Though Wyoming is a northwestern state, it is still firmly in the United States’ solar belt. And it has a bonanza of energy opportunities, with rich wind — including the most superb inland wind resources in the United States, which are in a small, southeastern pocket of the state, and better than average solar and geothermal resources.
While the Wyoming gets, on average, more than 5 kilowatt hours (kWh) of sunlight per square meter per day, the state also is rich in fossil fuels, particularly coal and natural gas and offers few incentives to residents and businesses to help them convert to solar and other renewables.
The state, despite being the 10th largest, is the nation’s least populated with roughly 500,000 residents, according to the Energy Information Administration. That’s less than the 600,000 people who live in Washington, D.C.
In addition to being a magnet for companies exploring for oil shale and natural gas, Wyoming is the top producer of coal in the nation, surpassing the other coal giant, West Virginia. Wyoming's low-sulphur coal is easy to mine since it's found in surface-based deposits, making it attractive to coal-fired power plants that want to keep their emissions low.
Given its large fossil fuel resources, it’s no surprise that the majority of electricity produced in Wyoming comes from coal-fired plants. But the amount of wind power produced in the state continues to increase.
Both Wyoming’s northern and southern neighbors, Colorado and Montana, have established renewable portfolio standards. Wyoming has no RPS and few legislated programs to promote renewable energy adoption.
While limited, Wyoming does offer some incentives to help its residents and businesses adopt renewables and install solar. With harsh winters, the state is offering more incentives geared to help residents invest in energy-efficiency projects, like improving insulation, to help cut back energy costs in the winters. The state offers residents rebates, zero-interest rate loans, and a net metering program to make the conversion to solar and other renewable electricity sources a little easier.