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Western Massachusetts Solar Forum

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

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 was held virtually on June 4, 2024.

Part II Focus and Agenda

Part II focused on the recent recommendations from the Commission on Energy Infrastructure Siting and Permitting and their implications for Western Massachusetts communities. Following is an agenda for the day.

Part II recording, presentations, attendee comments, and other materials

Setting the Stage: 10:00 am-11:30 am

  • Takeaways from Solar Forum Part I
  • Solar capacity needs to meet 2050 climate goals
  • Summary of Recommendations from the Siting Commission
  • Anticipated legislation and process

Introductory Remarks and Welcome:

Dwayne Breger, UMass Clean Energy Extension

Senator Jo Comerford

Representative Mindy Domb

Confirmed Speakers:

EEA Undersecretary Michael Judge

Chairs, Joint Legislative Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy

Representative Jeffrey Roy

Senator Michael Barrett


Implications of Siting Commission Recommendations for western MA communities: 11:30 am-12:30 pm

  • Panel 1: How do Commission recommendations affect the local process for solar planning, siting, and permitting?  What is helpful, what is concerning?

Confirmed Speakers:

Facilitator – Dwayne Breger, UMass Clean Energy Extension

Claire Chang, Greenfield Solar

Allison Gage, Franklin County Council of Governments

Stephen Long, The Nature Conservancy

John Mangiaratti, Town of Acton; Mass Municipal Association


  • Panel 2: Effective public engagement and good community benefits agreements:  What technical support do communities need? What is the state’s responsibility to help communities prepare for solar siting and permitting?

Confirmed Speakers:

Facilitator – Dwayne Breger, UMass Clean Energy Extension

Jon Abe, Sunwealth

Ken Comia, Pioneer Valley Planning Commission

Samantha Hamilton, Live Well Springfield; Public Health Institute of Western MA

Sanjana Paul, MIT Renewable Energy Clinic


Community Voices: 1:00 pm-2:00 pm

  • Topic 1: Community Benefit Agreements: How can the process and outcomes be enhanced?

Facilitator – Lynn Benander, Co-op Power

  • Topic 2: How do we define equitable solar planning (i.e., a fair share of solar) for our communities?

Facilitator – Steven Roof, Hampshire College

  • Topic 3: What gaps need to be filled to empower local officials and communities?

Facilitator – Scott Jackson, UMass Departmen of Environmental Conservation

  • Topic 4: What does true public engagement look like?

Facilitator – Stephanie Ciccarello, Town of Amherst


Balancing the Tradeoffs, Participant Comments: 2:00 pm-3:30 pm

  • Panel 1: Meeting Solar Targets / Meeting Goals for Natural and Working Lands / Managing Solar Cost

Confirmed Speakers:

Facilitator – Senator Jo Comerford

Clem Clay, UMass Extension

Jessica Rempel, Cape Cod Commission

Heidi Ricci, Mass Audubon

Steven Roof, Hampshire College


  • Panel 2: Maintaining Local Control / Standardizing Siting and Permitting Processes

Confirmed Speakers:

Facilitator – Dwayne Breger, UMass Clean Energy Extension

Josie Ahlberg, Massachusetts Municipal Association

Courtney Feeley Karp, Klavens Law Group

Catherine Ratte, Pioneer Valley Planning Commission

Adrienne Núñez, Massachusetts Municipal Association


  • Participant Action Items and Survey

Western Massachusetts Solar Forum Background

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, local food production, and environmental and social equity.

UMass Clean Energy Extension is working with members of the Western Massachusetts state delegation (State Senator Jo Comerford and State Representative Mindy Domb), to plan Part II of the Forum.

Part I Session Topics & Materials

  • 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: June 4, 2024


  • Understand implications of the Commission on Energy Infrastructure and Siting recommendations for local siting and permitting of solar and energy storage
  • Identify processes to improve community benefits agreements and public engagement in decision-making
  • 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

Register for Part II


Contact us with any questions:

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