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Solar Resources for Municipalities

Current Massachusetts Solar Incentive Program

The active state solar incentive program for photovoltaic arrays is known as the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Energy Target program, or "SMART."  The program went into effect on November 28, 2018, and an updated version of the regulation took effect April 14, 2020.  If you are served by a municipal utility, rather than an investor-owned utility (Eversource, National Grid, or Unitil), the SMART program does not apply to you, but see the last link in this section for information for municipal utilities.

  • SMART Solar Regulation - Information from the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources regarding the active state solar incentive program, SMART.
  • SMART Program Progress Updates - Updates on applications to the SMART program, as projects are approved and capacity is filled.
  • Land Use under the SMART Emergency Rulemaking - Link to a geospatial data layer showing areas eligible and ineligible for solar development under the updated SMART regulation, which went into effect April 14, 2020.  Land Use requirements apply only to Category 2 & 3 projects that are not grandfathered in under the original SMART regulation.  This mapping site can be used to zoom in on individual tax parcels within your municipality.
  • Solar Development Webinar:  State Incentives and Municipal Planning - This recorded webinar provides a brief overview of solar development in Massachusetts, explain the basics of the updated state solar incentive program (SMART), and discuss how the program interacts with municipal bylaws.  It is designed to help municipal officials, landowners, and citizens at-large understand and make informed decisions regarding local solar zoning and permitting processes, to better ensure that solar installations benefit the entire community.  The webinar was co-sponsored by Clean Energy Extension, the Hilltown Land Trust, the Appalachian Mountain Club, and the Massachusetts Association of Conservation Commissions.  Slides     Webinar
  • Solar Incentives for Municipal Utility Customers - If you are served by a municipal utility, your system cannot qualify for SMART incentives.  Instead, follow this link for information about the Municipal Light Plant Solar Rebate Program, provided by the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) in partnership with the Massachusetts Municipal Electric Cooperative (MMWEC) and Energy New England (ENE).

Municipal Solar By-Laws, Permitting, and Zoning

  • DOER Model Solar Zoning Bylaw - A model solar zoning bylaw for municipalities, developed for the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources.
  • DOER Model Solar Zoning Guidance - This guidance was developed for the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources to accompany DOER's model solar zoning bylaw.
  • MAPC Solar Permitting & Zoning Bylaw Guidance - A guidance document for municipalities, developed by the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission.
  • PVPC Solar Zoning Bylaw & BMPs - The Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC) is working with Hampshire and Hampden county towns on development of an updated Model Solar Zoning Bylaw and comprehensive Best Management Practices guide regarding municipal permitting for solar photovoltaic arrays.  Contact Eric Weiss at PVPC with questions regarding this project.  The final bylaw and guide are expected to be completed in Fall 2020.
  • Solar Development Webinar:  State Incentives and Municipal Planning - This recorded webinar from Clean Energy Extension provides a brief overview of solar development in Massachusetts, explain the basics of the updated state solar incentive program (SMART), and discuss how the program interacts with municipal bylaws.  It is designed to help municipal officials, landowners, and citizens at-large understand and make informed decisions regarding local solar zoning and permitting processes, to better ensure that solar installations benefit the entire community.  Webinar      Slides
  • Municipal Solar Siting and Financing Resources - Through a grant from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory Solar Energy Innovation Network, UMass Clean Energy Extension is working with regional planning agencies, UMass Five Credit Union, local solar developers, and three rural municipalities (Blandford, Wendell, Westhampton) on developing a process for community-driven solar siting and financing.  This project will be completed in June 2021.
  • Solar Moratorium Example - Some municipalities have chosen to implement a solar moratorium on large-scale solar projects, while updating relevant zoning and solar bylaws.  This document provides example moratorium text.  A moratorium is only allowable if municipal boards are actively working on development of an updated bylaw.
  • Solar Wetlands Policy - Guidance from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection regarding solar development adjacent to wetlands, particularly relevant to Conservation Commissions.
  • Attorney General Solar Bylaw Decisions - Look up decisions by the Attorney General's office regarding the legality of municipal solar bylaws.  Choose "SOLAR" under "Topic" in the "Search All Decisions" section.

Combining Solar with other Land Uses

Programs Providing Assistance or Financial Incentives

  • Solarize Mass  - A Massachusetts Clean Energy Center program providing financial assistance and support to encourage development of residential solar systems within a community.
  • Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Program - Municipalities which have already completed a Municipality Vulnerability Preparedness planning process are eligible for grants for certain types of municipally-owned energy systems, which further construction of a microgrid for critical facility or vulnerable populations, including behind-the-meter battery storage systems.

 

Contact Zara Dowling (zdowling@umass.edu; 413-545-8516) with any questions regarding these resources.