of the nation's net hydroelectric power generation and makes Washington state the leading producer. Washington state is also among the top ten states in the production of energy through nonhydroelectric renewable energy sources as well. [2] Wind power is second to hydroelectric power for renewable sources and generated 4.6% of the total net generation. [2] Wind power is generated and moved all over the state through the transmission lines seen in Fig. 1. The figure shows the potential wind power resource areas according to wind power, speed, and density. It is easy to note the high potential off of the coast and many other areas scattered throughout the state. Coal mines in Washington state shutdown in 2006, but the heat energy from wood and wood waste in the state still provides a small percentage of biomass energy to add to the state's net electricity generation from renewable sources. [2] Finally, the Cascade Mountain Range and the Columbia Basin provide low and high temperatures for geothermal energy production. [3] Although geothermal energy production in the state is not very high, estimates have been done by the U.S. Department of Energy stating that it could provide up to 300 megawatts of power and about "2.5 billion kilowatthours of electricity per year" serving up to "265,000 average U.S. homes". [3]


Washington state renewable energy power plants keep the state functioning with electricity and provide for the country as well. With the rise of technology, necessity for electricity, and non renewable energy sources beginning to shorten over time, more renewable energy plants are going to become necessary. Washington should be seen as an example for other states to rely more on renewable energy sources. Not all states may contain the landscape and geographical location to generate as much renewable energy electricity as Washington, but an attempt needs to be made to decrease the use of nonrenewable energy production and use in the United States.

© Darian Brooks. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] "Electric Power Monthly with Data for December 2014," U.S. Energy Information Administration, February 2015.

[2] "State Renewable Electricity Profiles 2010," U.S. Energy Information Administration, March 2012.

[3] "Geothermal Technologies Program: Washington," U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, DOE/DO-102004-2035, February 2005