New clean energy regulations in Massachusetts could have the unintended consequence of canceling nearly 80 solar energy projects at a time when COVID-19 is already causing long-lasting harm to many sectors of the local economy, according to an analysis recently released by the Coalition for Community Solar Access (CCSA).
Last summer, the state Department of Energy Resources (DOER) began a review of the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) program. In April, Massachusetts issued emergency regulations that would double the overall size of the program, but also make as much as 90% of land in Massachusetts unavailable for ground-based solar panel arrays.
According to a survey of seven of the largest local community solar developers, the rules – which are slated to be finalized by July 15 – would effectively halt nearly 80 clean energy projects underway or planned for development. This number represents only a portion of the total projects that are in jeopardy of being halted due to the regulations.
“Millions of dollars and many years have already been invested in these clean energy projects around the state,” says Kelly Friend, vice president at Nexamp, a clean energy developer in Boston.
“Not only do these regulations effectively wipe out these investments, but they also affect many jobs and decrease potential tax revenue to cities and towns, which are really struggling right now,” adds Friend.
Each megawatt of a community solar project typically provides a number of economic benefits to the community – including $275,000 in tax revenue to local municipalities, $100,000 in local development costs and $425,000 in lease revenue to landowners.
CCSA also pointed to the potential to accelerate solar job loss. Even before the regulations were announced, solar job growth had begun to stall in the state. Now, due to COVID-19, Massachusetts is on track to lose nearly 4,300 solar jobs through June – more than half its entire solar workforce.
The new regulations would conservatively cause the loss of an additional 1,500 jobs this year, including construction and other contract workers hit hard by the pandemic. More than $731 million in economic investment would also be lost.
Photo: CCSA’s About Us web page