The American West has a vast potential for developing renewable energy , primarily wind
and solar power. The Renewable Energy Atlas of the West looks at current capacity, as
well as overall potential for wind, solar, geothermal and biomass.
Development of this potential has been accelerated by the adoption of renewable
portfolio standards, which require utilities to generate a certain percentage of their power
from renewable standards. Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have adopted
renewable portfolio standards, including Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada . In
New Mexico, Governor Bill Richardson recently signed legislation doubling his state's
standard to 20% by 2020, and similar legislation is moving forward in Colorado.
If you want to see what your state is doing, check out this database with comprehensive
information on state, federal, local and utility incentives for renewable energy . The site
also has a database of state and local energy efficiency standards .
At the same time that the West has been making a strong push for renewable energy,
Washington has directed a huge increase in the development of oil and gas in the region.
Between 2001 and 2006, the number of drilling permits approved by the federal Bureau
of Land Management more than doubled, to 7745. Some of the West's treasured
landscapes are at risk . A big jump in coalbed methane development has sparked concerns
about water quality in several states. So has the prospect of a return to oil shale
development . A coalition of environmental and western citizens groups recently unveiled
an alternative energy strategy for the region .
Western Progress is also advancing the movement toward alternative energy with an
upcoming workshop on the economics of renewable energy, targeted at policy leaders in
the eight Rocky Mountain States.