Massachussets Solar Growth in Jeopardy?

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Massachussets solar has been on roll. With a 150 percent increase in solar installations in the first quarter of 2015, the growth seems unstoppable. Indeed, according to the  U.S. Solar Market Insight Report completed by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), Massachussets ranks sixth in the country for installed solar. So what’s the problem? There is a possible speed-bump ahead for solar in the bay state. As in several other states, this speed-bump is the net metering cap. Solar has reached its legal limit in many areas of the state.

Rhone Resch, SEIA president and CEO, points out that solar growth has had a positive impact on the state. Massachusetts added 55 MW of new solar capacity in Q1 alone, which brings the statewide total to 806 MW.  Additionally, he states, “Because of the strong demand for solar energy, thousands of new, good-paying jobs have been added in Massachusetts, benefiting the state’s economy and environment … to put Massachusetts’ remarkable progress in some context, the 806 MW of solar installed in the state today is nearly 60 percent more than the entire country had in 2004.”

Resch pointed out that the 377 solar companies in Massachusetts, employ more than 9,400 people, representing manufacturers, contractors, project developers, distributors and installers, and generate hundreds of millions of dollars a year in economic activity in the state. “Unfortunately,” said Resch, “this growth – and the jobs which it’s creating – is now in serious jeopardy.”

He adds, “…because of faster-than-expected growth, we’re already starting to hit NEM caps, which is beginning to have a chilling effect on planned solar projects, threatening existing jobs, as well as the ability to create new jobs. As an industry, we strongly urge the legislature to raise the NEM caps as soon as possible.”

Of  course, Massachusetts is not the only state to struggle with net metering caps. We have seen this issue come up before, most recently in Nevada. There, they have voted to temporarily relax the caps, and revisit the issue before the end of the year. It remains to be seen what Massachusetts will do.