A new state program regulating incentives for solar photovoltaic (PV) arrays is expected to be up and running this summer. Under the 2018 Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) Program, incentives are structured to promote a range of on-farm PV applications, including systems installed on farm buildings, canopy systems built over vehicle parking areas, and systems sized to meet on-farm demand.
If you own land either in Chapter 61A or with Prime Farmland Soils (as defined by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, NRCS), financial compensation is also available for dual-use systems, in which ground-mounted solar PV panels producing electricity are interspersed with crops or livestock on agricultural land. Additional incentives are available for projects that incorporate energy storage, or that feed energy to certain types of consumers through net metering. These types of consumers include community-shared solar projects, low-income housing, and public buildings.
Qualifying projects receive financial payments that are credited to the solar array owner on his/her electric bill; these payments are based on a fixed price per kilowatt-hour of power generated. In cases where a third-party developer owns the system, farmers can negotiate a contract to receive a lease payment for the land dedicated to the installation.
UMass Clean Energy Extension (CEE) is actively working with UMass Agricultural Extension, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER), and the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resource (MDAR) to develop fact sheets and guidance for those considering dual-use PV systems. CEE will be holding a number of workshops around the state this summer to educate farmers and solar developers about opportunities for solar PV deployment on farms. In the meantime, if you have questions about incorporating solar PV on your farm, you can check out our website, or contact River Strong (firstname.lastname@example.org, 413-545-8510). You can also learn more about the SMART program here, or read the SMART program regulations and draft guidelines on the DOER website here.