MA SMART Program: New guidelines for agricultural solar tariff production units | Robinson+Cole Environmental Law +

On May 15, 2022, the latest Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) review Directive on the definition of agricultural solar tariff production units (Guideline) for the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) program has taken effect. The guideline complements the SMART program rules (225 CMR 20.000), provides guidance on how a Solar Tariff Generating Unit (STGU) qualifies as a Solar Agricultural Tariff Generating Unit (ASTGU) under the SMART program, and establishes compliance requirements for ASTGUs .

In general, ASTGUs are STGUs located either on land currently used for agriculture or on land classified as significant agricultural land under 225 CMR 20.02 that allows the continued use of the land for agricultural purposes. The SMART program aims to achieve 80 megawatts (MW) AC capacity of ASTGU systems. ASTGUs receive added value under the SMART program.

The revised directive significantly increases the maximum rated AC capacity of an ASTGU to 5 MW from 2 MW. Additionally, the directive sets a DC to AC capacity ratio of 2:1 and limits projects to a DC capacity of 7.5 MW.

The guideline also establishes criteria for newly created farmland to be considered eligible farmland on which an ASTGU could be located. Specifically, newly created agricultural land is eligible if it has established agricultural production prior to the application date associated with the SMART program. However, newly created agricultural land resulting from the clearing or conversion of forest land is not eligible.

The directive also establishes an obligation for ASTGUs to submit annual reports on agricultural productivity. These reports must show that ASTGU continues to practice commercial agriculture to conserve and use the land primarily and directly for agricultural purposes. In the event of a drop in crop yields, exemptions may be granted for a valid reason. If an ASTGU fails to comply with the reporting requirement, they may lose their eligibility for the ASTGU adder for one or more years.

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