Solar and Wind in Massachusetts
The Solutions Projects estimates that the energy mix for Massachusetts after a transition to wind, water, and solar technologies would be about 30 percent solar and 70 percent wind with water playing a marginal role.
***NOTE: 1000 MW = 1 GW
As of 2019, about 2.6 GW of solar and 113 MW of wind is installed in Massachusetts.
The Massachusetts 2050 Decarbonization Roadmap projects to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, solar capacity will need to reach at least 20 GW and offshore wind at least 15 GW. Regional energy imports also have a critical role, particularly hydropower.
There are a number of options offered for Massachusetts residents to expand solar capacity.
Federal Solar Tax Credit: 26 percent for 2022, dropping to 22 percent in 2023.
Massachusetts Residential Energy Credit: Customer receives $1000 or 15% of the project’s costs depending on whatever amount is less.
Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) Program: Solar system owners are paid by investor-owned utilities (Eversource, National Grid, or Unitil) for electricity production. The amount paid per kilowatt varies by utility company and location as well as the amount of “adders” such as storage and pollinators, low-income status, and “ subtractors” such as greenfield developments. Projects are limited to up to 5 megawatts with a cutoff of 25 kilowatts separating small and large systems.
Solarize Mass: Provides discounts for small-scale community solar projects. The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center works with communities to vet installers. After the installer is selected the community receives a group-buying discount that typically averages around 20 percent.
Municipal Light Plant Solar Rebate Program (not accepting new applications at the moment): A rebate from a partnership between the Department of Energy Resources (DOER), Massachusetts Municipal Electric Cooperative (MMWEC), and Energy New England (ENE) for solar systems less than 25 kilowatts that are constructed within Municipal Light Plant (MLP)’s service areas.
UMassFiveCollege Federal Credit MySolar Loan: Maximum of $75,000 borrowed over a 60–180 month time period with interest rates ranging from 4–6% financing the installation, tree removal, and roof repair of solar systems.
Property and Sales Tax Exemption: Solar is exempt from sales tax. It is also exempt from property taxes for 20 years.
Net-Metering: Customers are credited by utility companies for excess energy production. Massachusetts sets a cap where only 7% for private systems and 8% for public systems of a utility's total distribution load is available for net-metering. However, small systems under 10 kilowatts and small commercial systems under 25 kilowatts are exempted from the cap. Thus, the cap limits the expansion of large commercial and community solar projects. New legislation has been introduced in the Massachusetts Senate to increase cap exemptions
Like solar, residents are eligible for the Massachusetts Residential Energy Credit for wind projects. However, there is little initiative statewide to expand onshore wind. Though important for the transition to 100 percent renewable energy, onshore wind won’t get much attention and instead we will focus on offshore wind.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) within the U.S. Department of the Interior is responsible for allocating leases for offshore wind projects. In 2010, BOEM introduced bids for commercial wind development off the coast of Massachusetts. In 2018, three companies won the bids:
1. Norwegian state-owned company Equinor
2. A joint venture between British energy company Shell, French energy company Engie, and Spanish energy company EDP Renováveis (Mayflower Wind Energy LLC)
3. A joint venture between Dutch energy company Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and Spanish energy company Iberdrola (Vineyard Wind LLC)
So far two projects, Vineyard Wind and Mayflower Wind, have moved passed the preliminary stages with Vineyard Wind beginning construction in 2021.
Vineyard Wind: 62 Turbines 15 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard. Generates 800 MW, powering 400,000 homes. The project started construction in 2021 and is expected to start generating power in 2023.
Mayflower Wind: 30 miles south of Martha's Vineyard. Generates 2400 MW, powering 800,000 homes.
In addition, the state government constructed two facilities to assist the development of offshore wind production.
Wind Technology Testing Center: Located in Charlestown, this facility provides certification tests for turbine blades.
New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal: The first of its kind nationwide, it will support the assembly of wind turbines for the Mayflower and Vineyard Wind projects.
So far the state government is authorized to procure 4 GW of offshore wind by 2027.