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Solar news: April 16th, 2021

In this week’s news roundup, we discuss an exciting update from our home state of Massachusetts, and highlight an interesting new study published by Oregon State University.

Landmark climate bill signed into law in Massachusetts

Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker recently approved a landmark climate bill, which had been in circulation in the Massachusetts state legislature for several months. The bill, titled “An Act creating a next-generation roadmap for Massachusetts climate policy,” was vetoed by Baker twice and sent back to the legislature for revisions over concerns of the financial impact of proposed policy changes. This updated bill builds on a commitment from the Baker administration to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in Massachusetts by 2050.

Highlights of the current iteration of the bill include raising Massachusetts’ renewable portfolio standard by 3 percent annually between 2025-2029, mandating that at least 40 percent of the state’s electric generation must be renewable by 2030, a commitment to invest in clean energy workforce development, and codifying environmental justice. The bill also includes additional protections for communities that are at a disproportionate risk of pollution-related health concerns. You can read the full bill here.

Oregon State University study finds solar panels can aid plant growth

A recent study out of Oregon State University found that flowers planted underneath solar panels were able to survive more easily than flowers planted in full sunlight or in full shade. This study focused on species that attract pollinators, and also measured pollinator abundance for full sun, partial sun, and full shade plots. 

Over 48 different flower species, there were 4 percent more blooms in partial shade plots beneath solar panels compared to plots in full sunlight or full shade. Additionally, there were an average of 3 percent more pollinating insects in partial shade plots. The insect diversity and flower species diversity did not differ significantly by plot. You can read the full study and its findings here!

These findings are significant in the field of agrivoltaics, which is the practice of maximizing the productivity of a piece of land by using it as both a solar field and farmland. Another study done by Oregon State University’s Chad Higgins found that utilizing land for both solar systems and agriculture could produce 20 percent of the United State’s energy while also having minimal impact on crop yield. As solar power continues to increase as a share of our total energy mix, maximizing the productivity of land for utility scale arrays will become more important, and using the land for multiple purposes could be an efficient strategy for stakeholders to consider.

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