The increase in solar development in Massachusetts has led to concern from locals regarding the use of undeveloped land for solar farms. As a solar energy leader, the state has seen more of its woodlands and forests cleared for installations. In response to this exponential growth, officials are looking to implement new regulations that may impact current and future Massachusetts’ community solar projects.
According to Heidi Ricci, advocate for land preservation and author of a Mass Audubon report on environmental protection, the loss of natural land can impact water absorption from storms caused by climate change. The Mass Audubon report continued by stating that solar installations comprised a quarter of all development on Massachusetts’ natural lands between 2012 and 2017. While the report doesn’t call for the complete stop to new solar energies, it recommends that the state look at already developed properties, like parking lots and rooftops.
However, the Coalition for Community Solar fears that the rules may put a damper on 80 projects, which would result in the loss of 1,500 jobs and over $730 million in investments. That would add to the more than 4,000 solar jobs lost due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Ilan Gutherz, Borrego Solar’s vice president, states that the rules will result in an 80% cut in the community solar developer’s future projects. Additional Massachusetts community solar projects will also see their investments lost, but the Solar Energy Industries Association has advice for companies fearing the potential regulations.
A spokesperson for the group, Sean Gallagher, suggests that developers look at “low-value” woodland areas and regions with a lower population of mature trees. The Solar Energy Industries Association also recommends building on parking lots and rooftops, despite the reduced solar energy production those installations are known for.
While the Mass Audubon projects report claims that the state would need to clear more than 100,000 acres of land to meet its net carbon emissions goal by 2050, Bluewave Solar spokesperson, Drew Pierson, believes the figures are overinflated. According to Pierson, Massachusetts’ goal would require 25,000 megawatts of power, which would need an additional 70,000 acres of land. Currently, only 10,000 acres have been developed cleared.