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Western Massachusetts Solar Forum

People holding a solar party (Creative Commons copyright Marnee Benson)

Western Massachusetts Solar Forum

The Western Massachusetts Solar Forum is a series of public discussions and information-sharing sessions regarding the opportunities and challenges associated with solar photovoltaic (PV) development and installation in Western Massachusetts. Part I of the Forum was held in the fall of 2023. Recordings and related resources are available below. Part II of the Forum is tentatively planned for the spring of 2024. UMass Clean Energy Extension is working with members of the Western Massachusetts state delegation (State Senator Jo Comerford and State Representative Mindy Domb), as well as a planning committee of solar PV stakeholders and experts, to plan the Forum.


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The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a national leader in solar installations per capita and has set ambitious goals for additional development to meet renewable energy targets for 2030 and 2050. Increasing solar capacity is necessary to meet climate goals and has the potential to provide significant economic benefits to state residents. However, solar development and installation can conflict with other state and local goals, including land preservation, wildlife conservation, food production, and environmental and social equity.

Session Topics & Scheduling

  • Session 1: Solar in Massachusetts – Past, Present, and Future (September 5, 2023)

Introduction; Solar Energy Basics; The Solar Market in 2023; State Climate Goals; Current State Laws, Regulations, and Planning; Future Needs for Electricity, Solar, Energy Storage, and the Grid

Session 1 recording, presentations, and other materials

  • Session 2:  Solar and Land Use in Massachusetts (September 12, 2023)

State Laws & Regulations re: Solar/Land Use; Local Bylaws and Ordinances; Current Patterns of Solar Development Relative to Land Use; Balancing Climate Goals with Other Public Interests (Food Production, Farmland Protection, Wildlife Conservation, Recreation, Carbon Sequestration); Current Efforts to Address Challenges and Land Use Trade-Offs

Session 2 recording, presentations, and other materials

  • Session 3:  Solar Equity and Community Benefits (September 19, 2023)

State Laws & Regulations re: Community Benefits, Low-Income Electricity Ratepayers; Municipal/Nonprofit Access to Solar; Current Status of Solar Ownership & Distribution of Solar Incentive Benefits; Models for Local Solar Ownership; Equity of Community-Shared Solar; Geographic Equity; Electricity Rates; Power Dynamics between Large Developers and Small Communities

Session 3 recording, presentations, and other materials

  • Session 4:  Perspectives on Solar (December 19, 2023)

Perspectives on Solar PV Deployment in Massachusetts

Session 4 recording, presentations, and other materials

Intended Audience

  • Municipal representatives and/or board members
  • Elected officials and other state policymakers
  • Regional planning agencies
  • Land trusts, NGOs, and environmental groups
  • Solar developers and solar trade organizations
  • Financial lenders
  • Interested members of the general public

The Forum is organized and led by individuals and organizations based in Western Massachusetts, and is focused on issues relevant to the Commonwealth’s western five counties (Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden, Hampshire, Worcester). However, we recognize that many of the discussion topics are relevant statewide and attendees from any region of the state are welcome to attend.

Forum Format & Goals

The Forum is designed in two parts:

Part I: Four Sessions, Fall 2023


  • Establish a common language and baseline understanding of the history and current status of solar development in the Commonwealth
  • Identify and describe current challenges associated with solar deployment to reach state climate and greenhouse gas reduction goals
  • Discuss current efforts to balance climate goals with other public interests (including agricultural, environmental, and equity goals)
  • Foster an understanding of different perspectives regarding solar development

Part II: Spring 2024, Dates TBD


  • Address additional information, challenges, and current initiatives identified by Part I attendees
  • Incorporate attendee perspectives into a discussion of how to better balance public interests related to solar development
  • Identify and prioritize needs for additional information, funding, research, outreach, technical assistance, planning, legislation, and other initiatives


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