Climate MattersNovember 1, 2023

State Solar and Wind Boom to Bring U.S. Toward Climate Targets


  • Pivotal new laws are projected to boost clean energy, cut carbon pollution, and bring the U.S. closer to its 2030 climate target. 

  • Although current policies won’t get the U.S. all the way to its 2030 target, they’re projected to spur clean energy growth across the country that will continue long after 2030. 

  • Most U.S. states are set to experience a boom in wind and solar energy capacity by 2035, according to research led by Princeton University. 

  • By 2035, solar and wind are expected to make up more than 50% of energy capacity in 46 states. 

  • Along with progressing toward U.S. climate targets, solar and wind energy growth under current policies is also projected to boost energy jobs and improve air quality. 

Another low-carbon energy source that could help cut emissions is nuclear energy, which accounts for one-fifth of electricity in the U.S. A new report, Climate Central Solutions Brief: Nuclear Energy, covers the opportunities and barriers for nuclear energy in the future energy mix.

CM: Progress Toward U.S. Emissions Target 2023 (EN)
Click the downloadable graphic: Progress Toward U.S. Emissions Target

Climate goals for a safer future

Earth has been on a record-shattering heat streak since June, and the rising risks of extremes have been on full display: devastating wildfires and record smoke levels; summer heat boosted by climate change in U.S. cities; heavy rainfall and flash floods; ocean heatwaves and coral bleaching; a record number of billion-dollar disasters.

Every bit of avoided warming counts toward a safer future, and the U.S. is among nearly 200 countries that joined the Paris Agreement to limit warming.

As part of its contribution, the U.S. has set the following goals:

  • By 2030: reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to 50-52% below 2005 levels 

  • By 2035: reaching 100% carbon pollution-free electricity

  • By 2050: achieving a net-zero emissions economy

CM: Solar and Wind Energy Boom 2023 (EN)
Click the downloadable graphic: Solar and Wind Energy Boom

Current policies hold a lot of potential

Recent landmark policies are moving the U.S. toward its climate goals: 

The 2022 Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) contains $369 billion to boost clean energy and cut emissions. The law is estimated to have a greater impact on U.S. climate goals than any previous policy. 

The 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, invests $1.2 trillion in infrastructure that will be more resilient and will help reduce emissions.

In order to understand the potential impact of these policies, and track progress towards U.S. climate targets, Princeton University scientists developed the Rapid Energy Policy Evaluation and Analysis Toolkit (REPEAT) Project. 

The REPEAT Project provides regular and independent research and analysis on the environmental and economic impacts of federal energy and climate policies. Learn more about the REPEAT Project, read their latest report and related peer-reviewed research, and explore the data

Here we highlight some of the progress that can be made in the electricity sector with current U.S. policies (including IRA and IIJA), if we’re optimistic about their adoption and effectiveness.

CM: Solar and Wind Energy Capacity By 2035 2023 (EN)
Click the downloadable graphic: Solar and Wind Energy Capacity By 2035

Cutting emissions, but not fast enough

Before current policies were enacted, the U.S. was cutting greenhouse gas emissions by about 2% per year. But this pace is not fast enough to meet national targets by 2030. 

With the addition of the IRA, the pace jumps to 4% per year. But for the U.S. to reach its 2030 goal, emissions cuts closer to 6% per year would be needed.

By 2030, REPEAT estimates U.S. net annual emissions could be as low as 4.0 Gt carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), compared to 6.6 Gt CO2e in 2005. 

  • That is a reduction of around 40% compared to 2005 levels. 

  • Although this would be significant progress, the U.S. would still fall short of the national 2030 target (50% below 2005 levels).

The good news is that progress is projected to continue beyond 2030 as the energy transition gains even more momentum. By 2035, the U.S. could be more than 50% below 2005 levels with current policies.

Over one-third of the emissions cuts from current policies are expected to come from the electric power sector — largely due to accelerating wind and solar energy growth.

CM: Emission Cuts by Sector
Click the downloadable graphic: Emission Cuts by Sector

Solar and wind energy boom in every state 

Solar and wind energy are key to reaching 100% carbon pollution-free electricity by 2035 and decreasing emissions from burning fossil fuels for energy. And every U.S. state has a role to play in the energy transition.

If current policies are taken advantage of, a boom in solar and wind energy capacity is set to happen in all lower 48 states in the coming decades. 

In 27 states, combined wind and solar capacity could increase at least five-fold by 2035 compared to 2024 projections. 

The following 12 states could see at least a ten-fold increase in combined wind and solar capacity by 2035 compared to 2024 projections: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Washington, and West Virginia. 

By 2035:

  • Utility-scale solar will lead the way in 28 states — especially in Nevada, Georgia, Alabama, Ohio, Arizona, and Florida. 

  • Large-scale wind farms will be the leading source of growth in another 18 states — especially North Dakota, Wyoming, Kansas, Idaho, and Illinois.

  • Offshore wind is projected to lead in two states: Massachusetts and New Jersey. 

By 2035, solar and wind are expected to make up a majority (more than 50%) of state energy capacity in 46 of 48 total states analyzed. 

In 12 states, wind and solar could make up over 80% of electricity capacity by 2035. And New Mexico, Vermont, Virginia, and Wyoming could have over 90% of their electricity capacity from wind and solar by 2035.  

Much to be gained

The outlook for the U.S. is part of a global trend. Current policies are set to accelerate clean energy transitions around the world this decade. 

According to the International Energy Association's latest World Energy Outlook, renewables (including wind and solar) are set to make up nearly 50% of the global electricity mix by 2030. 

In the U.S., current policies could have a major impact on reducing emissions, spurring the energy transition, and ensuring a safer future for younger generations

Along with helping to achieve national emissions targets, solar and wind energy growth is projected to spur millions of new energy jobs in the U.S. by 2035, especially related to solar energy and electricity transmission.

Reduced reliance on fossil fuels in the U.S. electricity supply also means less fine particle pollution and healthier air quality — saving lives and health care costs.


Where do your state’s emissions come from? How are they being cut?

Many states are cutting carbon pollution to ensure a safer future. States have already reduced emissions by 19% on average, from 2005 to 2020. But accelerated action is needed to meet national targets. Check out Climate Solutions in Every State to learn about options to quickly reduce emissions in each U.S. state’s top-emitting sector. 

How much solar or wind energy is your state producing? 

Climate Central’s WeatherPower™ tool forecasts daily solar and wind generation across the U.S. 

  • Check your WeatherPower forecast by state, county, or congressional district, and learn more about the tool. 

  • Go deeper with WeatherPower: 2022 in Review. In 2022, the U.S. generated enough wind and solar energy to power the equivalent of 64 million households, according to Climate Central analysis. That’s up 16% from 2021. Download graphics for your state’s 2022 wind and solar energy.

  • Put it in context: the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s U.S. Energy Atlas provides searchable data and interactive maps for all aspects of the nation's energy system. 

What about other options to cut emissions in the U.S.?

Learn more about solutions that can bring the U.S. closer to net-zero emissions by 2050 — and ensure a safer future for younger generations, including:


Eric Larson, PhD
Senior Scientist (Energy Systems) at Climate Central
Senior Research Faculty, Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, Princeton University
Relevant expertise: clean energy technologies, clean energy systems


Submit a request to SciLine from the American Association for the Advancement of Science or to the Climate Data Concierge from Columbia University. These free services rapidly connect journalists to relevant scientific experts. 

Browse maps of climate experts and services at regional NOAA, USDA, and Department of the Interior offices.  

Explore databases such as 500 Women Scientists, BIPOC Climate and Energy Justice PhDs, and Diverse Sources to find and amplify diverse expert voices. 

Reach out to your State Climate Office or the nearest Land-Grant University to connect with scientists, educators, and extension staff in your local area. 


The projected impacts of current policies (including IRA and IIJA) on U.S. emissions and state-level solar and wind electricity capacity in this Climate Matters refer to the optimistic current policies scenario within an analysis by Princeton University’s REPEAT Project, published on July 14, 2023: 

Jenkins, J.D., Mayfield, E.N., Farbes, J., Schivley, G., Patankar, N., and Jones, R., “Climate Progress and the 117th Congress: The Impacts of the Inflation Reduction Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act ,” REPEAT Project, Princeton, NJ, July 2023. DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.8087805. Learn about the REPEAT Project, read the July 2023 report, and explore the data