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  • Nick Sylvestre

If you’re small-you’re smart, under MA’s new SMART program

Updated: Sep 10, 2020

The state ranks as the national leader for residential and community solar and has installed more than 2.5 gigawatts of solar to date, but recent projects have been slowed by interconnection and policy changes. New solar installations dropped 50% in Massachusetts last year alone. In October 2019, regulators in favor of renewable energy questioned the utilities ability to meet demand. Regulators opened an investigation into National Grid’s handling of the SMART solar program, which has led to 1 gigawatt of projects being put on hold after many of them were given utility approval. In recent updates, industry groups were pushing for an even larger spur for growth to meet demand at 4.8 gigawatts.

Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources unveiled emergency revisions designed to spur small and medium scale solar projects in April that doubled the capacity of the state incentive program. The SMART program increased from 1.6 gigawatts to 3.2 gigawatts, a change long sought after by the solar industry with interconnection overload in Massachusetts and the recent COVID 19 lockdown. Since March 1, “the industry” has shed more than 6000 jobs and these changes to the SMART program are meant to help stabilize the solar industry, with a focus on certain projects they want to promote.

Aside from the increase in capacity, the SMART emergency regulations change many other details of the program including set aside capacity and subtractors. Massachusetts has worked to encourage projects located on brownfields or landfills and in its program revisions, “the state added additional incentives for projects that include pollinator habitat and a subtractor for greenfields”. Any portion of a project site that does not qualify for category 1 land use-agricultural, floating, and building mounted facilities-is subject to a “greenfield” compensation subtraction further discouraging the development of large ground mount projects on previously undeveloped land. 

They also initiated a set aside capacity for low income customers. At least 5% of each block is reserved for projects that serve either low or moderate income housing or community solar projects with at least 50% low income customers. There is also a block for small and medium sized projects. At least one fifth of each block will be carved out for projects between 25-500KW, leaving a maximum percentage of 60% for projects over 500KW. This program extension cannot come fast enough for Massachusetts while the solar industry weathered the storm of COVID 19 shutdowns. In recognition of these impacts, DOER has also voluntarily provided a six month extension of SMART statement of qualification end dates for any applications submitted prior to July 1, 2020. 

To help sort out which requirements and incentives may apply to your property for a solar installation, call our advisory team at (860)-814-4379.

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