Government

Bills Would Require Rooftop Solar on Mass. Buildings

The legislation would require solar panels to be installed on the roofs of newly built structures in Massachusetts. (istock)

Massachusetts legislators have filed two bills that would require rooftop solar panels to be installed on new residential and commercial buildings.

The Solar Neighborhoods Act, filed by Rep. Mike Connolly, D-Cambridge, and Rep. Jack Lewis, D-Framingham, would require solar panels to be installed on the roofs of newly built homes, apartments, and office buildings. The bill allows for exemptions if a roof is too shaded for solar panels to be effective. A similar bill was filed by Sen. Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton.

Connolly said the legislation is a necessary step in a transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

“Combating climate change will require robust solutions, and the mobilization of all of our resources, so I’m excited to reintroduce this legislation and continue working with my colleagues and stakeholders in taking this bold step forward,” he said.

A 2018 report from the Environment America Research & Policy Center found that requiring rooftop solar panels on all new homes built in Massachusetts would add more than 2,300 megawatts of solar capacity by 2045, nearly doubling the solar capacity that has been installed in Massachusetts to date.

The amount of installed solar energy capacity has increased more than 70-fold in Massachusetts during the past decade, according to Environment America. In recent years, the growth of solar has been held back by arbitrary caps on the state’s most important solar energy policy, net metering, as well as uncertainty over solar incentive programs, according to Ben Hellerstein, state director for Environment Massachusetts.

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

During the last legislative session, the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilties and Energy gave a favorable report to similar legislation, but it didn’t advance to a vote on the floor of either chamber.

“Every day, a clean, renewable, limitless source of energy is shining down on the roofs of our homes and businesses,” Hellerstein said. “With this bill, we can tap into our potential for rooftop solar energy and take a big step toward a healthier, safer future.”

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