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Solar PV and Agriculture

The SMART Program

The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) has established the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) Program, which will regulate incentives associated with new solar photovoltaic (PV) development in the state, beginning November 26, 2018.  The fact sheets and information on this website were developed by UMass Clean Energy Extension to help farmers and solar developers navigate the SMART program.  The full regulations and guidelines associated with the SMART program are available on the DOER website.  Additional information, including application instructions, is available at http://masmartsolar.com.

SMART Program Incentives

The SMART program promotes installation of certain types of grid-connected solar photovoltaic (PV) arrays through incentives based on a price per kWh.  This incentive will appear as a “tariff” credited to the solar array owner on his/her electricity bill.  Solar thermal systems and off-grid solar PV will not qualify for incentives under this program. 

One important aspect of the new program for farmers is that solar PV and farming will be incentivized to work together under the Agricultural Solar Tariff Generation Unit option. Specifically, there is additional financial compensation available for eligible on-farm solar PV systems that are designed so that productive agricultural activities can continue under the array in a coordinated “dual-use” system.

Solar PV and Agriculture Information

We have developed a series of fact sheets that describe various aspects of integrating solar PV on your farm under the SMART program:

Fact sheets outlining options for solar PV on your farm – dual-use and otherwise:

Fact sheets relating specifically to dual-use solar PV and agriculture:

Please contact us with any questions you have after reviewing this material.  Fact sheets, additional tools, program news and updates, and further guidance will be posted on our website as we develop them. 

Pre-Determination Form

This form is required to apply for a Pre-Determination Letter from MA DOER, in order to qualify as a dual-use Agricultural Solar Tariff Generation Unit under the SMART Program.

On-going research at the UMass Amherst Research Farm:

Professor Stephen Herbert of the Stockbridge School of Agriculture has been conducting research trials of vegetables grown beneath solar panels at the UMass Amherst Research Farm in South Deerfield.   A summary of his 2016-2017 research results is available here.

Financial analysis from Hyperion Systems, LLC

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has funded recent work by Hyperion Systems, LLC to develop a financial model for comparing costs and benefits of a dual-use system with those of a traditional solar PV array.  Their financial analysis tool is available here.

A Joint Effort

UMass Clean Energy Extension is working with UMass Agricultural Extension, MA DOER, Massachusetts Department of Agriculture Resources (MDAR), farming organizations and communities, solar developers, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to gather and communicate the latest research on how solar and agriculture can best work together to help support farms and farmers, while producing clean energy.

Newsletter and More Information

Need more information?  Contact River Strong (gcstrong@umass.edu; 413-545-8510) with any questions related to solar PV use on your farm, or to sign up for our newsletter.