Press Release

Press Release Healey-Driscoll Administration Identifies 52 GW of Top-Rated Solar Potential on 15th Anniversary of Green Communities Act

New Study and Mapping Tool Shows Massachusetts has Abundant Solar Potential to Reach Its Climate Goals
For immediate release:
  • Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
  • Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources

Media Contact for Healey-Driscoll Administration Identifies 52 GW of Top-Rated Solar Potential on 15th Anniversary of Green Communities Act

Maria Hardiman, Communications Director

NATICKOfficials gathered to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Green Communities Act today in Natick, Massachusetts, where the Healey-Driscoll Administration announced the release of the Massachusetts Technical Potential of Solar Study and its accompanying interactive ArcGIS StoryMap tool. The Department of Energy Resources (DOER) estimates that Massachusetts has a total 506 gigawatts (GW) of technical solar potential, but that 52 GW are top-rated and 152 GW are highly suitable for rooftop, canopy, and ground-mount solar potential, based on land use, carbon sequestration, and proximity to utility infrastructure. Massachusetts has more than enough solar potential to support its decarbonization requirements – about 15 to 18 times what is likely needed. The top-rated parcels add up to double the amount of solar called for in the 2050 Decarbonization Roadmap. The StoryMap allows users to explore the total solar potential and suitability of any parcel in Massachusetts. 

“Adding more solar in Massachusetts will generate the affordable, clean power needed to lower the costly energy burden for our families and businesses, not to mention help us achieve our ambitious climate goals,” said Governor Maura Healey. “The study shows we can site solar strategically to balance our land use and environmental justice priorities while meeting our solar and emissions reduction targets.” 

“In addition to showing the exciting potential for solar growth across the Commonwealth, the StoryMap will be another important tool for our cities and towns to identify the best locations for solar in their communities,” said Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll. “Salem was designated a Green Community in 2010, and I know firsthand that the program is a vital partner for municipalities to reach their climate and decarbonization goals. The StoryMap is an additional resource communities can use to meet their local clean energy needs.” 

Following the publication of the interim Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2025 and 2030 and the Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2050, which estimates the Commonwealth will need 27 to 34 GW of solar by 2050, DOER identified the need to undertake a technical potential of solar study to estimate the total potential for solar development across the Commonwealth and to rank the most and least suitable locations for solar. DOER conducted the Technical Potential of Solar Study to help Massachusetts meet its solar targets. The study included a robust stakeholder and public engagement process and gave practical direction on how much and where solar can be built while protecting, managing, and restoring our natural and working lands to maintain valuable natural resources that help sequester and store carbon. The suitability framework and interactive StoryMap resulting from the study are key tools for the Commonwealth to develop thoughtful solar siting policy to meet its solar energy targets while balancing considerations for communities, natural and working lands, and clean energy needs. The 52 GW of top-rated solar potential received an A (most suitable) in every suitability category evaluated.

“The study will guide us as we add the additional solar generation Massachusetts needs to meet our energy demand and lessen our reliance on expensive, imported, volatile fossil fuels,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rebecca Tepper. “These results should inform the development of equitable solar projects and policy to better serve and support environmental justice communities. Having identified where the most suitable potential is, we can now engage with these communities to support their clean energy goals, priorities, and access.” 

“With the study results, we can be strategic about where and what kinds of solar we deploy without sacrificing ratepayer cost, our natural resources, or our clean energy goals,” said DOER Commissioner Elizabeth Mahony. “This tool allows us to identify pockets where the most suitable solar potential is, and direct investment and resources towards prioritizing solar in those areas.” 

DOER worked with a Technical Advisory Committee and a technical consultant to analyze each parcel for suitability (including land-use and natural lands protection considerations) and technical potential of solar. The consultant team from Synapse Energy Economics conducted a parcel-based geospatial analysis of every property tax parcel in the Commonwealth using ArcGIS software. The analysis estimated the total potential for rooftop, canopy, and ground-mounted solar on each parcel and graded each parcel’s suitability for solar development according to land use and cost criteria such as biodiversity, carbon sequestration by forests, and electric infrastructure. The StoryMap is a spatial analysis tool for use by municipalities, developers, and state agencies in developing our future solar policies and projects to achieve decarbonization by 2050. 

These tools complement other initiatives, such as the Grid Modernization Advisory Council and the Commission on Clean Energy Infrastructure Siting and Permitting. Additionally, the spatial data can be used in conjunction with other spatial data, such as environmental justice data and electric distribution companies’ hosting capacity maps, to produce more nuanced analyses in the future. 

The study results were announced at an event to celebrate the 15th anniversary of An Act Relative To Green Communities, which was enacted on July 2, 2008. The Green Communities Act was a comprehensive reform of Massachusetts’ energy landscape. Among its provisions was the creation of the Department of Energy Resources’ Green Communities Program, which provides Massachusetts’ cities and towns with energy efficiency and renewable energy opportunities. Since its inception, the Green Communities Program has awarded nearly $167 million in grants to cities and towns, and more than 4 million MMBtus of natural gas have been saved. 

In addition to creating the Green Communities Program, the Act expanded the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), which paved the way for DOER to create solar incentives. In 2008, 3 MW of solar was installed in Massachusetts. Today, more than 4 GW is installed and operating. It also required Massachusetts’ electric distribution companies to enter into long-term contracts for new grid-connected renewable power sources, which allowed Massachusetts to procure offshore wind.  

The announcement was held in Natick, Massachusetts, under a 219 kW solar canopy at the Natick Readiness Center. The canopy was funded in part by a $256,250 Leading by Example Clean Energy Grants for State Entities: Solar (Canopies and Other) & Innovative Solar program and is an example of the strong state-local partnership stemming from the Green Communities Program. Natick was in the first group of designated Green Communities in 2010 and has received nearly $2.2 million in grants to successfully reduce municipal energy use by 20 percent. 

“In Massachusetts, we have an obligation to our people and our planet to do everything in our power to proactively build a greener future,” said Massachusetts Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “For over 15 years, green communities have worked with our state to chart a path to that future. Today, I'm proud to see that our collective commitment is stronger than ever, as we double down on climate action by capturing solar energy from our roofs, canopies, and open areas. I'm proud of our communities in MetroWest that have incorporated energy efficiency into their municipal plans, and thankful to the state’s leaders for pushing for more clean energy.” 

“I am very proud of all the progress the Town of Natick has made in this area,” said State Representative David Linsky (D-Natick). “Natick truly is a leader in sustainability and is a model for other communities.” 


Media Contact for Healey-Driscoll Administration Identifies 52 GW of Top-Rated Solar Potential on 15th Anniversary of Green Communities Act

  • Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs 

    EEA seeks to protect, preserve, and enhance the Commonwealth’s environmental resources while ensuring a clean energy future for the state’s residents. Through the stewardship of open space, protection of environmental resources, and enhancement of clean energy, the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs works tirelessly to make Massachusetts a wonderful place to live, work, and raise a family.
  • Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources 

    DOER helps create a clean, affordable, equitable and resilient energy future for the Commonwealth.
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