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The Best States And Cities For The Clean Tech Economy

Where are clean tech companies getting the most traction? Mostly in the states you’d expect, but don’t underestimate what wind power is doing to the grids of middle America.

In 2010, only one state generated 10% of its energy from renewable sources. Now, 14 states exceed 10% renewables that aren’t hydropower.

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Iowa, South Dakota, and Kansas now get 31%, 25%, and 24% respectively from renewables (mostly from wind). California gets more than 10% just from solar (all types), while Hawaii is at 7%.

“The transition to a clean energy economy over the past seven years is remarkable,” says Ron Pernick, managing editor of the Clean Edge research firm, in a press release. Half of the top-10 states for clean electricity, including Idaho, North Dakota, and Oklahoma, are “red states,” he points out.

Clean Edge’s new U.S Clean Tech Leadership Index ranks states and metropolitan areas across multiple areas, including how much clean electricity they generate, how they mandate for energy production, what they offer in tax breaks and subsidies, and how much capital they’re raising for renewable energy businesses.

California, predictably, dominates the state ranking. And it’s home to the top three cities as well: San Francisco, San Jose, and San Diego. Massachusetts comes next, with Vermont in third (up from 15th overall in 2013). Oregon, New York, and Colorado follow. Hawaii, which has risen nine places in seven years, in 10th overall.

California is top for hybrid and electric vehicle adoption, with Hawaii, Georgia, and Washington following. Massachusetts comes out on top as a place to raise money and do research.

On the metro side, after the top three California cities, we have Portland (abundant clean energy); Washington, D.C., (high number of green buildings); Los Angeles (EVs); Boston (buildings); Seattle (electrifying its transit); Austin (high venture capital numbers); and Chicago (strong on green buildings).

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The rankings give an impression of where business, government, and research is working hardest on clean tech development, and it’s clearly centered in a few states and metropolitan areas. These areas need to be expanded if the whole country is to see the benefits of green energy, building, and transport going forward.

Cover Photo: Jon Bilous via Shutterstock

About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.

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