Massachusetts bills would boost solar

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) has thrown its weight behind bills in the Massachusetts legislature that would help achieve Governor Deval Patrick’s goal of 1.6GW of solar energy by 2020.

An Act Relative to Net Metering, as the bill is called in both houses, would establish a commission to research and review the viability of raising the net metering cap, and alternative strategies to facilitate public and private distributed generation.

SEIA contends the current net metering cap limits development and impedes the state’s ability to meet its goals. The cap consists of two components - one for public projects and one for private projects in each utility service territory. The public cap for most of the Commonwealth has already been reached, preventing many cities and towns from participating in the program.

The state has about 464MW of installed solar generation capacity, according to SEIA, ranking it fifth among US states after California, Arizona, New Jersey and North Carolina.

Massachusetts has about 286 solar companies in the value chain, employing 8,400 people. In 2013, $476 million was invested in Massachusetts to install solar on homes and businesses, a 52% increase over the previous year.

Patrick, who took office in January 2007, has signed various bills creating incentives and requirements for utilities to boost solar energy purchases. Installed solar capacity then was 3MW.