Key Committee Approves Bills That Require Solar Panels On New Massachusetts Buildings

By ecoRI News staff

Two bills that would require rooftop solar panels to be installed on new residential, commercial, and government buildings in Massachusetts were recently advanced by a key legislative committee.

The Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy gave a favorable report to the bills, which now must be approved by the Senate Ways & Means Committee before moving to a vote of the full Senate.

A bill to increase rooftop solar energy would require solar panels to be installed on new residential and commercial buildings. The proposed legislation is modeled after a similar rooftop solar policy adopted in California, as well as an ordinance passed in Watertown last year. The bill would allows for exemptions if buildings don’t have sufficient solar exposure.

“If builders start putting solar panels on all new homes, Massachusetts could double its solar energy capacity and reduce its carbon emission by 1.9 percent by 2045,” said Sen. Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton, who co-sponsored the bill. “This bill will help us unlock this potential, and reach the increased demand we’re seeing across the state for renewable energy.”

A study published last December by Environment Massachusetts concluded that requiring rooftop solar panels on all new homes built in Massachusetts between 2020 and 2045 would add more than 2,300 megawatts of solar capacity, equivalent to all of the solar capacity that has been installed in Massachusetts to date. The energy generated by these solar panels would reduce carbon emissions by 1.9 percent relative to 2015 levels, according to the 30-page report.

A bill to provide solar energy to state agencies would require solar panels to be installed on the roofs of new and renovated buildings owned or operated by the state. Several buildings recently built by state agencies include rooftop solar panels, such as the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife field headquarters in Westborough.

The amount of installed solar energy capacity in Massachusetts has increased more than 240-fold since 2008. However, policy uncertainty and arbitrary caps on a key solar program, net metering, have slowed the growth of solar in the past few years, according to Environment Massachusetts.

Massachusetts could generate up to 47 percent of its electricity from rooftop solar, according to a 2016 study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.