Massachusetts Plugs Into the Sun for More Power

By ecoRI News staff

Since 2007 Massachusetts has seen a 246-fold increase in the amount of electricity it gets from the sun, according to a new report by Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center. The report highlights advances in the use of energy storage, energy efficiency, and electric vehicles.

The report, Renewables on the Rise, comes as the end of the legislative session rapidly approaches and lawmakers in both the House and Senate work to find agreement on the provisions of renewable-energy legislation.

The report provides a state-by-state assessment of the growth of key technologies needed to power the nation with renewable energy, energy efficiency, energy storage, and electric vehicles. Massachusetts ranked seventh for solar. Rhode Island ranked 38th, and Connecticut 19th.

During the past decade renewable-energy technologies have spread across the country and become core parts of the energy system, according to Gideon Weissman of Frontier Group.

“In 2017, nine states produced at least 20 percent of their electricity with wind and solar power,” he said. “Back in 2008, not a single state was even close.”

According to the report, Massachusetts is 35th in the nation for the increase in electricity generation from wind between 2008-2017. Rhode Island is 37th, and Connecticut saw no growth in wind energy in those 10 years.

Wind energy generation in Massachusetts is set to increase dramatically in the coming years, with a commitment to install 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind capacity. Next year, Vineyard Wind expects to begin construction on Massachusetts’ first offshore wind facility.

Seven Massachusetts municipalities have adopted a goal of 100 percent renewable energy, with similar commitments pending in other communities, according to the report. Boston University and Harvard University have committed to buy 100 percent of their electricity from renewable sources, while Hampshire College is already powered entirely by on-campus solar panels.

In June, the Senate passed a bill that would eliminate caps on solar net metering and increase renewable energy to 50 percent of the state’s electricity consumption by 2030 and 100 percent by 2047. The House has passed a bill for 35 percent renewable electricity by 2030. The Senate and House appointed a conference committee to resolve the differences between their bills.

The 2017-18 legislative session ends July 31.

Here is a look at how the three southern New England states compare in terms of renewable-energy progress from 2008-2017:

MASSACHUSETTS
Solar: 246-fold growth in annual solar generation, an increase of 2,544 gigawatts. U.S. rank 7 (ranked by increase in generation).
Wind: 55-fold growth in annual wind generation, an increase of 217 gigawatts. U.S. rank 35 (ranked by increase in generation).
Total wind and solar: 2,775 gigawatts generated in 2017, enough to power 258,000 homes.
Electric vehicles: 5,411 sold through 2017. U.S. rank 10 (ranked by EVs per registered vehicle).
Energy storage: Utility-scale battery storage capacity increased by 3 megawatts. U.S. rank 14 (ranked by increase in capacity).

RHODE ISLAND
Solar: 24-fold growth in annual solar generation, an increase of 71 gigawatts. U.S. rank 38.
Wind: Annual wind generation increased by 153 gigawatts. U.S. rank 37.
Total wind and solar: 227 gigawatts generated in 2017, enough to power 21,000 homes.
Electric vehicles: 418 sold through 2017. U.S. rank 25.
Energy storage: No increase in battery storage.

CONNECTICUT
Solar: 32-fold growth in annual solar generation, an increase of 448 gigawatts. U.S. rank 19.
Wind: No increase in wind generation.
Total wind and solar: 463 GWh gigawatts in 2017, enough to power 43,000 homes.
Electric vehicles: 2,896 sold through 2017. U.S. rank 13.
Energy storage: Utility-scale battery storage capacity increased by 2 megawatts. U.S. rank 18.