Massachusetts solar power goal reached, expanded

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Massachusetts has surpassed its goal of being home to 250 megawatts of installed solar energy capacity four years early.  Governor Deval Patrick's administration and the state legislature have adopted a series of policies favoring the development of solar energy, including a target of reaching 250 MW by 2017.  Last week the administration announced that this goal had already been reached, and established a new goal of 1,600 MW by 2020. 

Solar power in Massachusetts has grown significantly in recent years.  In 2007, the Commonwealth hosted just 3 MW of solar capacity.  Since then, Massachusetts has adopted a variety of incentives for renewable power production.  Chief among these is the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) Solar Carve-Out program.  State law currently requires utilities to source up to 400 MW from in-state solar photovoltaic projects.  Utilities purchase solar renewable energy certificates, or SRECs, representing the environmental attributes of electricity produced by qualified projects.  These SRECs come in addition to the actual power produced by projects, and carry a premium value over other renewable attribute products.  State laws such as the 2008 Green Communities Act have provided additional incentives, including technical assistance and financial support for solar development.

Given current policies and market dynamics, solar power in Massachusetts will likely continue to grow.  While the bulk of newly installed capacity is likely to be in the form of distributed generation (as opposed to very large-scale utility installations as are under development in the desert Southwest), Massachusetts will continue to see projects ranging from residential rooftop-scale to close to 10 MW.  Reaching 1,600 MW within the next seven years will be a challenge, and may depend on continued policy support and market trends, but the recent rate of growth and relative enthusiasm suggest this may be possible.

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