Holyoke, MA -- In a part of Massachusetts strong in solar power, the city of Holyoke is helping to lead the way, according to a new report released today by Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center. Holyoke has 4,527.00 kilowatts of installed photovoltaic capacity, ranking it second in the Commonwealth – behind only Boston, despite having less than 10% of the populations of the Bay State’s capital.
“From the Cape to the Berkshires, solar power is becoming a mainstream technology throughout Massachusetts,” said Johanna Neumann, regional director with Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center. “In Western Massachusetts in particular solar power is booming and with the right leadership we can continue to benefit from the cleaner air and local jobs that this industry inevitably brings.”
The findings come from a new report, Massachusetts’ Solar Leaders: The Cities and Towns at the Forefront of the Clean Energy Revolution. Researchers at Environment Massachusetts Research and Policy Center compiled Massachusetts Clean Energy Center data to rank Massachusetts’ 351 towns and cities on four measures of solar energy development including the number of solar PV installations, the solar PV capacity, the number of solar installations per 1,000 residents, and the solar capacity per capita.
“Holyoke didn’t go solar by happenstance; it was the result of local, state and federal policies and programs that encourage investment in solar power,” said Alex Morse, Mayor of Holyoke. "Solar power just enhances our reputation as a clean, green city, and we look forward to making more progress on this important issue."
Regionally, western Massachusetts has the most solar energy installations and the largest amount of solar generating capacity. Holyoke ranked second only to Boston for overall solar power capacity with 4.5 MW; Northampton and Amherst tied for fourth in terms of number of solar installations each with 81 independent solar PV arrays; Hawley has the most installations per capita with 26.7 systems per 1,000 residents; and the town of Sheffield produced the most solar power per capita with 0.63 kW per person.
“HG&E is proud to host the largest solar array in New England,” said James Lavelle, Manager of Holyoke Gas & Electric. “Through a solar purchase power agreement with Constellation, we are purchasing the electricity generated from the solar array at stable and competitive rates and demonstrating our support of renewable energy projects in Massachusetts.”
The rapid expansion of Massachusetts’ solar market is bringing cleaner air and jobs to the Commonwealth. Every megawatt of solar power installed prevents the emission of nearly 700 pounds of smog-forming pollution per year and cuts more than 900 metric tons of global warming pollution per year as well. Massachusetts’ economy can benefit from further expansion of solar energy. A recent study conducted for the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center found that there were more than 64,000 clean energy workers in the Commonwealth in 2011 – a 6 percent increase from the year before. A separate study, by the Solar Foundation, estimated that there were 2,100 solar energy workers in the Commonwealth.
“Investing in solar power creates good local jobs and keeps money circulating in our local economy, said Bill Stillinger, General Manager of Greenfield-based Pioneer Valley Photovoltaics. “Our workforce has nearly
quadrupled since we started ten years ago. Improvements in the technology and incentive programs allow our customers to invest in solar and come out on top financially.”
Key policies that have enables Massachusetts’ growth in the solar sector include net-metering, the Massachusetts Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SREC) program, which is a solar energy “carve-out” in the state’s renewable portfolio standard, and solar energy rebates. Currently, state lawmakers are considering legislation to expand net-metering. Massachusetts is rapidly approaching our cap on net-metering and if it isn’t raised, the Bay State risks becoming a laggard instead of a leader on solar energy because homeowners, businesses and municipalities won’t be able to benefit from the ongoing savings that makes solar energy a winning financial proposition.
"There is no better way for our leaders to affirm their commitment to clean energy than by expanding and improving Massachusetts’ net-metering program,” said Neumann.
The State Senate and State House of Representatives have both passed energy bills (S2214 and H4225) with language to expand net-metering in Massachusetts. Lawmakers now need to hammer out the differences in the two bills and the legislation has to clear both chambers again before going to the Governor for his signature.
Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center is a statewide, citizen-based environmental advocacy organization. For more information visit www.environmentmassachusettscenter.org