A few years ago, I wrote a piece for the print mag trying to puzzle out how Texas—a pollution-spewing oil state that's never been a hotbed of environmentalism—had quickly become the country's biggest wind-power producer. (The short version is that legislators inadvertently stumbled on a smart policy design back in the 1990s—a bill signed into law, as it happens, by then-Governor George W. Bush.) Seems like not much has changed. The Wall Street Journal's Keith Johnson has the latest wind-production numbers for 2008, and Texas's stunning boom isn't showing any signs of slowing down:

Leading the charge is Texas, which widened its lead over states by installing almost 2,700 megawatts of wind power last year. Only two countries in the world installed that much wind in 2008. In fact, if Texas were a country—an idea never entirely out of fashion in the Lone Star state—it would rank 6th in the world in wind power capacity.

To get an idea just how explosive wind power’s recent growth has been in Texas, look at the sprawling 19th congressional district in the northwest part of the state. That single (Republican) district has about as much wind power as all of Denmark, and more than 10% of all the wind power in the entire U.S.

Nationwide, Johnson notes that the industry's well on pace to supply 20 percent of the country's electricity by 2020, as projected by the Energy Department. There's one notable laggard, though: California, which once had more turbines than any other state, has fallen behind even Iowa in wind-power production, partly because the state's permitting process is more onerous than anywhere else, and partly because there's been plenty of opposition to new transmission lines from both local activists and environmentalists. (NIMBYs aren't unknown in Texas, there just seem to be a lot fewer of them...)

(Flickr photo credit: fieldsbh)

--Bradford Plumer