What are the largest electricity-producing power plants in each U.S. state?
- Feb 21, 2022 7:28 pm GMT
Can you imagine what life would be like without electricity? Nearly everything we use every day comes from electricity. The lights we turn on, the phones we charge, the electric motors we run, the food we refrigerate and freeze, and in many cases, the heat we derive to stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer. We have come to depend on electricity at such a high level we assume it will always be there, and for the most part, it has been.
The power grid has been extremely durable and reliable thanks to a sophisticated mesh of generating power plants, substations, transmission, and distribution wires. In 2020, electricity production in the United States was about 4 trillion megawatt-hours (MWh) produced by roughly 10,000 power plants. The generating plants constitute a wide variety of technologies and capabilities, including behemoth nuclear and hydropower facilities, huge multi-unit fossil generators, large wind and solar farms, and relatively small renewable and oil-burning facilities.
With this backdrop, what are the largest electricity-producing power plants within each state? How old are they? What fuels do they burn? How much of each state’s total electricity production is attributed to these power plants? Answers to these questions and more are discussed below and summarized in the table at the end of this report.
Leading power plants in fifty states
Based on operational data from 2020 compiled by Hitachi Energy’s Velocity Suite research team, the combined electricity output from the largest power plants in each state was just over 595 million MWh – about 15% of the U.S. total. Most of the power from these generating plants was nuclear (355 million MWh), followed by coal (135), natural gas (52), hydroelectric (51), oil (2), and wood (<1).
In twenty states, the largest producing power plants are nuclear. Most of the other states’ largest power plants run on coal (14 states), natural gas (9), and hydropower (5). Hawaiian Electric’s Kahe Power Plant represents the only oil burning, state-leading generation resource in the country. Burlington Electric Department’s (VT), J.C. McNeil Generating Station represents the only wood-burning facility among a state’s leading power generators in the country.
U.S. fuel-mix make-up of largest electricity-producing power plants in each state, 2020
The single-largest power-producing plant in the U.S. is the Palo Verde nuclear plant in Maricopa County, Arizona, which produced 31.6 million MWh – more than the total electric output in 11 states. Since the plant started operations in 1986, it has generated nearly 1 trillion MWh. Tennessee Valley Authority’s Browns Ferry nuclear plant in Alabama is the second-largest state-leading power plant which produced 28.8 million MWh. The smallest electricity-producing power plant to lead in any state was the previously mentioned J.C. McNeil wood-fired plant that can also burn either oil or natural gas and represents more than 10% of all electricity production in Vermont.
New Hampshire’s NextEra Energy’s Seabrook nuclear facility, which accounts for more than 60% of all power generated in the state, is the largest single contributor to overall state electricity production. Conversely, the smallest percentage of state-level generation is from the South Texas Nuclear Plant in Matagorda County which represented just 4.6% of total electricity production in the energy-rich state. Despite the small percentage of total state output, South Texas generated more than 22 million MWh.
The oldest facility on the list is Washington State’s iconic Grand Coulee Dam operated by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, where the first unit came online way back in 1942. The youngest top state plant is Alaska’s Southcentral Power Project, operated by Chugach Electric Association which first went into service in 2013.
Plant closures on the horizon
Several of the top state power generating plants are scheduled for retirement including two units at Pacific Gas & Electric’s Diablo Canyon nuclear plant (2024 and 2025) that accounted for 8.4% of California’s power production. Other top-producing plants on the list with planned closure dates – all of which burn coal – include:
- Great River Energy’s Coal Creek power plant, ND (2022)
- Three units at the Tri-State Generation & Transmission-operated Craig Station, CO (between 2025 and 2029)
- Three units at Duke Energy’s Gibson Station, IN (between 2025 and 2035)
- The Arizona Public Service-operated Four Corners plant, NM (2031)
- The PacifiCorp-operated Jim Bridger plant, WY (2037)
The largest of these in terms of percentage of total state electricity production is Jim Bridger (24.9%), followed by Four Corners (22.3%), Coal Creek (19.5%), Gibson (13.1%), and Craig (13%). They’ve all been big contributors to their states’ power production and have helped keep the American power grid extremely reliable through the years.