New report details municipal-level data on solar installations

Cities and towns across Massachusetts leading the way on clean energy

Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center

Boston, MA—Cities and towns across the Commonwealth are leading the way when it comes to solar power according to a new report released today by Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center.

Over the past three years, solar energy has been transformed from a novelty – one sure to draw stares from passers-by – into an increasingly common sight in many Massachusetts communities. Massachusetts isn’t the only state to experience dramatic growth in solar energy – plummeting prices and strong solar energy policies in other states helped the United States to nearly double its solar photovoltaic capacity in 2011 alone.[1] But solar energy is an especially good idea in the Commonwealth, with the potential to reduce air pollution, help Massachusetts meet its goals for reducing our contribution to global warming, curb our dependence on out-of-state fossil fuels, and help build a new economic future on a foundation of clean energy.

“From the Cape to the Berkshires, solar power is becoming a mainstream technology throughout Massachusetts,” said Ben Wright, Advocate with Environment Massachusetts and co author of the report, Massachusetts’ Solar Cities 2012: Leaders in the Race Toward a Clean Energy Future. “As evidenced by Falmouth, solar power is booming in Massachusetts and with the right leadership we can continue to benefit from the cleaner air and local jobs that this industry inevitably brings.”

Researchers at Environment Massachusetts Research and Policy Center compiled Massachusetts Clean Energy Center data to rank Massachusetts’ 351 towns and cities on four measures of solar energy development including the number of solar PV installations, the solar PV capacity, the number of solar installations per 1,000 residents, and the solar capacity per capita.

The rapid expansion of Massachusetts’ solar market is bringing cleaner air and jobs to the Commonwealth. Every megawatt of solar power installed prevents the emission of nearly 700 pounds of smog-forming pollution per year and cuts more than 900 metric tons of global warming pollution per year as well. Massachusetts’ economy can benefit from further expansion of solar energy. A recent study conducted for the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center found that there were more than 64,000 clean energy workers in the Commonwealth in 2011 – a 6 percent increase from the year before. A separate study estimated that there were 2,100 solar energy workers in the Commonwealth.

“Massachusetts has a long tradition of leadership in catalyzing the cultural, social and economic achievements of our nation. The progress seen across the Commonwealth in solar energy continues that tradition as clean energy choice – through net metering – allows communities the ability to realize the economic and environmental value of this proven energy resource” said Michael Stone of My Generation Energy.

“By producing more energy locally, closer to where it’s used, the Commonwealth is also creating jobs that can’t be outsourced. This growth in energy market competition aids in making solar more accessible and more common in nearly every neighborhood and village of our 351 cities and towns.” Continued Stone.

State lawmakers are currently considering legislation to expand Massachusetts’ most successful solar program, which allows owners of solar installations to sell excess power they generate back to utility companies at market rates. Since the implementation of the Massachusetts net-metering program, the number of solar installations in the state has increased close to 30-fold. Nearly as much solar generating capacity was installed in the first five months of 2012 as in the Commonwealth’s entire history through 2010. 

While Massachusetts has made great progress in solar energy development, a cap on the state’s net metering program jeopardizes future growth because homeowners, businesses and municipalities will struggle to secure financing for solar projects if net metering is not expanded.

“There is no better way for our leaders to affirm their commitment to clean energy than by expanding and improving Massachusetts’ net-metering program,” said Wright.

[1] Solar Energy Industries Association, New Report Finds U.S. Solar Energy Installations Soared by 109% in 2011 to 1,855 Megawatts (news release), 14 March 2012.