Pope Energy Comment Letters

High Volume Interconnection Queues

March 20,2020

Mark D. Marini,
Department of Public Utilities
One South Station
Boston, MA 02110


D.P.U. 1955

Submitted by Doug Pope, President

Dear Secretary Marini:We appreciate the Department of Public Utilities exploring the use of working group sessions to engage developers, utilities and public policy stakeholders in deliberative discussions of how to facilitate installation of increasing levels of solar PV and energy storage to achieve GWSA goals in Massachusetts.Ina typical adjudicatedproceeding, our participation, if allowed as an intervener, would be difficult if not prohibitively expensive,and if through an industry association, diffused. We very much appreciate this working group format.

ISA In-Series Application -A Case Study:

Despite the often-public statements of amore progressive policy of Eversource towards renewables, the old policy of reviewing solar projects in series in the interconnection study process continues, even after working group discussions in DPU 19-55.

On or about August 14, 2018, SRE Energy filed a Standard Application to interconnect a 1 MW AC, 1.391 MW DC solar PV system at 4 Wildberry Way, Westport, MA, 02790. SRE was informed that there were 4-5 projects ahead of the 1 MW projecton Wildberry Way in the Impact Study queue and that the process could take 1.5 to 2 years to process the Impact Study,as Eversource was handlingImpact Studies in series,as opposed to in aggregate or in a parallel process as isthe practice with other utilities. Pope Energy is the originator of the project and the local developer on behalf of SRE Energy.

A Distributed Generationprofessional from Distributed Generation at Eversource has been working with an experienced Project Developerfrom SRE Energy relative as to the queue position status of this project. As of approximately twomonthsago, this project is third in the queue behind a 4.5 MW and a 2 MW project respectively. While the 1 MW Westport project does not require a transmission study, those projects ahead of this project do require transmission studies and,as Eversource policy dictates, the Wildberry Way project will not get started until the other projects have been studied in conjunction with the transmission study which will not be complete until December of 2020.

Eversource will study these projects in series and,if complete, hold the ISAs until the transmission study is complete.

As stated at the DPU 19-55 working session, I believe that the position of Eversource to conduct interconnection applications in series is against public policy. This is contrasted with Unitil and National Grid,who have approached developers as customers.Unitil has been a pleasure to do business with,as has National Grid,albeit they have had problems with growth and integrating solar into their system.To be clear, those management decisions and attendant growth pains have caused great financial risk todevelopers, but the use of economic power or “leverage”was never part of the problem.

Legislators, regulators at both DOER and the D.P.U. have often observed available capacity in both net metering and SMARTin Eversource territoryas evidence that there is ample capacity left in the solar programs. However, in the SMART program, due to the in-series,ISA study policyof Eversource,developers are unable to access that available capacity.As former Assistant Attorney General of Massachusetts, John Roddy has been known to say,“If it seems unfair, seems unjust, it is probably illegal.”

In Stat. 2016 c. 75 (11), the legislature directed DOER to “develop a statewide incentive program to encourage the continued development of solar renewable energy generating resources by residential, commercial, governmental and industrial electricity customers throughout the commonwealth.”

Does it seem reasonable to have a solar program seeking to encourage solar investment within Massachusetts and have those investors wait for twoyears or greater to know if those investments are financially feasible? Does it seem reasonable for landowners, farmers, corporations, non-profits and public entities to have a solar developer approach them for a solar project, a landorrooflease, a parking lot canopy project or a behind-the-meter applicationand have to wait twoyears and expect that proposal to be credible? Is this what was intendedby Stat. 2016 c. 75 (11), by all the revisions to the Green Communities Act, by Kain vs. MassDEP?

In both the 19-55 working group sessionsand for years at D.P.U. hearings, Eversource,in contrast to the other EDC’shas been “requesting direction from D.P.U.”

The direction from D.P.U. in guidance documents and eventual litigation of the19-55tariff,as well as within the Grid Mod and rate setting proceedings, should set clearprogram parameters for the EDCs and never let this kind of “leverage” currently exercised by Eversource intentionally delay the implementation of state policy.

This includes the D.P.U. setting performance standards in both guidance,tariffs and baseline assumptions at the TSRG. If ISO-NE accepts 2minutes or 30seconds as response times in certain equipment currently, then those are the timeframes that should form the basis for baseline assumptions. Yes, it may be advantageous for the grid to have different timeframes in the future. But the EDCs should not have the ability to unilaterally cause delay by adopting unreasonable standards through a process where “the Utilities have the final decision” within the TSRG.

Planning Interconnections for Solar and Other DER Through 2030

At the working session, I inquired if the transmission studies being conducted by each respective utility were studying a static condition, just those whose applications have been received, or greater interconnection requirements based upon legislation, court cases and regulations already in place.The answer from all of the utilities was a static condition, just those applications received.

At some point the D.P.U., DOER, and DEP, together as departments under EOEEA,need to internalize the obligations, including both the cost and the benefitsof achieving net zero energy emissions by 2050. It would appear that the 2050 Roadmap process currently under consideration by EOEEA is perhaps the start of this process.

The 2020 Regional Electricity Outlook report byISO-NEhas been the most dynamic report of its kind from this organization,describing the transition to renewables by the New England states. True to form,ISO-NEdoes not forecast DER penetrations beyond contracted or publicly stated programs. ISO-NE looks to the states to determine the amount of DER that is to be installed to meet that state’s renewable energy goals.

Why would the EDCs only be studying the static condition of existing interconnection applications when the SMART program is going to be expanded by some number and the compliance obligations are well above even that number? Will the Boston area, let’s call it the 128 Transmission System Upgrade RFP due March 4, 2020,be conducted to build to static conditions? Are large amounts of solar DGtogether with the “electrification of everything”1going to be coordinated with wind transmission lines pushing north and west?

To assist in long-term system planning,D.P.U.19-55 should be about setting targets to be interconnected each year and tying those targets to rate based ROI returns for the EDCs. The policyof restricting EDC responsibility to install DERs as percentage of load should be discontinued. WithDER generation being pushed up onto transmission and withthe “electrification of everything,” the cost of DER generation should be levelized across all ratepayers. Without long-term systemand interconnectionplanning, the deployment of DERs will continue to be choppy,poorly coordinated between regulatory departments and will not be made in the best interest of having net-zero emissions by 2050.

The Brattle Group, in their Achieving 80% GHG Reduction in New England by 2050September 2019report,indicated that “between 2019 and 2050 between 3.5 GW and 6.6 GW of renewable capacity, including 2-5 GW of solar and 2-3 GW of wind,will need to be added each year on average” to meet the targets New England has for itself.Since Massachusetts consumes approximately 45% of ISO-NE load,that would equal 0.9 -2.5 GW of solar and 0.9 –1.35 GW of wind per year from 2019 until 2050.

19-55 Interconnection –Guidance

In the interim, the D.P.U. needs to instruct all EDCs to conduct aggregated, group interconnection applications and Impact Studies for solar and solar + storage projects with all haste. No in-series review of solar projects is allowed. No solar or solar + storageproject should take more than 55 business days,and under no circumstance should the entire process, including ISO-NE,take more than 180 calendar days.As systems are automated, the timeframes for the completion of Impact Studies should shrink substantially and the EDCs should be rewarded for speeding up the processes.

The D.P.U. may need to work with ISO-NE in the streamlining of their portion of DER review. Area Studies should be calculated to deal with as-incurred solar and solar + storage applications while the entire system is being reviewed. If bonafide issues arise for a particular substation under unique circumstances,that substation could be identified to the Department and an extra 3months could be providedfor that particular application.

If there are conditions that encourage the development of solar projects,such as permissive zoning, then the EDCs should step up their efforts to accommodate such demand.

In no way should any EDC be allowed to take twoyears to complete an Area Study, holding off DER interconnectionapproval until completion of the study. Means and methods should be established to allow the interconnection of DERs while larger studies are conducted.

Privacy: As a policy, it should be part of tariff, including a guidance document, that all ISA applications may have the following information disclosed to encourage communication amongst common circuit or substation applicants:

  1. the Applicant Entity’s name
  2. the person representing the Applicant
  3. the active phone number and email address for said person
  4. the mailing address of the Applicant
  5. the size of the solar in AC as well as the storage facility in AC, if any.

With annual interconnections of DER set as goals per year, the EDCs could either hire qualified engineers internally or seek additionaloutside utility-scale engineering firms and attract them to servicing interconnection requirements of Massachusetts. It is our understanding that the engineering firms that service the EDCs is a select handful of firms and they are often overloaded with work or very expensive due to lack of competition.

The D.P.U.,along with all other departments under EOEEA, should set a clear path to 2030 for the interconnection of DER projects in conjunction with the Brattle Group recommendations. In so doing,D.P.U. and EOEEA would set the planning parameters for accomplishing Governor Baker’s net-zero goals for 2050, set planning direction for the EDCs and transmission companies,and allow the development and installation companies to see a clear path for building companies and employing skilled personnel.

At this writing, we are all dealing with the coronavirus with an uncertain economic landscape once this is over. If the above recommendations are put in place, long-term employment would be provided for thousands of workers for over ten years.

Thank you for your consideration.

Best Regards,

Doug Pope

Massachusetts Solar Projects

The Hon. Kathleen Theoharides (Kathleen.Theoharides@state.ma.us)
Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs
100 Cambridge Street, Suite 900
Boston, MA 02114

The Hon. Judith Judson (Judith.Judson@state.ma.us)
Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources
100 Cambridge Street, Suite 1020
Boston, MA 02114

Dear Secretary Theoharides and Commissioner Judson:

Consistent affirmative acts of the legislature to promote renewable energy combined with excellent fiscal and legal administration of the solar programs by DOER are the prime reasons why confidence in investing in Massachusetts solar projects is so strong. This investment confidence is in spite of the choppy, on-again, off-again nature of Massachusetts solar policy. This is because large investors simply move to other states that are open for business, leaving smaller Massachusetts-based firms taking the brunt of the effects of choppy solar policy. Despite the SMART program being one of the best legally constructed solar programs in the country, the SMART Program 400 MW Review as presented seems bent on growth control, constraining program size, and returning to the same choppy solar policy implementation that has always existed. The Baker Administration, while starting to work on electrifying our transportation, residential and commercial heating sectors,1 appears to have made the selective choice to ignore the facts that electrification of these sectors will “need to produce twice as much electricity in 2050 to meet all demand than it does today.”2 For many reasons described below, we hope that DOER will consider increasing the existing SMART program by 3,200 MW in order to meet the Commonwealth’s clean energy deployment goals under the Renewable Portfolio Standard3 while creating a clear longer-term policy path for developers, employers, ISO-NE, and the utilities and students seeking career opportunities in renewable energy.

We fully appreciate the fact that DOER intended the 400 MW Review to consist of minor adjustments to the SMART program. However well intended, if the SMART program is years ahead of its declining block schedule, why continue with a bad policy design that will only result in continued choppy policy implementation that will mostly effect Massachusetts-based firms? If DOER is constrained for structural reasons as to what it can do in the next two months, DOER should commit itself to commencing a larger program review in six months and concluding that review and promulgation of those regulations in the following seven months. If required, D.P.U. would commence a dualtrack tariff revision as soon as the revised SMART regulations have been posted. There should be no program constraint mechanisms as the 400 MW Review extension will only be a stopgap to allow the larger successor SMART program to be promulgated.

3,200 MW SMART Expansion:

Implementing a 3,200 MW SMART expansion will send clear market and policy signals that will benefit the following constituent issues:

1) DOER will send a clear market and policy statement that solar will be a significant contributor to meeting Massachusetts Renewable Portfolio Standard compliance obligations.

2) DOER will be able to expand the block sizes, administratively reset base and adder compensation rates, and provide a clear, transparent path for development for years. Solar companies could develop businesses here in Massachusetts as opposed to coming in to take advantage of opportunities only when the policy window opens up for business.

3) DOER will send a clear signal to 70,1944 annually enrolled Massachusetts high school seniors that there are good-paying, fulfilling careers in renewable energy. DOER has questioned how we will get all of these solar projects built with the existing labor force. Clear signals of job opportunities present non-college and college-bound students with options not otherwise available.

4) EEA directing DOER to adopt a 3,200 MW SMART expansion will provide a clear policy path that D.P.U and DEP can use to further implement compliance obligations.

5) DOER and EEA will send a clear signal to ISO-NE that while the first Area and Group Studies are ongoing currently, the recognition that we need to double our electric capacity by 2050 starts now.
6) DOER will give clear notice to the utilities and to the current D.P.U 19-55 Interconnection process that doubling our electrical capacity as we approach 2050 starts now and that the interconnection of solar and distributed generation is an integral part of our approach to achieving 80% reduction in GHG emissions by 2050.

At a recent D.P.U technical session, Tim Roughan of National Grid was asked, beyond baseline conditions in the Area Study, what National Grid was doing in their planning process to accommodate additional DG based upon existing legislation and (court ordered) commitments. His response was, in essence,“Well, that is the real question, isn’t it?”

The executive management of the utilities has not accepted the fact that the reality of the compliance path to 2050 is going to require enormous change. This is due in part because their interest is not aligned with the installation of distributed generation renewable resources. Solar interconnection is a compliance obligation and not something their stockholders receive direct quarterly benefit. Until the utilities benefit from interconnecting distributed energy resources as indicated in HB 3667 by TUE Chair Tom Golden, there will be lack of alignment of interest when it comes to the interconnection of solar.

Until that time, the distributed generation interconnection queue will continue to experience what Eversource is arbitrarily imposing on the solar industry where they study (fully paid) Impact Studies in series, taking a year or two to be completed. We have one such project in Westport that is now approaching one year with no notice of when the Impact Study will commence, nor what the results of prior studies have yielded about information on the substation.

The Unintended Consequences of Inaction:

Will SMART projects be investment grade instruments or junk bonds?

Without affirmative policy direction, unexpected events like the Area and Cluster Studies being conducted by National Grid where Interconnection Service Agreements are executed, and fees are paid but projects are not allowed to interconnect, create severe financial consequences that reduce confidence in doing business in Massachusetts.

As of yesterday, our investors were speaking with a huge name-brand solar investment company that has invested in MA solar projects since the SREC program inception, and they were looking to discount their MA projects within the Area or Cluster studies because their cost of money and the delay caused by the studies has eroded the IRR on these projects. The projects no longer meet their investment criteria. If this kind of unexpected chain of events continue, it will crush an otherwise well-designed SMART program, as investors do not like uncertainty or political or beyond regulatory risk.

Set Aside Category for Under 500 kW Solar Systems:

DOER desires to encourage behind-the-meter (BTM) and smaller building, canopy or roof-mounted systems. The development/sales cycle of this kind of product is different than a ground-mount system. The cost of customer acquisition takes personnel, outreach, follow-up, more customer contact, and financial interactions where dependable numbers matter, particularly if privately funded by local banks. Selling a rooftop, canopy
or other building-mounted system where financial viability starts out in Block 1 or 2 and is in Block 8 in a week, is a waste time, credibility and relationships. If DOER set aside 15%-20% of the SMART program towards this less than 500 kW sector, solar developers could hire staff to focus on this selling into sector.

Existing DOER Program Expansion Proposal:

800 MW Lasting Seven Years with Declining Values: Absent more compelling legislation, if these criteria remain in place and Eversource remains as difficult to do business with tomorrow as they are today, DOER is effectively saying to most solar companies who build greater than 500 kW, “In 18-24 months, go do business
somewhere else.”

With declining base, community solar, and storage adder compensation, it will take
DOER six months to discover a significant drop-off in development activity due to lack of
project economic viability and another nine months to promulgate new regulations,
assuming DOER considers solar PV an RPS-contributing asset.

Land Use:

Listening to the volunteer municipal stakeholders at the Amherst, MA Listening Session conducted by DOER, I was struck by the amount of misinformation that surrounded their ability to regulate their own land use in a manner that would be in total conformance with Chapter 40A, Sec 3 if reasonably applied.

The volunteer planning board members felt two things: 1) that they have been told that Chapter 40A Section 3 overrode their local zoning, and 2) that they did not have the financial recourses to update their zoning ordinances. Commissioner Judson indicated that there were resources at DOER that could help them.

Perhaps through the Environmental Bond Bill that codifies certain aspects of Executive Order 5695 that establishes and integrated climate change strategy, professional planners could be engaged to assist local municipalities in addition to a regional planning circuit rider advisor program.

If DOER wants to make the 800 MW SMART expansion last seven years, then penalizing ground-mount solar is the only way to kill large-scale solar as the SMART program by its design will attract investment.

Right now, under the current 800 MW proposal, greater than 500 kW solar projects will first run out of economic viability due to declining base compensation in conjunction with the subtractors and high interconnection cost in National Grid and Unitil territories.

Adders: If the base compensation rate is adjusted, we support the Category 1 Land Use Adders without declining values.

Adders Storage: Please consider restoring the storage adder to its original Block 1 level.

If DOER establishes the 3,200 MW expansion and western Massachusetts cities and towns have assistance in creating zoning for solar, then the issue of subtractors should no longer be part of solar policy as larger-scale ground-mount solar + storage should be encouraged to meet our environmental and strategic resiliency goals. If DOER gets the overall solar policy right, there are no need for subtractors.

Community Solar and Low Income:

At a recent D.P.U. technical session, I met a someone from National Grid whose job it is to engage in changing people’s behavior to effect energy efficiency goals. Community Solar is a huge entry point for customers of all income levels for education, familiarization, and engagement in the renewable conservation economy. Changing behaviors is all about education, awareness, and access.

We have high expectations for Community Solar providers. We expect salespersons to be specifically trained to conduct themselves in an ethical, honest, and straightforward manner. This requires properly trained management actively engaged in supervision. We expect them to fill the Community Solar tranche for the specific project in a timely fashion and to actively and concurrently maintain and service that list of community solar customers.

Reaching the low-moderate income and environmental justice communities will take more work, more cost, and potentially a different skill set dealing directly with the utilities on an Alternative On-Bill Credit basis.

All of the above requires compensation for the Community Solar providers and compensation to the developer that assist in the financial enabling of a specific solar project. If Community Solar does not add something to enable a solar project economically, why would a developer complicate its contractual obligation that could end up costing money over 20 years. Accordingly, we ask DOER to return the Community Solar adder to its previously stated value of $0.05 per kWh.

Public Entities:

We support the adder of $0.04 and the set-aside reservation period for municipal projects.

Public entities should have the ability to acquire solar generation on projects inside and outside of municipal boundaries but within the same ISO zone using the Alternative On- Bill Credit mechanism. Public entities would be a Category 1 Land Use and not subject to subtractors.

Preferred Interconnection Adder / Subtractors:

We agree with adders for preferred locations but disagree with subtractors, as this may stifle market ingenuity to solve problems. For example, if there were land uses that allowed solar + storage to be installed and a number of developers got together to pay for substation upgrades, and these upgrades enabled new grid benefits that otherwise did not exist, why would DOER not encourage that kind of investment?

Agricultural Solar:

Thank you for removing the 61A and Prime Farmland soils as a requirement. We request that you consider the maximum size to be 5 MW AC or 6 MW DC due to economic issues surrounding family estate planning and transition issues. Without exception, every farm we have spoken to has both farming and non-farming members. Agricultural Solar will assist the farming member to stay in business and allows the nonfarming
members to receive revenue from a farm that could otherwise not provide economic benefit to them.

As a 35-year-old heir-apparent said to me at a meeting when I told him about the solar program being under review, he said right away, “It (the land) is going to be used for solar or housing one way or the other.” He was referring to treed, non-productive land to be used for solar or housing; he did not want Agricultural Solar on his most productive land.

Agricultural Solar Guidelines: Please allow a provision for DOER to make letter
approvals of plans that demonstrate an innovative use of the land or installed system.

Pollinator Adder:

We support the pollinator adder and hope the compliance obligation is not too cumbersome to regularly implement.

One of the reasons for the past success of the Massachusetts solar program is the consistent manner DOER has handled the public stakeholder process. So, thank you for your consideration of these issues.

Best Regards,

Doug Pope

At Pope Energy, we provide system owners, landowners, and business with complete development, engineering, procurement, construction and operations and maintenance services for commercial and large-scale solar photovoltaic power projects. Contact Pope Energy at 855-767-3363 to find out more about how we can help you reduce your energy costs and help the environment become greener and more efficient!

Pope Energy Comments on Offshore Wind and the Vineyard Wind Connector

Mr. Matthew Beaton, Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA)
MEPA Office Purvi Patel, EEA No. 15787 (Vineyard Wind Connector)
100 Cambridge Street, Suite 900
Boston, MA 02114

Re: Support for Offshore Wind and Vineyard Wind Connector

Dear Secretary Beaton and Ms. Patel,

I am writing today in support of the Vineyard Wind Connector, which would bring 800 MW of
clean, renewable energy from the country’s first commercial-scale offshore wind project onshore
in Barnstable, Massachusetts. The Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) submitted by
Vineyard Wind reflects refinements and improvements to the company’s initial proposal and
demonstrates their commitment to working collaboratively with local communities to deliver real
benefits to the state.

As a solar developer whose companies have been doing business in the Commonwealth since
1979, I understand the critical importance of policy leadership in providing a foundation upon
which new industries can grow and thrive. Similar to the Commonwealth’s early work on solar,
Massachusetts is leading the nation’s efforts to establish a vibrant and robust offshore wind
industry. We stand to capture significant economic and job creation benefits as a result. In fact,
the recent news regarding MHI Vestas’s decision to open its US headquarters in Boston shows
that our efforts are already bearing fruit.

At the same time, offshore wind will go a long way to ensuring we meet the emission reduction
targets set established by the Global warming Solutions Act. The FEIR notes that Vineyard
Wind’s project will reduce New England’s electricity sector emissions by as much as 1.6 million
tons per year. The project also stands to lower electricity prices and could deliver total benefits
worth more than $1.4 billion dollars.

In light of the potential benefits, limited environmental impacts, and Vineyard Wind’s track record
of listening to and working with local communities, I strongly encourage you to allow Vineyard
Wind Connector to move forward.

In addition to approving the project, the Baker administration should use the 2% per year rate of
increase in the state’s renewable portfolio standard in the planning for a smarter grid, together
with a commitment to install 25% of solar generation in Massachusetts. Longer term policies
and regulations need to be established today for both small and larger scale solar and wind plus
storage through 2030. Taken together, policies like these have the potential to do even more to
positively transform our energy system, lower costs for all ratepayers, and significantly reduce
greenhouse gas emissions in the region.

Thank you for your consideration.

Doug Pope

Read Pope Energy’s Policy Letter on Electricity Generation in Massachusetts

Governor Charlie Baker
24 Beacon Street
Office of the Governor
Room 280
Boston, MA 02133

Re: Solar Generation as a Percentage of Massachusetts Consumption

Dear Governor Baker:

The creation and rollout of the SMART program is an example of good government, and you
should take pride in the manner in which DOER sought industry and stakeholder input in an
effort to establish a sustainable solar program demanded by the legislature. This is not an empty
compliment. My companies have been doing business in the Commonwealth since 1979, and
as a businessperson, I have often felt that I was dealing with a kind of undercurrent akin to a
Troop E and MBTA parking lot revenue management problem. So, thank you for attracting and
retaining good people in place to innovatively create and implement good solar public policy.

The good news is that, because Massachusetts has managed the SREC I and II programs in a
consistent and reliable manner, investors have confidence to invest in Massachusetts’s solar
projects. The bad news is that because of that confidence, the 1600 MW SMART program,
which has taken eighteen months to create, will nearly be oversubscribed before it starts in
National Grid and Unitil territories.

While it may be expected that a nascent industry will have fits and starts due to being a new,
disruptive change from the traditional energy market, the choppy transitions between SREC I
and II, combined with the on-again, off-again availability of net metering, has been brutal on
small and medium-size companies trying to build a solar business in Massachusetts.

Larger companies simply move to another state, but in Massachusetts, small and medium-size
companies are very heavily impacted by a lack of steady and consistent solar policy.
Businesses see future demand due to legislated renewable compliance obligations, but they are
unable to access this demand, and dependably build a business around it, because of choppy
policy implementation. Among small and medium-size businesses, there is definitely a feeling of
“Here we go again…” as the SMART program is oversubscribed within months of opening.

Designating that twenty percent (25%) of electricity generation in Massachusetts will come from
solar PV coupled with storage by 2030 is preferable to expanding the existing program by
another 1,600 MW. This mandate will give small and medium-size businesses a clear path to
grow, employ people and make an increased impact on the Massachusetts economy through

Great cities like Fitchburg will not be shut out of developing solar projects if Massachusetts is
focused on achieving a percentage of its electricity from solar as opposed to a finite 1,600 MW
program with each utility sharing a portion of that program based upon their percentage of
supply. Once the SMART portal opens, within a week or a couple of months, the Unitil allotment
under SMART will be developed, thereby locking out Fitchburg from further development for

DOER acknowledges that the price suppression effect of solar generation lowers the wholesale
cost of energy, so ratepayers’ overall cost will not be paying for this transition. These cost
savings are in addition to other value of solar benefits.

Planning for compliance of the Green Communities Act, a new RPS commitment of 2% per year
until 2030, Kane vs. DEP, system planning within ISO-NE, integration of energy storage within
ISO-NE, Smart Grid planning by the utilities will be greatly enhanced by a commitment to install
25% of solar generation by 2030.

With all of the compliance obligations that the Governor’s office is charged with managing, if it is
within the authority of your office to establish a solar policy that states that 25% of
Massachusetts electricity consumption shall be supplied by solar generation by 2030, you
should do so and keep the jobs, careers and energy generation in Massachusetts.

Otherwise, the Baker Administration should request that the legislature adopt this policy as a
measure of meeting the compliance obligations passed by the legislature as well as maintaining
a sustainable solar industry in Massachusetts.

Announcing this program after the SMART portal is open on November 26, 2018 would give a
clear signal to the industry, the investor and finance communities, and other stakeholder groups
that solar in Massachusetts is here to stay as an integral part of our economy.

Thank you for your consideration.

Best Regards,
Doug Pope

Pope Energy Offers Additional Comments on SMART Guidelines

Michael Judge

Director, Renewable & Alternative Energy Division Department of Energy Resources

100 Cambridge Street, Suite 1020

Boston, MA 02114

Dear Mr. Judge:

The manner in which DOER has solicited stakeholder input, hired outside expertise, and rolled out the program design of the SMART program is a best-in-class example of good government. It is the actions of the legislature in the Green Communities Act, Chapter 75 of the Acts of 2016 and the consistency in which DOER has handled the transition between solar programs that, despite the absence of a functioning SMART program, has created a confidence in the market that, at the end of the day, Massachusetts will do the right thing to create a long-term sustainable solar program in the Commonwealth. If DOER gets the pricing and program design right, the SMART program will be an enviable program that other states should consider adopting.

While DOER is in the process of creating a more bankable solar program, the above mention of appreciation does not mean the program is perfect by any means. Like any growth-control instrument, the 1600 MW program design creates its own level of unnecessary complexity, as opposed to establishing a long-term program through 2030.The declining block mechanisms based upon past rapidly declining solar materials and labor assimilation costs are running into national tariff programs, rising inflation and a strong economy. Combine rising solar cost with skyrocketing   interconnection cost and the usual high land entitlement cost with the declining block mechanisms, and the solar industry will be experiencing the same on-again, off-again availability of solar development experienced during the SREC and net metering programs. This comment letter will attempt to mitigate the shortcomings of the SMART programs for larger ground mount systems.

225 CMR 20.00 Regulatory Provisions Specific to Agricultural Solar Tariff Generation Units

Despite the best of intentions, the Agricultural Solar Tariff provisions appear to have been designed to preserve rather than create more farmland. The SMART program and its Guidelines should specifically encourage the creation of more farmland and all the economic and community benefits that attribute to a locally grown food industry as defined in Chapter 61A sec. 1 & 2.

When new farmland is created or returned to agricultural use, this would mean that the SMART guidelines would allow for the development of solar systems 5MW per parcel in size with no subtractors and the Agricultural Solar Tariff would ensure retention in agricultural use for 20 years.

Using the capital investment stack of installing solar PV plus the Agricultural Solar Tariff adder would accomplish the following:

  1. The existing farm industry needs more farm-related income to make their operations viable. Differing business models will be developed, but the existing farming, farm supply, landscaping, site contractors, equipment suppliers will be the first to be called upon to create, develop, plant, harvest and maintain these dual-use businesses.
  2. SMART creation of farmland will combat the breakup of family farms due to non- farming family estate transition issues.
  3. SMART Agricultural tariff provisions will ensure that solar owners develop business plans and relationships to maintain the land in bona fide agricultural use for 20 years. Not only will SMART create a renewables industry, it will broaden and strengthen the agricultural sector. As an example, every 100MW worth of solar projects at an average of 40 acres per 5MW solar project could add over 800 acres of farmland into the Massachusetts farm inventory.
  4. SMART, while innovative, has detractors and first among them is the cost of interconnection. Larger projects combined with some agricultural revenue will help mitigate some of those costs.
  5. SMART creation of farmland, particularly as projects are aggregated to common solar project owners, will drive innovation in organic farming, which requires soils to have no prohibited substances for three years. Other standards call for distances to be within a 300-mile sector radius of the site, which for Massachusetts would also include the New York City and eastern New York state markets.
  6. Co-locating solar renewable energy with greenhouses could be not only a competitive advantage but also a grid-systems benefit, pairing high-energy users in the immediate proximity to renewable generation.
  7. The SMART tariff will have no inflation or revenue increases for 20 years. This means that the systems degradation rate of 0.005% plus a 1.5% inflation rate results in a 2% per year degradation in purchasing power per year for systems maintenance and repair. Dual use of this land will assist in the continued viability of the land dedicated to solar In 20 years, land dedicated to solar will be part of our grid infrastructure and will need to have continued economic viability. Having project scale size and a second source of revenue is a part of such continued economic success.

225 CMR 20.02: Definitions

Agricultural Solar Tariff Generation Unit. A Solar Tariff Generation Unit located on Land in Agricultural Use or Prime Agricultural Farmland that allows the continued use of the land for agriculture.


The Guidelines should accommodate the creation or the return of land to agricultural use or the definition in 225 CMR 20:02 will need to be changed.

The Agricultural and Land Use Guidelines should recognize land returned to agricultural use as valuable land of statewide importance and therefore should recognize NRCS, USDA 657.5 Identification of Important Farmlands (2) (c) and (d). Prime farmlands as defined within the federal definition are very difficult to achieve, inhibits innovation and adds a layer of complexity whose definition is beyond state control to define whereas 657.5 (2) (c) & (d) are determined by State agencies. NRCS, USDA 657.5 (2) (c) and (d) (below)

(2) Specific characteristics of unique farmland. (i) Is used for a specific high value food or fiber crop; (ii) Has a moisture supply that is adequate for the specific crop; the supply is from stored moisture, precipitation, or a developed-irrigation system; (iii) Combines favorable factors of soil quality, growing season, temperature, humidity, air drainage, elevation, aspect, or other conditions, such a nearness to market, that favor the growth of a specific food or fiber crop.

(c) Additional farmland of statewide importance. This is land, in addition to prime and unique farmlands, that is of statewide importance for the production of food, feed, fiber, forage, and oil seed crops. Criteria for defining and delineating this land are to be determined by the appropriate State agency or agencies. Generally, additional farmlands of statewide importance include those that are nearly prime farmland and that economically produce high yields of crops when treated and managed according to acceptable farming methods. Some may produce as high a yield as prime farmlands if conditions are favorable. In some States, additional farmlands of statewide importance may include tracts of land that have been designated for agriculture by State law.

(d) Additional farmland of local importance. In some local areas there is concern for certain additional farmlands for the production of food, feed, fiber, forage, and oilseed crops, even though these lands are not identified as having national or statewide importance.

Where appropriate, these lands are to be identified by the local agency or agencies concerned. In places, additional farmlands of local importance may include tracts of land that have been designated for agriculture by local ordinance.

Continued restriction on the use of Prime Agricultural land in both the Agricultural and Land Use Guidelines is short-sighted, inhibits innovation and will not create the kind of impact the 1600 MW SMART program and its successor is capable of accomplishing.

Existing Guidelines:

Guidelines No. 3: all Agricultural Solar Tariff Generation Units must demonstrate that the maximum sunlight reduction from the panels on every square foot of land directly beneath, behind and in the areas adjacent to and within the Agricultural Solar Tariff Generation Unit’s design shall not be more than 50% of baseline field conditions;

Guideline No 4: fixed tilt designs shall include a minimum four feet distance between each panel(s) in order to avoid full shade beneath and behind each row of panels; single- and double-axis tracking systems must demonstrate the 50% sunlight reduction maximum can be achieved without the minimum four feet distance;

Recommended: Recognize Differing Approaches

The Guidelines should recognize differing approaches to solar panel and agricultural land-use design. The drawings completed by Solar Design Associates indicate differing designs that meet or exceed the requirements stipulated by SMART. Please find attached comparison between SMART 4’ Program Agricultural Racking, Industry Standard Ground Mount PV Racking Strategy and our recommended Improved Agricultural Racking Design.

The “Improved Agricultural Racking Design” as indicated by the SDA drawings holds the row spacing farther apart, allowing more unshaded areas for agricultural use and facilitating the use of machinery for the harvesting of crops. The expanded row spacing will also allow for the installation of lower profile greenhouses as the industry concept matures.

The current SMART recommendation of holding the individual panels four (4’) feet apart is fine in theory for certain discrete applications but is in general not economically viable and limits innovation.

The current guidelines make no accommodation for shade tolerant crops, substitution for certain requirements for the introduction of bees, or allowances for greenhouses and other innovative uses and business plans not yet explored.

Agricultural Scale:

According to MDAR, the average farm produces $63,470 on 68 acres of land. Out of 7,755 farms consisting of 523,000 acres, 6,500 farms earn less than $50,000 per year. To be viable and drive innovation, the SMART program should encourage the re- creation of agricultural land and to give it scale to compete and deliver products to market. Two (2MW) megawatts of solar, which will consume about ten (10) acres of land under the current guidelines, is not a farming business at ten acres but a hobby. SMART agricultural development should not be competing with the retail U-Pick farms who provide a day-trip entertainment kind of experience. SMART agricultural dual-use solar projects should be commercial in nature and as such need scale to compete. Why would a developer build a 5MW solar project (30-40 acres) and only install 2MW (10 acres) worth of dual-use agricultural solar racking? It would be a waste of resources and opportunity.

Out of the 5,284,480 total acres comprising the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, currently 523,517 acres are in farmlands or 10% of the land area. In 1920, 25% to 37.5% of the land (or 1.3 million to 1.9 million acres) in Massachusetts1 was in agricultural use, giving rise to the observation that all of the stonewalls that we see in the woods and forest were once farms.

Dual-use SMART Agricultural Solar should be allowed to recreate farmland with no subtractors at the 5MWac per lot project size and be expected to meet the MDAR expectations of a viable agricultural plot of land.

Typical of farm customers we speak and contract with, there is a family of four siblings in the SEMA load zone who have a farm where only one member still raises cattle for sale. The other family members respect his wishes to remain farming the land but want to extract value off the land without selling the land and look to a solar land lease to accomplish those goals. When the farming member was inquired if he would like to take advantage of participating in the SMART Agricultural Solar program, he jumped at the chance, saying he was not restricted by barn size or water, but feed stock (grazing & hay) to be able to afford to raise more animals. The family has 20+ acres cleared for pasturelands and we would need to clear another 25-30 acres and return that land to pastureland. The project would require the SMART program to allow the re-creation of farmland to 5MW with no subtractors under Land Use Category 1.

Our firm has another farm family with four siblings in NEMA Boston that is breaking up a 400-acre farm, putting retirement housing on one 200-acre piece and 5MW of solar on treed land not being used for farming on the remaining 200-acre agricultural piece. This project should have the ability to return this land not used for farming into agricultural use. Otherwise the land will be sold for house lots.

Change Land Use Designation: Land returned to agricultural use should be viewed as a Category 1 resource.

For financing purposes, DOER and MDAR will need to recognize business plans because the first year may not yield a harvestable crop, depending on the time of year in which the final commercial date of operation is achieved.

In addition, it is not clear how MDAR would recognize long-developing crops like tree farms, vineyards, and even perennial crops like asparagus which takes 3-5 years to mature.

Additional Provision 6.

For financing and project viability projections, the two (2MW) megawatt Agricultural Solar limit needs to be raised to 5MW immediately and be included within the first two declining blocks.

If we are lucky enough to get into Block 2, we should have the ability to restore a gravel pit currently in a Solar Overlay District to an agricultural use for a 5MW project or have the ability to plan today for such eventuality in Block 3.

Land Use: Solar Overlay District and Other Allowed Zoning Regulations.

Each municipality will have its own approach to zoning and site plan review regulation processes. If a municipality has a Solar Overlay District or other permissive solar zoning regulations, but requires a “Special Permit” or a variance, waiver or other discretionary approvals, such processes should not be a fatal flaw that disqualifies a STGU from a Category 1 classification.

Land Use: Multiple Product Sites:

The Guidelines should not discourage in any way canopies, roof mount and ground mount systems from existing on the same site and being metered potentially separately from one another, depending upon application.

Base compensation rates should apply upon solar type – Building Mounted, Ground Mounted, Canopy Mounted or potentially Floating Mounted systems.

Land Use: Contiguous Parcels

This is an example of growth control adding a layer of unnecessary complexity due to a lack of regulatory commitment. The 1600MW SMART program is reportedly oversubscribed before it even starts. The contiguous parcel rule will complicate financing and securing tax-credit participation, as it will span differing tax-credit schedules from 30% in 2019 to 26% in 2020. Additionally, cost will increase as total project cost is front loaded without the ability to complete project construction as well as increased project superintendence, management, general conditions and interest cost will be unnecessarily incurred.

If a developer has a 3-parcel project with 20-acre parcel, a middle 7-acre piece and a 5- acre piece of abutting land and high interconnection cost that requires mitigation by increasing project size, the 20-acre and 5-acre piece will be developed according to current guidelines leaving the middle 7 acres to be developed after commercial operation of the first systems. The middle 7-acre piece will be prepared, most likely with site work, underground piping, seed and planted waiting for the regulatory window to install the racking, panels and medium voltage switchgear all the while burning interest expense, project soft cost and a duplicate utility interconnection post-mechanical completion lead-time. This Contiguous Parcel rule is a tremendous waste of money and resources that should be removed when substituted with a larger policy objective under the SMART format.

Energy Storage Guidelines:

While this comment is outside the guideline parameters, energy storage systems envisioned to be paired with the SMART program should be expanded to take the place of pipeline requirements during peak periods in the winter and summer months as determined by the Department. Which is to say that DOER working with DPU and ISO- NE would, during the winter months when sunlight is diminished and the panels may be covered with snow, allow the storage devices to be charged during off-peak periods with grid or DG provided electricity and discharged as required by ISO-NE. Payments for delivery and energy but not demand would be charged and cost recovery and profit to the energy storage owner could follow a similar format as already established in approved utility tariffs.

Statement of Qualification: Bankable Instrument

The Statement of Qualification needs to clearly state for financing purposes the statements that provide assurance to access the Tariff, the base rate and accepted adders and qualification to receive such rates for twenty years in the instance of a commercial system.

We appreciate the opportunity to provide these comments and the time that your office extends to reading and acting on public comments.

Best Regards,

Doug Pope