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Massachusetts Unveils Study on Solar Potential

Updated October 24, 2023

Massachusetts Solar Partnership DOER Synapse Energy EconomicsMassachusetts – October 3, 2023 – recently revealed findings from its new study, "Technical Potential of Solar Study," a comprehensive analysis that explores the state's capacity for solar energy development. This study, designed to help both policymakers and the public better understand solar energy's potential in the state, has unveiled some noteworthy results.

The Technical Potential of Solar Study serves as a crucial tool for estimating the total solar energy potential across Massachusetts. It considers the physical limitations and possibilities for solar energy installations in the state. The goal is to provide insight into suitable locations for solar projects, factoring in various impacts and trade-offs associated with solar development.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the study:

  1. Solar Goals: Massachusetts has ambitious clean energy and climate goals outlined in the Massachusetts Clean Energy and Climate Plans for 2025, 2030, and 2050. These plans require a substantial increase in solar energy generation, potentially reaching 27 to 34 gigawatts (GW) of solar energy by 2050, a significant leap from the current capacity.
  2. Study Initiatives: To assess the state's solar potential, the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) partnered with Synapse Energy Economics. The study involved extensive stakeholder engagement and a geospatial analysis to estimate solar potential across Massachusetts.
  3. Public Input: DOER conducted a public survey to gather input from over 3,000 residents regarding their attitudes toward solar siting. This valuable feedback contributed to shaping the study's methodology and criteria for identifying suitable locations for solar.
  4. Geospatial Analysis: Unveiling the Solar Potential: The geospatial analysis, conducted using ArcGIS software, allowed experts to estimate the potential for solar energy generation on individual land parcels throughout Massachusetts. Each parcel was ranked based on its suitability for different types of solar installations. Factors considered included agriculture, biodiversity, ecosystem services, embedded carbon dioxide (CO2e), electric infrastructure, and slope and aspect.

The study findings are available to the public through two key resources:

  1. The "Technical Potential of Solar in Massachusetts" report offers a detailed account of the study process, methodology, findings, and policy considerations.
  2. The StoryMap is an interactive platform that summarizes the geospatial analysis results, providing insights into the technical potential and suitability for solar projects across Massachusetts. Users can explore data for individual land parcels to learn about their solar potential and suitability scores.

The study's results indicate that Massachusetts possesses more than enough solar potential to support its decarbonization goals. The highest-rated parcels alone offer twice the solar capacity needed to meet the 2050 Decarbonization Roadmap. This wealth of suitable solar potential allows for aggressive solar policy development while carefully considering land use priorities and environmental preservation. Additionally, this data can inform long-term planning efforts, such as grid modernization initiatives.

The study, however, did not incorporate specific environmental justice metrics into its suitability criteria. This complex relationship between solar siting and environmental justice requires nuanced evaluation. While solar can reduce emissions, its impact on environmental justice communities varies. Communities interested in learning about solar potential in their areas can use the StoryMap to identify suitable parcels based on criteria that matter most to them.

The unveiling of Massachusetts' Technical Potential of Solar Study highlights the state's commitment to sustainable energy solutions. It provides valuable insights into the state's solar capacity, supporting informed decision-making for future solar policy and development. For more information and to explore the study's findings, visit the Technical Potential of Solar StoryMap.

This study is a preliminary screening-level analysis and should be used alongside other tools and resources for solar project decision-making. Connect with an expert to learn more.

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Odellya channels her marketing expertise into making sustainability accessible for all. Whether writing articles or teaching yoga classes, Odellya has a passion for cultivating a greener world.