Technical Potential of Solar Study

This page provides information and updates about DOER's Technical Potential of Solar Study.

Table of Contents

Introduction

To reach the decarbonization mandates established by the Global Warming Solutions Act, the Massachusetts 2050 Decarbonization Roadmap identified that Massachusetts needs to deploy between 25 and 35 gigawatts (GW) of solar energy by 2050. To better understand how Massachusetts can meet these targets, the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) has undertaken a Technical Potential of Solar Study (Study) to assess the potential for solar development throughout the Commonwealth. 

On February 25, 2022, DOER notified stakeholders, including members of industry, environmental and conservation organizations, and members of the public, that it had posted a Request for Quote (RFQ) to procure a consultant to undertake the Technical Potential of Solar Study. Following this solicitation, the Department selected Synapse Energy Economics and Climable as the consultant team to undertake the Study. This page provides updates on the on-going activities related to the Study. Stakeholders who are interested in staying informed and providing input on the direction of the Study are encouraged to subscribe to the “Solar- Technical Potential Study” mailing list. 

The Study will undertake five tasks including: 

Task 1: Stakeholder Engagement:  Develop and implement a stakeholder engagement plan to inform the direction of the Study.  The plan will have a focus on engaging environmental justice populations. 

Task 2: Spatial Analysis:  Develop and implement a methodology to rank preferred and least preferred sites.  The analysis will consider both environmental and economic factors in assessing the potential for solar in Massachusetts. 

Task 3:  Greenhouse Gas Analysis:  Undertake a lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions assessment that compares generation from potential solar facilities against the lost sequestered carbon from the conversion of the land. 

Task 4: Policy Considerations:  Assess Massachusetts solar policies and informed by stakeholder feedback, develop policy considerations to continue to advance solar in Massachusetts. 

Task 5:  Develop Online Resources and Report:  Create an accessible and engaging online resource to share the results of the Study.  In addition, develop a report to ensure stakeholders without internet access can access the Study. 

Task 1: Community Engagement

DOER currently administers the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) program, which provides incentives that encourage solar development. Additionally, the program provides increased incentives to projects on preferred land types and buildings and reduces incentives for projects developed on less preferred land. The information collected throughout our community engagement process will be used to identify where people in Massachusetts would prefer to see solar developed and may inform future solar policy.   

To collect feedback from as many collaborators as possible, there are three different ways to provide feedback to DOER. 

Solar Siting Survey 

Massachusetts residents are invited to complete a short online survey between September 19 and December 15, 2022. At this time the survey is available in English with a Spanish version available in the coming weeks. If you require the survey to be translated into another language, please contact kerry.judge1@mass.gov. 

DOER is also engaging various organizations to distribute the survey in an effort to reach more respondents.  

Virtual Workshops 

There will be two virtual workshops that are open to the public. The virtual workshop will include information on the Study, solar energy, and ArcGIS mapping tools. It will also include breakout sessions so attendees can give feedback on where solar projects should be sited. 

The date, time, and registration link for each meeting is below. Please indicate in your registration if you require interpretation services. 

  1. October 5, 11:00 AM - 1:00 PM Register here

  2. October 11, 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM Register here

To request a reasonable accommodation or interpretation services for a language not listed in the meeting registration, please contact kerry.judge1@mass.gov.

In-Person Workshops 

DOER is in the process of planning additional in-person workshops, starting in late October. The in-person workshops will include information on the Study, solar energy, and ArcGIS mapping tools. They will also include breakout sessions so attendees can give feedback on where solar projects should be sited. Climable, Inc. will facilitate the workshops and project team members from DOER and Synapse Energy Economics will also be present. 

Meeting details will be updated on this page and distributed to the “Solar- Technical Potential Study” mailing list as they are confirmed. 

To request a reasonable accommodation and/or a language access, please contact kerry.judge1@mass.gov. 

Task 2: Spatial Analysis

The spatial analysis for this Study will consist of ArcGIS mapping and analysis conducted by Synapse Energy Economics to evaluate land parcels in Massachusetts for their suitability for different types of solar. Data collection for the spatial analysis will occur at the same time as the community engagement and continue through the end of 2022. Feedback from the solar siting survey and workshops will help inform future iterations of the analysis and will be used to develop criteria to determine a parcel’s suitability for solar siting.  

Task 3: Greenhouse Gas Analysis

The Global Warming Solutions Act requires Massachusetts to decrease greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 80% of 1990 levels by 2050. Solar energy can help the Commonwealth meet this target by providing an alternative to GHG-emitting fossil fuels.   

Synapse will work to quantify the overall avoided emissions from replacing fossil-fuel powered electricity with solar energy. In addition, Synapse will consider the lost potential for carbon sequestration from converting land for solar development in its suitability analysis for solar sites. 

Task 4: Policy Considerations

Synapse will create an inventory of solar policy in Massachusetts. Once stakeholder feedback has been collected and compiled, these policies will be assessed to see how information from the community engagement, spatial analysis, and greenhouse gas analysis can be leveraged to improve existing policy or inform the development of new policy.  

Task 5: Develop Online Resources and Report

Each task of the Study will be compiled into a final and public-facing report that summarizes the Study’s findings. The report will be available on this webpage and will be translated into multiple languages. Special efforts will be made to ensure that the report is in plain-language and accessible to a wide audience. The report will be available on this page in Spring 2023.   

Additional Resources

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