Massachusetts Finalizes Distributed Photo voltaic Guidelines with Fewer Restrictions on Land Use

The Massachusetts Division of Power Sources on Tuesday introduced closing guidelines that may govern the state’s cornerstone distributed photo voltaic program, rising its measurement however leaving in place some pointers on land use that concern the photo voltaic business.

Along with rising the Photo voltaic Massachusetts Renewable Goal Program (SMART) from 1.6 gigawatts to three.2 gigawatts, the ultimate laws pull again some restrictions on land use that the photo voltaic business had criticized as overly restrictive. These limitations had been launched in emergency revisions issued in April that went into impact instantly, catching the photo voltaic business without warning. 

These included restrictions on three classes of land — crucial pure panorama, core habitat and precedence habitat — that cowl about 90 p.c of the state, in response to evaluation from developer Borrego Photo voltaic and commerce group the Coalition for Group Photo voltaic Entry. Marking that land off-limits would make a major variety of initiatives ineligible for program advantages, photo voltaic business teams say.

This week’s closing rule lifts restrictions on crucial pure panorama for photo voltaic initiatives which have already certified below the primary 1.6 gigawatts of the newly expanded program. That eliminates uncertainty for some initiatives already underway.  

“We’re happy that DOER took business feedback under consideration and responded to a number of of our main considerations,” stated David Gahl, senior director of northeast state affairs on the Photo voltaic Power Industries Affiliation. “Though the up to date SMART program makes a substantial quantity of land ineligible for photo voltaic improvement within the Commonwealth, the up to date laws will shield investments made by corporations to this point.”

The division stated the ultimate laws strike “a stability between defending key endangered species habitat and persevering with clear power improvement.” 

Battle between value of photo voltaic and defending land

In adopting the brand new laws, Massachusetts hoped to spur additional distributed photo voltaic improvement whereas encouraging initiatives on already-developed land and parking buildings or buildings with giant rooftops. But it surely’s cheaper to develop photo voltaic initiatives on greenfields, making them preferable for a lot of builders.

These dynamics led to a battle over land use in latest months, with photo voltaic corporations promising that the brand new pointers would upend photo voltaic improvement within the state and environmentalists asking the state to go additional to preserve weak land.

In public feedback submitted on the modifications, farmers, photo voltaic builders and a few state lawmakers requested DOER to method land use steerage with a lighter hand. In distinction, a number of environmental teams urged the division to multiply its greenfield subtractor, a sum subtracted from incentives for initiatives on undeveloped land.

The ultimate pointers struck a stability by retaining most land use restrictions in place, which is able to “permit for Massachusetts to take care of its nationwide management position within the photo voltaic business whereas defending the Commonwealth’s pure sources,” in response to Division of Power Sources Commissioner Patrick Woodcock. But it surely additionally provides some builders extra wiggle room, by permitting builders with underway initiatives to comply with earlier laws in the event that they submit a accomplished interconnection settlement inside six months of the principles’ April publication or submitted an interconnection utility six months prior.

Previous to Tuesday’s modifications, SEIA anticipated the proposed guidelines to cease 477 megawatts of photo voltaic improvement in Massachusetts. The group didn’t instantly reply to request for touch upon whether or not the brand new tweak to land use could stop any cancellations. Erika Niedowski, CCSA’s northeast director, stated that group “remained involved in regards to the impression that land use provisions may have on the expansion of native, distributed photo voltaic power all through the Commonwealth.”

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