Too SMART for its own good

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Thousands of applications for hundreds of megawatts of solar power projects (and a decent amount of energy storage as well) were submitted in the first week after the Massachusetts SMART program launched. This first week pop was partially a result of $78 million of pent up demand due to net metering caps being hit. And that 2017 net metering cap bubble actually followed a prior cap extension that was filled on its first day.

At Solar Power Northeast yesterday, a most eloquent audience member got down to business with the first question of the 11:45: what are we going to do about hitting Block 7 already in National Grid territory? How are we to defend ourselves from the solar-coaster, and gain some business continuity during the programs proposed four year life time?

Massachusetts’ Department of Energy Resources (DOER) told us that they were listening as Michael Judge, Director of DOER, took the questions from the stage – while the panel also starred Kaitlin Kelly, Manager of Solar Programs at DOER.

Judge noted that they expected DOER to offer a proposal to expand the size of the SMART program in the spring, with this expansion possibly going live in the fall. It was noted that the SMART program didn’t have a defined size, and that it was within the political jurisdiction of the DOER to implement these changes.

A large amount of the questions surrounded the structuring of this expansion – with the focus being on the rates that would be offered to these projects. DOER noted that it was conscious that if project’s wouldn’t meet the financial requirements of investment by business owners, then it wouldn’t meet the goals set by the Commonwealth.

Far greater nuance was given by Judge and Kelly than will be expressed in this article by pv magazine.

Other question topics included:

  • Are pollinator friendly project able to be incentived by SMART? Answer: no.
  • How will projects with that fall out of the queue because of lower than expected revenue be handled? Answer: abandoned volume will be reinserted into the system at current SMART tariff rate.
  • How do we deal with the large projects (>1 MWac+) crowding out the the 25kWac-<1MWac range of projects? Answer: something to think about.
  • Edit: See interconnection challenges in comment section.

If any of other attendees have additional questions and answers to add to this please, please comment or email pv magazine.

There is precedence of a seeming desire from the DOER to create an environment of business continuity to the energy industry within the state as when the Solar Renewable Energy Certificate II (SREC II) program hit its cap in January of 2016, the program was extended multiple times – to the point where SREC II projects were being built right up until the start of SMART in November.