A program that aims to expand the use of solar power in Massachusetts while lowering energy rates for customers cleared its final regulatory hurdle Wednesday, paving the way for an anticipated 1,600 megawatts of new solar installations.
The Department of Public Utilities on Wednesday issued an order approving financial incentives for owners of new solar projects under the Department of Energy Resources’ Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) program.
The SMART program is expected to promote solar development and save ratepayers and estimated $4.7 billion, compared to the cost of existing programs. The program is required under legislation signed by Gov. Charlie Baker in April 2016 and required DPU approval because it is designed as a utility tariff, an official from the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs said.
The SMART program provides compensation for all new solar projects under 5 megawatts in size within the territories of National Grid, Unitil and Eversource. The new program differentiates between solar projects, so an owner would receive extra compensation if the solar installation is linked to energy storage or if the solar project includes a canopy, the EEA official said.
Administration officials said the state currently has 2,200 megawatts of solar installed and the new SMART program is expected to support the installation of 1,600 more, an increase of almost 75 percent. With the addition, EEA said 10 percent of the state’s annual electricity needs will be met by solar resources.