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Renewables Progress in Massachusetts

Wind turbine in Hull MA. CC by SA

Wind turbine in Hull MA. CC by SA

By George Harvey

In December, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center released the 69-page “2016 Massachusetts Clean Energy Industry Report,” providing information on how clean businesses are performing in the state. Its information is very encouraging. (http://bit.ly/MA-clean-energy-report)

The report says clean technology is an $11.8 billion industry in the U.S., and in Massachusetts, accounts for 2.5% of the gross state product. There are over 105,000 clean technology jobs in the state, an increase of 45,000 jobs since 2010. This growth rate is much higher than the general increase of employment in the state. Notably, the jobs tend to pay rather well, provided by small, locally-owned businesses.

One sub-sector of clean technology that has stood out in particular is solar power. In 2015 and 2016, 63% of all renewable energy jobs in Massachusetts were directly related to solar power. The numbers of these jobs grew 22% during the time, making solar power an important employment area for the state. A third or more of these jobs were entry level, so many people entering the job market can find positions. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, Massachusetts was ranked as the number six state in the United States for installed solar capacity at the end of 2015, with 1020 megawatts (MW) installed.

The solar industry has suffered from some problems in 2016. The year saw an additional 52 MW installed, as the state dropped to the number 10 spot for total solar capacity. This fact may be easy to misconstrue, however, because of events that will undoubtedly change the energy landscape of the state. In fact, when the year closed, the site https://solarpowerrocks.com/ rated Massachusetts as the best state in the country in terms of its policies for solar power.

During the course of 2016, the state’s legislature was very active on the subject of renewable energy generation. It produced a bill requiring 1,600 MW of offshore wind power plus an additional 1200 MW of land-based renewable power. Governor Charlie Baker, a Republican, regards climate change as a clear threat to the state, as well as the world, and when the bill reached him on August 8, he signed it.

Another legislative action undertaken was a mandate for energy storage. In August, the Commonwealth adopted a goal to decide whether to set a procurement target. It is the third state in the United States to set a procurement target, after Oregon and California.

In September, Massachusetts published a report, State of Charge, which provided a set of recommendations on policy for growing storage capacity. The report concluded that storage would increase energy security while reducing both carbon emissions and consumer costs. In December, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources issued its announcement, saying it is prudent to have a goal on energy storage. The department has until July 1, 2017 to adopt targets for procurement.

Importantly, other technologies are also being supported by the state, its institutions, and its businesses. Scientists at Massachusetts Maritime Academy began testing an underwater turbine at the Cape Cod Canal in Buzzards Bay. It is technology they believe could represent a fundamental change in power generation. The machine centers on an oscillating set of blades. Mass Maritime’s scientists say it is a “hydro-kinetic energy solution.”

We hope for more good news from Massachusetts.

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