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Massachusetts gets SMARTer on Solar and Storage

Massachusetts gets SMARTer on Solar and Storage

Learn about recent enhancements to the SMART program, a long-term and sustainable solar incentive program that encourages the development of solar photovoltaic (PV) installations in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts has just overhauled its SMART (Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target) program to support the adoption of solar and storage throughout the state by doubling the size of the program, requiring large projects to add storage, and carving out capacity for commercial solar and community solar.

SMART was designed and deployed over 2016–2018 to encourage further deployment of solar PV installations in Massachusetts, while replacing the legacy SREC/SRECII programs. It is structured as a “declining block” program – capacity is released in blocks of 200 MW, and each new block pays a lower incentive than the previous. To obtain the highest incentive amount, it’s important to enroll into the program early to secure a spot in an earlier block

What are the changes to the SMART program?

Once 400 MW of applications were submitted, DOER (Department of Energy Resources) was required to review how the SMART program was working. That review led to the current overhaul, which some have termed “SMART 2.0”.

There are four key changes to the program:

1. More support for solar: the total size of the SMART program has been doubled, from 1,600 MW to 3,200 MW. In many Massachusetts utilities the SMART cap had been hit, and this expansion allows more Massachusetts homes and businesses to install solar – and should support solar adoption for at least the next three years.

2. Storage required on larger projects: when a solar PV system is installed on its own, the output of the system varies with irradiance (the power received by each cell) and is typically highest between 11am–4pm. The value of the solar PV system to the grid (and to the customer) is multiplied when energy storage is added, most commonly as a lithium ion battery system. Including storage with solar can allow:

  • Shifting the solar PV system’s output later in the day when the grid is at its peak (usually in the 4pm–6pm window), including participation in the state’s new Clean Peak Standard program.
  • Participating in Demand Response programs, both at the wholesale grid operator (ISO New England) and utility level.
  • Reducing capacity and demand charges by using stored solar energy at times of peak demand instead of drawing electricity from the grid.

With this is mind, DOER has required that most SMART solar PV systems over 500 kW must add energy storage to their solar installations.

3. Set-aside for small-medium businesses: SMART now requires that 20% of each block’s capacity be dedicated to solar PV systems of 25 kW–500 kW, which are often deployed by small-medium businesses. This increases the chance that those businesses will have the opportunity to benefit from installing solar by participating in the SMART program.

4. Encouragement to use already-developed land: SMART now includes strengthened restrictions (both regulatory and financial) on developing solar PV systems on greenfield land, including those areas considered a Critical Natural Landscape or Priority Habitat for an endangered species. This will increase the interest in deploying solar PV systems on already-developed land, including: the rooftops of homes and businesses, parking canopies, and brownfield (previously developed) land.

What are the next steps?

Installing solar allows Massachusetts businesses to control their costs and insulate themselves from inevitable increases in the price that utilities charge for electricity – all while reducing their carbon footprint. The SMART program offers high and predictable compensation for new solar PV systems. It can also be combined with the Federal Business Energy Investment Tax Credit, which provides a 26% tax credit for systems installed in 2020 (falls to 22% in 2021 and 10% in 2022). Therefore, now is an excellent time for your business to lock in the benefits of solar. To learn more and for a customized quote, please contact us.

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