Renewable Energy Policy in Massachusetts

Philip Williams (NRC), Ryan Crawford (Environmental Science), Kevin Hollerbach (Science),
Hyatt Benkiran (Animal Science)


According to the Massachusetts Climate Change Adaptation report,

“The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is already experiencing the effects of climate change in the form of hotter summers, rising sea levels, more frequent flooding, and warmer waters — leading to a growing concern about how the impacts of these changes will affect the state‘s future.” (Cash, et. al., 2011, p. 8)

Climate change originating from fossil fuel usage will affect hundreds of businesses, thousands of families, and millions of individuals across the state. Boston itself will be underwater without intervention against the rising sea levels resulting from climate change (Suarez, Anderson, Mahal, & Lakshmanan, 2005, para. 1). It is imperative that leaders in the statehouse understand the severe impeding risks associated with climate change and do everything in their power to prevent these catastrophic events from destroying the commonwealth as we know it.


Aside from obvious direct impacts on the commonwealth due to climate change, there are many indirect factors that will affect the state as well. Hundreds of thousands of “climate refugees” are expected to emerge from rising sea levels, drought, scarce food supplies, and catastrophic heat waves. With colder winters and milder summers, the Northeast is an ideal candidate as a location for climate refugees to settle. With a large population increase, local residents will see less food availability, higher crime rates, and higher taxes.

Another major implication of fossil fuels and climate change is environmental justice. In Massachusetts, minorities are disproportionately affected by point-source pollution. According to Northeastern University researchers Dr. Faber and Dr. Krieg (2005), the greatest number of point-source pollution sites are also where 25% or more of the population is non-white (p. 18). If Massachusetts administrations want to stress social justice issues, focusing on renewable energy and climate mitigation will benefit minority groups as well because it will provide more minority-identified people with a better standard of living.  Thus, in turn, Massachusetts will achieve a higher level of equality. As newly elected governor, Charlie Baker (2014) has been stressing “public safety” in his newly developed urban agenda, disproportionate effects of pollution on urban areas and areas with higher percentages of minorities need to be addressed.

Another major benefit of addressing climate change in the commonwealth is the creation of green jobs. The first priority of newly elected governor Charlie Baker is economic growth and jobs. If he is serious about this agenda item, renewable energy development should be stressed during his administration. According to Danielle Byrnett (2014) in the “Clean Energy Workforce Development” PowerPoint, the first step towards creating these “green jobs” is to support renewable energy and energy efficiency policies. Therefore, an increase in support for these policies from the governor, and the development of strategies to increase renewable energy research, siting, and development will aid in his desire to decrease unemployment rates and boost the economy in the commonwealth.

Because of the multitude of problems that climate change and pollution cause, and because of all of the benefits that would arise from pushing renewable energy technologies across the board, policies that ease the research, citing, and development of these systems are imperative.Policy focusing on the production and implementation of renewable energy technologies are not being pushed urgently enough when compared to the urgent nature of climate change. Therefore, the next Massachusetts gubernatorial administration should prioritize renewable energies and expedite the development of these systems.

Major impacts tothe implication of renewable energy are the citizens themselves. Many wealthy homeowners reject and slow local pushes for renewable energy sighting and planning because of personal interests. In Massachusetts, the Cape Wind Energy project itself was delayed nearly a decade from its original installation date because of public homeowners slowing the process (Seelye, 2014, para. 6). These individuals slow the sighting and implication of wind turbines and other renewable energy systems due to the view they pay for, and opposing alternative energy sources which may ruin that view or disturb a surrounding area. They dispute these systems despite their clear benefits to the community.These people are referred to as “NIMBYs,” which stands for “not in my backyard”. However, fighting against alternative energy sources perpetuates the high demand for fossil fuels in Massachusetts. Myths such as ambient noise from windmills affecting residents’ health are only myths. These arguments against renewable energy systems have no basis in science.

Even in Amherst, Massachusetts, there are opposition groups to installing photovoltaic cells. The Amherst Citizens for Responsible Solar have several arguments including health concerns regarding putting solar panels on a landfill (Hersh, 2011). Although these concerns were addressed by town officials, the group has still been a major impediment to the project and may cause the system to never be installed. Projects on public land could be put to a popular vote to discourage small, militant groups from impeding the installation of renewable energy systems too much. In another case of “NIMBY” this group has thrown a wrench in the process of developing renewable energy systems for selfish interests.  Opposition to renewable energy sources is a huge cause to our main claim, but what about our current fossil fuel usage in this state?

The usage of fossils fuels throughout the commonwealth of Massachusetts has been the major priority of electricity generation for a long time.  According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Massachusetts has three liquefied natural gas import terminals, and only one of them has received imports since 2010.  This supplies about 20% of New England’s demand for natural gas, while the rest comes by pipeline throughout the state.  Also within Massachusetts, heating oil reserves storage sites, which are used to help with the fluctuations of home heating oil is located in Revere, Massachusetts. Utilization of fossil fuels will always be the go-to option everywhere in the world, not just in Massachusetts. However, finding new ways to help them burn more efficiently will help with our climate change issues. Another significant fact about fossil fuels in Massachusetts is that 63% of electricity came from natural gas, and 12% from coal in 2013. Further, coal fired power plants will all be shut down within the next few years, since natural gas is really beginning to take over. However, this is still a fossil fuel that is affecting climate change, and renewable energies will need to help offset it for future generations. As far as consumption by each sector for fossil fuels transportation hits the highest rank with 450.3 trillion BTU, followed by residential use which is 408.6 trillion Btu, commercial use is 270.3 trillion Btu, and finally industrial makes up the smallest scale with 256.8 trillion Btu (U.S. Energy, 2014). Also according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (2014), “Compared to the U.S. average, a greater proportion of Massachusetts residents (31 percent) use fuel oil as their main space heating fuel and a much smaller proportion of residents (10 percent) use electricity, according to EIA’s Residential Energy Consumption Survey” (U.S. Energy, 2014).For a highly progressive state, it is impressive to think that today Massachusetts’s residents continue to rely so heavily on fossil fuels.  Further, as one of the leading states in renewable energy, Massachusetts becomes an example for other states to follow. However, these statistics prove that as a role model, Massachusetts is not as ideal as it could or should be.  Moreover, the overall usage of fossil fuels throughout the commonwealth of Massachusetts needs to be changed drastically to help slow down the problems associated with climate change.

Resistant Audience

For a state that is considered by many to be very energetically progressive, the dependency on fossil fuels and coal is remarkably high, suggesting there is still room for more improvement.  It is easy to believe that Massachusetts, with Boston ranking as “the ‘5th’ Most Sustainable City’ in the U.S. by the Economist Intelligence Unit and the ‘3rd Greenest City’ in North America by Popular Science,” is on the forefront of battling climate change  (Goldstein, 2011, p. 39).  As was indicated earlier, not only does this state still rely heavily on fossil fuels, but it also has citizens who are willingly slowing down efforts to battle climate because they prioritize the aesthetics of their surroundings to a couple of wind turbines or solar panels.  This suggests that while Massachusetts is ahead of other states in North America, it is not necessarily progressive with respect to the urgent nature of climate change as a whole.

Further, Massachusetts is one of the most densely populated states in the Nation, making it a significantly important place to focus on the dependence on renewable energy when compared to other states (EIA, 2014).  Further, buildings eat up “40% of primary energy annually in the United States,” meaning that if currently old buildings that rely on fossil fuels or coal are not renovated, rebuilt, or retrofitted to go with the renewable energy agenda, eventually the states’ anti-climate change progress will slow down (, 2014).  Massachusetts is also on the coast, making it more susceptible to climate change conditions in terms of rising sea levels and coastal alterations.  This puts Massachusetts in a delicate position, suggesting Massachusetts has the potential to emit more greenhouse gases than other states because of how densely populated it is, and because of its partial reliance on non-renewable resources.

It might also be argued that renewable energy is too expensive to start off with, however it is actually more cost effective when the economic impacts of climate change are taken into consideration.  It is predicted that, “A sea level rise of 0.65 meters (26 inches) in Boston by 2050 could damage assets worth an estimated $463 billion” (Cash, et. al., 2011, p. 2).  This is exceedingly more money than the Massachusetts state budget of $36 billion (, 2014).  Therefore, it would just add more costs if policy makers do not put more focus on streamlining.  It is especially detrimental considering Eastern Massachusetts is more heavily populated than Western Massachusetts.  Therefore, this would affect not only the state as a whole financially and otherwise, but the individual people who live around the area as well.


After Deval Patrick’s relatively progressive stances on renewable energy sources, newly elected governor Charlie Baker has a big reputation to live up to. Even after Patrick’s many proposals, policies, and laws in the push for a greener Massachusetts, much more needs to be done to remain ahead of the curve on energy. Charlie Baker needs to focus on three major areas for Massachusetts to become and remain an example for states across the country; streamlining permitting policies, renewable energy investment, and the creation of “green collar” jobs.

Baker proposes a “balanced” approach in terms of renewable energy, “I will pursue a balanced approach that includes natural gas, wind, solar and hydroelectric generation, with a strong emphasis on efficiency to reduce the cost of energy and reduce our carbon footprint” (Baker, 2014, para. 3). While it is beneficial that Charlie Baker is interested in pursuing different forms of renewable energy, natural gas should not be included, as natural gas is, by definition, not renewable. If Baker (2014) is truly concerned with reducing the state’s carbon footprint and meeting the carbon emission cutting goals of 80% by 2050, he needs to fight against all fossil fuels including natural gas. Pursuing other renewable energies with streamlined policies, and advocating for these systems is essential.

The streamlining of permitting policies needs to be addressed throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, since state bureaucracy has previously impeded the sighting and development of certain renewable energy sources.  The biggest concern is shortening the overall time spent obtaining the permits for renewable energy sources.  Massachusetts needs to create more one stop permitting programs like the Wind Energy Siting Reform Act (Kimmel, Bumkin, & Evans, 2011, para. 9).  In this example, The authors argued that the Wind Energy Sighting Act passed under the Patrick administration simplifies the process of sighting and wind turbines for renewable energy, and creates clear sighting standards, establishes one-stop permitting at local and state levels, and overall eases the appeals process (Kimmel, Bumkin, & Evans, 2011, para. 9).  Creating and utilizing more of these programs in Massachusetts will help us move towards a greener state.  The next governor, Charlie Baker, and the new politicians in the legislature need to continue what Patrick has slowly started but get the process of streamlining of permits for the siting of renewable energy sources.  A source like solar panels is similar to wind turbines since they both need space, and creating a standard like the Wind Energy Siting Reform Act would help get panels on state and local lands.

An example of where the streamlining process is really being pushed and utilized is in Vermont. In a case presentation done by the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO), they have commented that most states currently have a complex system when it comes to permitting requirements for renewable energy sources at both municipality and county levels. The beginning of this streamlining process began in 2011 when House Bill 56 was enacted in the state of Vermont. This bill created a streamlining policy that expedited the permitting process statewide to only 10 days for solar net-metering systems of 5-kW or less, and in 2012 provisions were expanded to include solar systems of 10-kW or less.  The overall process to obtain a permit begins with a customer submitting a completed one-page registration form and a certification of compliance to the energy office in the Vermont Public Service Board (PSB).  After everything is submitted, the project enters a mandatory ten-day waiting period where the interconnecting electric company may issue a letter to the customer and the PSB with any problems, and if no letter is submitted in ten days, a Certificate of Public Good is issued (NASEO, 2013, p. 10).  With the certificate deemed, facility construction can begin whenever.  This example may be on the small scale for solar panels, but building off this bill, Massachusetts can also streamline their current provisions for all renewable energy sources including geothermal, wind, hydroelectric, and solar.

Germany is a great model in thegreen energy field, and has set footsteps that Massachusetts, and other states, should follow. Germany has enacted grid priorities to companies supplying power generated by a renewable source, so that clean energy doesn’t compete with conventional energy, allowing renewable energy companies to have the advantage in the market. Low interest loans are also highly accessible on new renewable energy plants, to allow for easy installation and to provide stable, renewable energy to the country (Bozsoki, 2014). All pushed by the Act on Granting Priority to Renewable Energy Sources, Germany is achieving a level of renewable and clean energy standard that Massachusetts cannot compare tobut can accomplish. In  2011 Germany also passed the KfW policy, a policy that streamlined and pushed for off the coast wind energy similar to the streamlining of wind energy here in Massachusetts. It provides funding and investments for up to 70% of the installation of wind turbines in their coastal regions, something Massachusetts does not have (IEA, 2011). Germany has many similar funding programs that are key incentives for renewable energy, as well as research and minimum levels of biofuel use rather than conventional fuels. The Biofuels Quota Act set a minimum of 6.25% of  all fuel used in road transportation must be biofuel based, rather than conventional petrol. By 2015 quotas on reductions of greenhouse gas emissions will become in effect, and by 2020 the minimum biofuel use will be increased to 7% (IEA, 2011). Following in the policies and incentives that Germany set up, Massachusetts can meet the urgent nature of climate change head on, and provide stable, clean energy to the residents of the state.

After the Second World War, thousands of returning veterans were given jobs building the nation’s infrastructure. From highways, to railroads, to power plants, these people worked for years to build and maintain the infrastructure that powers the U.S. today. This lead to huge economic gains, and allowed the United States to become and remain the dominant world power. Creating green jobs and a new renewable economy will once again allow the United States to lead the world, but rather than leading the world in military prowess or automobile manufacturing, the country can be recognized for research and technology that has the potential to save the planet. Massachusetts is the perfect setting to spark the green economy revolution. With subsidizations for renewable energy companies, these “green collar” jobs will be created, boosting the economy and therefore saving the state from long-term catastrophic environmental events. Governor-elected Charlie Baker has made promises to decrease the unemployment rate and make the commonwealth more sustainable. He can achieve both with one simple policy for subsidizing renewable energy companies rather than oil or gas companies.



In order to save our state, country, and planet, major actions, specifically on the part of our lawmakers, must take place. With a new governor in the Commonwealth, and as the effects of climate change are ever looming, the aforementioned actions need to be taken swiftly and decisively. Some effects of climate change are already irreversible and we will already face significant events such as sea level rise (Solomon, Plattner, Knutti, & Freidlingsten, 2008, para. 9). However, if administrations finally obtain the wherewithal to make the switch to renewables, they can prevent even further damage to the state and the planet. Citizens are also responsible to take climate policies and renewable energy policies seriously at the voting booths, to be sure that state officials are concerned with these issues. Without a clean, safe, and carbon-free environment, nothing else will be possible.














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The Feasibility and Environmental Benefits of Utilizing Woody Biomass in Massachusetts

For a long time now man has dug for coal as a source of energy and it is still utilized globally. In coal burning power plants combusting coal generates energy and it heats up water that creates steam. The steam moves a turbine that creates electricity. Electricity uses over 90% of coal produced in the United States, accounting for 39% of the country’s electricity consumption. The United States is starting to make an effort to cut back on coal use for electricity, while other countries are starting to increase their use (Magill, 2014). Globally, in the past decade, the number of coal power plants has grown and so has carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. Within the next forty years 300 billion tons of carbon dioxide will enter the atmosphere from coal power plants (Magill, 2014). These high carbon dioxide emissions devastate our environment. Fortunately, there is a growing movement to switch to renewable energy sources, which could offer better alternatives to coal.

Continue Reading

Going Solar

Chris Royce – BCT

Jordan Young – NRC


Solar Panels in Riverside: A Case Studty (The Frederick Law Olmsted Society of Riverside, ND)

Solar Panels in Riverside: A Case Studty (The Frederick Law Olmsted Society of Riverside, ND)

In April of 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig exploded off the Louisiana coast. Eleven workers were killed, and it caused the biggest accidental oil spill in history. More than 200 million gallons of crude oil cascaded from the rig before it was capped three months later. As Elaine Quijano, CBS News correspondent discovered, many adverse effects came from this disaster. Thousands of fish that were farmed for food were found to have huge lesions and fin rot. “You can’t spill that much oil into the system without having long term negative consequences,” stated David Muth, who is with the advocacy group National Wildlife Federation (Quijano, 2012). The spill resulted in the deaths of many ocean life forms, including dolphins and coral reefs. Quijano also visited an island in the Gulf of Mexico that was four acres in size before the oil spill. After, it was less than one acre in size. There are other areas nearby where “the ground is so saturated you can actually see the oil bubbling up from the ground” (Quijano, 2012). The environmental cleanup for this oil spill alone has cost BP more than $14 billion. Continue Reading

Residential Solar Energy in MA


Implementing Residential Solar Energy in Massachusetts

Jacob Macko, Evan Miamis, and Will Reid

University of Massachusetts, Amherst














Implementing Residential Solar Energy in Massachusetts


As we approach an era of scarce resources and climate change, it is important to consider the economic and environmental impacts of residential energy use. If we reduce the demand for energy services overall, it will be easier to implement renewable technologies such as solar panels. This modern building feature is proven to benefit both the consumer and the environment. Everyone can agree that saving money on utility bills is beneficial to the consumer, but some do not want to invest the initial cost. We plan to give solar energy a bigger piece of energy production in order to reduce the use of non-renewable resources. By working with the government, we aim to reduce the cost and increase incentives for solar energy installation in homes.

(How Solar Works)

Solar Energy is generated when sunlight hits the photovoltaic (PV) cells and creates direct current (DC) power. Direct current power is then converted into alternating current (AC) power, which is what household appliances and lighting use. When the sun is shining, energy from the panels power the home’s needs and the excess power is diverted back into the grid, or local power company. When the sun is down, the house draws energy back from the grid (Residential Solar 101, 2014). The article also states, “No matter what incentives are available, your solar system will save you money on your electricity bills” (Residential Solar 101, 2014). Historically PV panels were expensive, but recent developments caused the price of solar to come way down; government incentives have increased and the payback period is reduced. “Massachusetts sets itself ahead of the rest in New England in its support of homeowners going solar” (Residential Solar 101, 2014). It offers a state incentive of 15% of the system costs and any additional power generated is credited to your bill (Residential Solar 101, 2014).


The price of installed photovoltaic panels is decreasing at a steady rate for small scale and residential systems. According to a report published by Berkeley National Laboratory, “Installed prices for PV systems in 2012 fell by a range of roughly $0.30 per Watt (W) to $0.90/W, or 6 to 14 percent, from the prior year, depending on the size of the system ”(Barbose, Dargouth, Weaver, & Wiser. P. 14. 2013). This decrease in price is largely due to panel price itself. As more companies compete within the market and demand increases, the price should continue to fall.  The median price for a household installed PV system was $5.30/Watt in 2012 (Barbose, Dargouth, Weaver, & Wiser. P. 14. 2013). This price excludes any federal or state solar incentives, which only reduces the price further. Currently Massachusetts offers a $.40/Watt base rebate for homeowners who install new PV systems (Mass. Clean Energy Center). With prices falling and state backed financial incentives available, now is the best time to invest in a PV system.

(Analysis of Problem)

In today’s society most homes are run using traditional energy sources, including coal or gas, that are finite and damaging to the planet. In her article published in Home Guides, Walls-Thumma states (2014), In 2007, 48 percent of the electricity generated in the U.S. came from coal-fired power plants, followed by almost 22 percent from natural gas. Nuclear power accounted for 19 percent of the nation’s electricity supply” (P. 1). Consumers and homeowners are relying on these inefficient energy sources that can easily be replaced by renewable technologies like solar. In a Green Living forum from Discovery, the Science Channel claims:

“The reason fossil fuels still are used is because these green energies are not sufficiently

reliable. For example, wind and solar energy sources provide energy only when nature cooperates. If a day is not windy or sunny, there is no power. Green energy sources also are limited because the costs to produce them still are higher than those of producing fossil fuels.” (Science Channel, 2011).

(Electricity Consumption in Massachusetts)

Massachusetts relies heavily on non-renewable sources for their energy needs. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA, 2013), “Massachusetts generated 63% of its electricity from natural gas, 12% from coal, and less than .05% from solar in 2013” (P. 1). This extremely large gap proves that residents depend far too heavily on non-renewable fuels for their electricity needs. To close this divide, Massachusetts recently met a goal to produce 250 megawatts of solar electricity, four years earlier than planned. Governor Deval Patrick, set a new goal to install 1,600 megawatts of solar electricity by 2020. When the end use of the electricity per household is dissected, it reveals that 59% is used for space heating, 24% for appliances, lighting, and electronics, 16% for water heating, and 1% for air conditioning (EIA, 2013). Although each resident’s dependence on electricity varies, each resident could benefit in some amount from a private solar array, and reduce the negative impact they may have on the environment from no longer using non-renewable resources.

(Environmental Issues)

In her article, “Traditional Energy Sources vs. Renewable Energy Sources”, Walls-Thumma (2014) suggests that consumers consider emissions, natural resources, and pollution when choosing an energy source. Green energy technology, including wind and solar, generates little or no pollutants (Walls-Thumma, 2014). Solar only relies on the sun’s energy to produce electricity. Once installed, solar panels do not release emissions of any kind. Emissions and pollution from traditional energy sources like coal and gas are putting the environment at risk. Walls-Thumma  (2014) states, “Coal generates 2,249 pounds of carbon dioxide, 13 pounds of sulfur dioxide and 6 pounds of nitrogen oxides for every megawatt hour of energy generated” (P. 1). The author also proclaims that most traditional energy sources utilize water during mining and combustion processes, but renewable energies require little or no water. She states, “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency states that water removal for traditional energy use can damage wildlife populations of rivers and lakes” (Walls-Thumma, P.1, 2014). This article provides evidence that a move towards renewable energy will promote a sustainable and brighter future.


Homeowners and prospective buyers should rely less on traditional energy sources and make the transfer to renewable sources, specifically solar energy. Solar energy technologies help preserve the environment and boost the economy. Consumers who are not environmentalists can still appreciate saving on monthly utility bills and possibly making some extra money. Judson et al. (2009) claim that renewable energy sources will save money. They mention that Massachusetts anticipates $6.5 billion in savings for electrical and natural gas customers over the next three years through public utility energy efficiency programs (Judson et al., 2009). Residential Energy 101 (2014) states that by going solar “Not only will you save money on your future utility bills, but you’ll take advantage of a variety of economic incentives, and contribute to an energy economy that relies heavily on fossil fuels”(P. 1). (Thesis) Mandating solar energy in homes will reduce the reliance on fossil fuel production and generate both economic and environmental benefits in Massachusetts.


(Job Opportunities)

Increasing the demand for renewable energy will open up various career opportunities in the industry. In their article published in the Hampshire Gazette, Judson, Kwasnik, and Pizzi (2009) argue that clean energy is a priority for the state of Massachusetts. The authors claim that a rising green energy industry will increase jobs. They support this claim with the results from the state’s (MA) Solar Rebate program, which increased solar manufacturing jobs from 1,086 in 2007 to 2,075 in 2008 (Judson et al., 2009). The authors also claim that renewable energy businesses are successful. For example, Judson et al. (2009) cite the success of Evergreen Solar, a photovoltaic company in Marlboro, who received a $58.6 million state grant and created 700 full-time and 300 temporary jobs in 2008 (Judson et al., 2009). This article can be used to demonstrate the need for government incentives and mandates concerning renewable energy. It is beneficial to the economy because renewable energy creates jobs, specifically; the Massachusetts Energy Office expects the industry to add 960 employees this year (Judson et al., 2009). The authors illustrate economic benefits as well as environmental benefits by diversifying our energy away from fossil fuels (Judson et al., 2009).

(Milwaukee Home Example)

 Resources do exist for homeowners that need assistance when converting their energy source to solar. The U.S. Department of Energy works with local governments, utilities, and nonprofits to provide smart, cost-effective energy upgrades. “The mission of the Energy Department is to ensure America’s security and prosperity by addressing its energy, environmental and nuclear challenges through transformative science and technology solutions.” (U.S. Department of Energy, 2014). According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a Milwaukee homeowner decided to install solar panels in order to be energy neutral. The article states, “If you’re planning to install a clean energy system like solar panels, reducing your home’s energy demand is key.” (U.S. Department of Energy, 2014). Milwaukee and Massachusetts receive a similar amount of peak sunlight hours per day. The amount of peak sunlight hours is important to estimating a home’s solar energy needs. Before installation, Paula Papanek, PhD and Associate Professor at Marquette University, scheduled an energy audit to identify air leaks, insulation, and other areas where homes can waste energy. It is important to eliminate point of energy loss to maximize a systems efficiency.  Since the homeowner installed a 3.6 kilowatt solar array on their large Victorian home, it has generated about $170 in revenue and avoided roughly 2,000 pounds of CO2 emissions (U.S. Department of Energy, 2014). According to the homeowner, “the system will pay for itself in about seven years” (U.S. Department of Energy, 2014).

(Resistant Audience)

Benjamin Weil, professor of building energy at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, states, “Most resistance to solar energy has to do with it being too hard, too expensive, or just different from what they are already doing” (B. Weil, personal communication, March 27, 2014). Professor Weil mentioned that state and federal subsidies could serve as a rebuttal to those who are against renewable energies. The current payback for solar power in Massachusetts is about 5 years. However, if there were no subsidy it would be more like 15 to 20 years. He also gave an example of net-metering that, “If you were to build a wind or natural gas power plant you would negotiate a wholesale price in a power purchase agreement that would be much lower” (B. Weil, personal communication, March 27, 2014). Professor Weil also recommended the Solar Renewable Energy Certificate (SREC) markets. SRECTrade, Inc. focuses on the renewable energy industry and manages over 135 MW of solar assets (SREC). In the SREC market, utility companies have to pay for renewable energy credits.

Ryan Miamis, a financial analyst at Enel Green Power, states that utility and other companies that emit greenhouse gases are opponents of the renewables industry (R. Miamis, personal communication, April 1, 2014). He mentions that companies like National Grid can lose business from net metering when households switch to renewable energy sources, such as solar. Net metering is when a homeowner in Massachusetts sells electricity back to the utility at a set rate. Miamis supports the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which is a collaborative effort among several states to “cap and reduce power sector CO2 emissions” (RGGI). The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative has invested a lot of money to the state of Massachusetts:

“Since 2008, Massachusetts has received more than $178 million in RGGI proceeds, which it has used to implement programs that improve building performance, comfort, durability, health, and affordability for individuals, businesses, and state and local governments.” (RGGI).

The money received from RGGI could also be put towards incentives for residential solar energy. Implementing solar systems in homes will ultimately enhance RGGI’s mission.

(Solar Companies)

Many established commercial solar energy providers exist in Massachusetts. One of the largest providers, SolarCity, is one of many companies who offer a complete service that makes it easy and affordable to go solar. They claim:

“The environmental toll that energy production from polluting fossil fuel takes on Massachusetts is one of the greatest challenges that our state will face in the near future. We are committed to helping people switch to solar energy in Massachusetts and doing our part to limit environmental damage.” (SolarCity, 2014)

SolarCity designs a custom solar energy system for your home while also taking care of all permits and inspections. These trained professionals will install solar roof panels so you can begin to generate clean, renewable energy. Any extra power generated is fed into neighbors’ homes and you are credited (SolarCity). Companies such as Solarcity make it convenient to save money and the environment.

(Solarize Mass)

Massachusetts is trying to make it more cost effective and easier for towns and cities to adopt solar as a primary power source. Massachusetts recently implemented a program called “Solarize Mass”  that aims to “increase the adoption of small-scale solar electricity systems through a grassroots educational campaign, driven mainly by local volunteers, and a tiered pricing structure that increases the savings for everyone as more home and business owners in a community sign up” (Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, n.d.). The program allows each community in Massachusetts to choose a designated solar installation company that will offer a five tier pricing system saving more money as the number of people sign up increases. Each tier is based on the amount of electricity the contracted systems produce. The higher the tier the more kW’s are produced.

Also for those who do not want to make the financial commitment of purchasing the solar panels, there is a lease program offered that allows the solar production company to own the solar panels on a residence and the owner of the residence pays for the electricity used at a fixed rate determined by both parties. Through this program, Massachusetts has been able to get over 900 of its residents in 2012 to sign contracts to build solar panels on their home (Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, n.d.).



Our proposal is to implement regulation and legislation in order to increase the amount of energy supplied by renewable resources, specifically solar energy. The  state government needs to administer more aggressive legislation and policy that will help Massachusetts achieve the goal of using more solar energy as a main source of power. Government policy that would require new homes built to be net-zero by 2020 would help achieve our goal. California already has this type of legislation passed and is why they are in the forefront of solar energy across the nation (California Energy Commission).

Creating a law to make all new houses incorporate some solar energy practice will greatly increase the amount of energy we get from renewable sources. In conjunction with existing efforts we would like to suggest that when existing houses enter the market for sale they go through a mandatory retrofitting for solar energy sources. Every house would go through a process to determine their energy consumption and conversion options to meet 100% of their consumption needs. As mentioned previously, almost every Massachusetts house uses electricity as a power source for their appliances, lighting, and/or heating and cooling. A period of time gives homeowners the opportunity to reduce their consumption before the required conversion date. This gives the homeowner the option to reduce their dependence and minimize their solar energy needs.

We understand that not all houses have the same solar production potential as others. To combat this issue it would be required that houses with poor solar potential obtain their energy needs from a renewable energy source. It would be similar to “net-metering”, as the energy source would set a rate and the homeowner would buy their electricity from that source. This energy provider may be publicly or privately owned, depending on the location and availability of renewable power.


Massachusetts has already paved the way for a sustainable future by requiring all new buildings to be LEED certified. The official website of the city of Boston states:

“Boston is the first city in the nation to require a green building standard through

municipal zoning requirements.   By amending Article 37 of the municipal zoning code, the City requires that all large-scale projects meet the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification standards” (City of Boston, 2014).

We believe in taking this regulation one step further by mandating solar energy into residential properties. Although it can be difficult to adapt to change, educating both the builder and consumer on the benefits of solar energy will be worth the investment. The age of renewable, solar technology has arrived.




Berkley Laboratories. (2013). Tracking the Sun VI: An

Historical Summary of the Installed Price of Photovoltaic in the United States from 1998 to 2012. Berkeley, Ca. Barbose, G., Dargouth, N., Weaver, S., & Wiser, R.


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Guides by Demand Media. Retrieved from: sources-79212.html

Amending Biomass Electricity Generation with Transgenic Trees


When asked what she remembers about the 1973 Oil Embargo, UMass Alumni Linda Sarkisian laughs and says, “I remember being stuck at school because my parents did not have enough gas to pick me up” (L. Sarkisian, personal communication, November 12, 2013). Linda was eighteen when the Arab countries cut off oil exports to the U.S. in response to U.S. support of Israel in the Yom Kippur War (Koch, 2013). She bitterly recalls her parents cancelling the family trip to Florida out of fear they would be stranded without gas. Her parents knew about the lines of cars across the country idling for hours, their drivers anxiously waiting for their turn at the pump. Service stations were decorated with hand-made signs that read “Regular Customers Only” or simply “No Gas” (L. Sarkisian, personal communication, November 12, 2013). The crisis exposed our deep dependence on fossil fuels and forever changed how the U.S. viewed energy production (Koch, 2013). Continue Reading

Offshore Wind Farms: Fanning the Future of the Eastern Coastal United States

Offshore wind farm (Siemens Press, 2013)

Offshore wind farm (Siemens Press, 2013)

Saubhagya Budhathoki, Nathaly Figueroa, & Kirsten Pickford

Department of Environmental Conservation


The use of renewable resources in place of fossil fuels is growing in popularity around the world. One of the reasons renewable resources are becoming so popular is because of global population growth. This year so far there have been over 125,000,000 births and only 53,000,000 deaths, making the population grow by 75,000,000 this year and it is projected that the world will hit 8 billion by the spring of 2024 (Worldometers, 2013). As population grows, countries are becoming more developed. As these countries become more developed they use up more energy. Continue Reading

Bring Wind to the US

Bring Wind to the US

Mike Atwood, Ben Katz, Eric Swennes



December, 2007. This marked the beginning of the worst financial crisis that the US has[NS1]  faced since the Great Depression: the Great Recession. In December of 2007 the national unemployment rate was 5.0%. By the end of the recession, June 2009, it was at 9.5% and eventually reached a peak in October 2009 at 10.0%. Much of this unemployment was prevalent in the manufacturing industry, losing 10.0% of the manufacturing jobs available (“BLS Spotlight,” [E2] 2012). Specifically, this manufacturing turmoil was focused in Detroit, the epicenter of the U.S. automotive industry. Detroit’s major automotive companies, GM, Ford, and Chrysler, were on the edge of bankruptcy with nothing to save them but a government bailout. The government hoped that giving these companies bailout money would jump start them back into production and continue the growth of the industry. Unfortunately, this plan did not bring Detroit back to its former glory. Since the bailout, Detroit declared bankruptcy. Their economy did not get the necessary boost that the government bailout was supposed to give. The car industry in Detroit was not enough to generate the manufacturing jobs that Detroit leaned so heavily on in the past. There needs to be another plan of action to help Detroit pick itself up and become the booming metropolis it once was. That plan still lies in the original backbone of this country, manufacturing.

Continue Reading