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Solar news: May 1st, 2020

In this week’s Solar News Roundup, we talk about two solar incentive programs that are getting a boost in the Northeast: Massachusetts’ SMART program and Rhode Island’s solar brownfields incentive program.

Massachusetts doubles the size of key solar incentive program

Earlier this month, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources announced revisions to the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target Program (SMART), doubling the capacity of the program from 1.6 gigawatts (GW) to 3.2 GW.

Given recent drops in solar installation volumes in the state and the current coronavirus lockdowns, these changes are designed to “help stabilize the solar industry,” according to David Gahl, senior director of state affairs in the Northeast at the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). According to the advocacy group Vote Solar, new installations dropped 50 percent in the state last year.

In addition to changes in capacity, the revisions also offer additional incentives for solar projects including pollinator habitats, and make it easier to co-locate solar projects with certain farmland types.

Rhode Island renews solar brownfields incentive program

Brownfields, former industrial or commercial sites where future use is affected by environmental contamination, are oftentimes perfect locations for renewable energy projects. Now, Rhode Island is taking action to provide funding for renewable energy projects in these areas. The state’s Office of Energy Resources (OER) just announced a plan to reinvest money in brownfield renewable developments, renewing a $1 million initiative supporting these specific types of projects.

“As we grow the amount of clean energy in the state, it is important that we try and site renewable projects in a responsible and sustainable manner,” said Nicholas S. Ucci, Acting State Energy Commissioner. “Last year, we earmarked $1 million in RGGI funds to support the development of solar projects on brownfields, and the program was a success. This new round of funding will continue supporting renewable expansion and greenhouse gas emission reductions, help repurpose brownfields, and, importantly, support clean energy jobs and investment across Rhode Island.”

Rhode Island is approximately 80 percent of the way towards Governor Gina M. Raimondo’s goal of making the state’s energy system ten times cleaner than it was in 2017 by 2020. Additionally, the state is on track to reach 1,000 megawatts (MW) of clean energy by the end of the year.

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