Massachusetts Technical Potential of Solar

Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources
Project ongoing.

Solar photovoltaic (PV) systems are a major component in Massachusetts’ expanding energy sector and plans to meet its climate goals. In 2022, the State released the Massachusetts Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2025 and 2030 (CECP) and the Massachusetts Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2050 (2050 CECP); these publications outline comprehensive plans to achieve statewide emissions limits and sector-specific sublimits. The CECP estimates that approximately 27 to 34 gigawatts (GW) of solar would be required in 2050 to reach these limits. This is over 10 times the 3 GW of solar that is currently installed in Massachusetts.  Reaching this level of solar by 2050 would require the state to triple or quadruple its current annual rate of solar installations (about 0.3 GW per year according to SMART program data).

Working on behalf of Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER), Synapse conducted geospatial analysis of solar potential at over 2 million parcels throughout Massachusetts. Developed with input from a technical advisory group and stakeholder sessions with the general public, our screening-level analysis analyzed rooftop, ground-mounted, and canopy solar over six different suitability metrics: agriculture, biodiversity, other ecosystem services, embedded carbon dioxide, electric infrastructure, and slope and aspect.

Synapse estimated that Massachusetts’ technical solar potential is 506 GWAC, 15 to 18 times greater than the amount required by the CECP (27 to 34 GW). After applying the suitability criteria, the technical potential that scored a C (“less suitable”) in at least one suitability category makes up 353 GW of the 506 GW total, or about 70 percent of all technical potential.  Approximately 30 percent, or 152 GW, of the technical potential is identified as being “highly suitable." 

For more information on our methodology and results, see the final report hosted on DOER's website

To view parcel level data, see the Massachusetts Technical Potential of Solar StoryMap