Solar Siting Dilemmas

Throughout Massachusetts, critical natural ecosystems are suffering damage and the threat of unintended consequences from large solar developers, incentivized by SMART subsidies, lacking oversight and updated regulation by the state, and ill equipped to anticipate the impact of ground mounted solar installations on valuable green lands.
How ludicrous to destroy actual perpetual green energy, nature’s ancient technology, to be substituted by our limited idea of man-made green energy; to sacrifice forests; our climate superheroes and biodiversity champions in the name of climate healing; to think our newer man-made technologies alone can get us out of the mess we created with our man-made technologies.

Who is working on this issue?

Our RF3 group is part of a grassroots coalition to protect vital ecosystems across the state from misguided industrial development. To challenge the narrative that unnecessarily pits solar initiatives against natural climate solutions and town boards against large even multinational players.

Our partners include:

Read about how a large landowner and multinational corporation is suing the small town of Shutesbury, as their town’s zoning bylaws aim to protect local forests and water supplies. Note that these areas are adjacent to the Quabbin reservoir.

See  presentations  on solar gone wrong, the value of forests and wetlands, the lawsuit and more.

Their updated website offers background information on the issues and reports on campaigns to stop the damage
to fragile lands in southeastern MA

Their updated website offers background information on the issues and reports on campaigns to stop the damage
to fragile lands in southeastern MA

The latest studies and initiatives from the state

  • The Department of Energy Resources July 2023 report: Massachusetts Technical Potential for Solar storymap, study website, and downloadable pdf. Summarized in this Boston Globe report.
    • This study shows that … “We can both generate and transmit clean energy and meet our net zero goals while protecting sensitive natural and working lands and waters and the valuable benefits they provide including protecting biodiversity, enhancing climate resilience, and fostering natural systems to store and draw pollution from the air.” Steve Long, director of policy and partnerships at The Nature Conservancy in Massachusetts. Mass has ample solar power potential (Daily Hampshire Gazette 7/7/2023).

Organizations that provide research and testimony

In a May 2021 report PFPI said

It is shocking to see that the state’s renewable energy policy is actually incentivizing forest clearing for solar. Climate change mitigation is not just about reducing fossil fuel emissions. Climate modeling is crystal-clear that we need to not only reduce emissions, but actually sequester CO2 that has already been emitted. Restoring and expanding forests is the only means under our control to achieve this at scale…. The state should not have a policy that pits solar against forests. Policies should offer incentives for preserving and expanding forests, not destroying them.

RF3 Legislative priorities

Click here to see details about bills we support and how to TAKE ACTION.

Read testimonies here and listen to hearing recordings.

  • H.3230 S.2164  which would establish a municipality’s right to reasonably regulate solar power locations and prevent the current unfortunate exploitative and massively destructive solar development practices.
  • H.3225 / S.2150 An Act to Encourage Solar Development on Buildings and Disturbed Land. Fact sheet.
  • H.3144 / S.2089  An Act promoting solar energy canopies on large parking lots
  • H3229S.2163 An Act prohibiting public and ratepayer funding of clearcutting forests and woodlands.

Climate scientists speak out:

Professor Bill Moomaw 2021 interview:

“A Clark University study pointed out that half of land conversions in Massachusetts have been for solar panels–not for urban development, not for agriculture, not for highways. An informal study was done in Berkshire County where 37 solar arrays were put in place and just over half of those involved cutting forests. No one seems to have looked at wha this means for biodiversity. No one’s looked at connectivity for wildlife and plant migration as the climate warms. We have fabulous connectivity in corridors going from Western Massachusetts and Western Connecticut going all the way down into NY state and all the way up to Canada. These need to be maintained for adaptation to climate change.” Massachusetts Sierran, 2021 (v.26 n.1)

Farmers Speak out:

CISA 2021 comment letter regarding siting

“Our primary concern with the current draft guidelines is that they encourage siting of dual use solar on the Commonwealth’s best farmland. Specifically, the requirement that eligible farmland must be in Chapter 61 or be designated as Important Agricultural Farmland (prime, of statewide importance, or unique) makes it more likely that dual use installations will be sited on high quality rather than marginal farmland. Instead, the regulations should prioritize marginal land. This shift would allow farmers to generate electricity and additional income on land that is less suited for crop production, retaining our best agricultural land base for food production now and in the future.”

PureSky Energy (formerly AMP Energy) projects in Shutesbury Background

Lawmakers weigh wood-burning for energy, heat. Sam Drysdale, State House News Service in Greenfield Recorder (7/4/2023)

Resident activists speak out:

Lenore Bryck editorial:

“The notion that the emissions reduction from cutting forests to install solar offsets the carbon value of trees is a false choice, short-sighted and can’t be accurately measured yet. Solar installations have a 25-year lifespan, while mature forests are irreplaceable and essential for climate healing, regulating the water cycles, nutrient cycling and preventing biodiversity collapse (arguably a greater threat to survival)….

The state should establish subsidies that support landowners to steward the land for optimal health rather than subsidizing large solar corporations to clear-cut forests and incentivize solar on all appropriate available space before destroying natural landscapes or habitats.”