To access this work you must either be on the Smith College campus OR have valid Smith login credentials.
On Campus users: To access this work if you are on campus please Select the Download button.
Off Campus users: To access this work from off campus, please select the Off-Campus button and enter your Smith username and password when prompted.
Non-Smith users: You may request this item through Interlibrary Loan at your own library.
Environmental Science and Policy
In order to mitigate global climate change, we need to decarbonize the electric grid. Utility-scale solar energy (USSE) is one of the fastest growing renewable energy sources. Currently, a lot of Massachusetts’ farmland is being lost to development, including solar development. As part of a solution, in 2018 the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) created the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) Program, which has an Agricultural Solar Tariff Generation Unit (ASTGU) provision. This provides an additional financial incentive on top of the base compensation rate for agrivoltaics (co-location of agriculture and photovoltaic arrays). In this project, we wanted to assess the initial feasibility and success of agrivoltaics in Massachusetts; particularly, we wanted to investigate whether this could be a way to successfully assist in the Commonwealth’s energy needs while mitigating the loss of farmland.
We conducted a literature review, semi-structured stakeholder interviews, and an economic analysis. From this work, we found that while most stakeholders agree that more renewable energy is needed in the Commonwealth, there are disagreements about solar siting and the related regulations. Initial agrivoltaics research found that many factors play a role in agricultural yields, and more research is needed. Many stakeholders agree that the financial incentive will help fill this knowledge gap. As this process continues, we need to critically weigh the risks, benefits, and uncertainties of agrivoltaics. While we acknowledge that agrivoltaics likely reduces agricultural yields to some degree, we recommend the financial incentive remains. Agrivoltaics have the potential to help decarbonize the grid while allowing farmers to diversify their revenue streams.
We have five recommendations to improve agrivoltaics in Massachusetts:
- the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) should maintain the agrivoltaic financial incentive;
- all relevant stakeholders should continue and increase research on agrivoltaics;
- DOER, with input from the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) and relevant stakeholders, should provide flexibility in the requirements for the agrivoltaic incentive (shading, storage, etc.);
- DOER make annual reports from the approved projects publicly available to increase transparency and promote research;
- the Commonwealth should increase their involvement in solar siting.
Since the start of the SMART Program, 17 ASTGU projects have been approved. Most of these projects are still under construction since COVID-19 has slowed the process. All the farmers and solar developers we spoke to with approved projects are very excited to start experimenting with agrivoltaics. In addition, a team of researchers at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, recently received a $1.8 million grant from the Department of Energy to study agrivoltaics in the Commonwealth. Through these agrivoltaic projects and research, Massachusetts will continue to be a leader in this new technology.
©2021 Natalie Baillargeon, Glenda Perez, and Chaia Yodaiken
Baillargeon, Natalie; Perez, Glenda; and Yodaiken, Chaia, "Investigating the Feasibility of Agrivoltaics in Massachusetts" (2021). Capstone, Smith College, Northampton, MA.
Off Campus Download