The Clean Energy Extension (CEE) at UMass Amherst recently concluded the Western Massachusetts Solar Forum, a series of virtual public discussions and information-sharing sessions regarding the opportunities and challenges associated with solar PV development and installation in Western Massachusetts. The Forum was convened and hosted by CEE, Massachusetts Senator Jo Comerford (D-Northampton), Representative Mindy Domb (D-Amherst), and 16 members of the western Massachusetts state legislative delegation.
More than 400 attendees and 49 speakers participated in the Forum, which comprised four separate online sessions in September and December of 2023. CEE collaborated with Senator Comerford, Representative Domb, and a planning committee of solar stakeholders and experts to plan the Forum.
Dwayne Breger, CEE’s director, highlighted the importance of bringing a diversity of perspectives together in meeting state climate goals. “In order to achieve its ambitious target of Net Zero emissions by 2050, Massachusetts will need to increase its solar by a factor of ten in the coming decades,” he said. “We’re pleased to play a role in providing information to the public so that everybody can engage in this industry in ways that benefit communities, the climate, and the state as a whole.”
The four-session Forum covered a range of topics including the potential for solar to meet the Commonwealth’s climate and clean energy goals, challenges in siting solar developments, and solar equity issues. Speakers at the Forum included Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rebecca Tepper, Massachusetts Climate Chief Melissa Hoffer, and a range of legislators, community members, legal experts, small and large-scale solar developers, landowners, municipal officials, and representatives from solar organizations.
"Meeting the Commonwealth's solar energy goals and siting that solar smartly are among the most pressing and critical challenges that we face as a state and region,” said Comerford. “It's clear that we have to get this right — right now. This forum delivered important and timely information from diverse stakeholders and decision makers in solar energy. I look forward to continuing these conversations and ensuring constituents are engaged in the process, helping to make policy makers smarter about what works for our region."
“The forum helped participants increase their knowledge, build their skills and expand their capacity to participate in these critical policy areas in our region,” said Domb.
Breger also noted that the University of Massachusetts Amherst provided financial support to the Forum. “We’re deeply grateful to the UMass administration for its support and partnership in making these public discussions possible.”
Recordings and related resources from the Forum are available at CEE’s website https://ag.umass.edu/solarforum. A second part of the Forum is in the planning stages and is tentatively scheduled for the spring of 2024.