Public Comment: Amherst’s Required “Share” Of Ground-Mounted Solar Is Not 300 Acres
The following public comment was presented to the Amherst Town Council at their meeting on Monday February 7, 2022
My name is Mike Lipinski, Shutesbury Road, and I support the temporary moratorium on ground-mounted solar systems.
A factoid frequently referred to by members of various town boards in print and at public meetings is that Amherst needs at least 300 acres of ground-mounted solar to meet its share. To be precise, this number is meant to describe our supposed “share” of the statewide 2050 Decarbonization Goals. This 300+ acre number is often used as an argument against a temporary moratorium on ground-mounted solar. Moratorium opponents say that because our share is so large we need to get it done without any delay.
The fact that people are using this number as if it were a given, is one of the strongest reasons for why we need this pause.
Where does this number come from and why is it a faulty premise?
In a November presentation to the town Energy and Climate Action Committee (ECAC), a member of that committee proposed that Amherst’s share of future ground mounted solar could be calculated using a simple formula. The formula uses a projection from the Massachusetts Clean Energy and Climate Plan that estimates that the state will need 60,000 acres of new ground mounted solar by 2050.
The formula first calculates a town’s percentage of the total Massachusetts population and then uses that percentage to determine the town’s portion of 60,000 acres statewide. The result: Amherst’s share was suggested to be 335 acres or 1.9% of Amherst’s total area. It’s important to understand that no other Massachusetts towns or agencies use ECAC’s population-based formula and for good reason. It ignores a community’s actual electrical consumption. When you apply the ECAC formula to every town and city in Massachusetts, the results are stunning.
Cities like Somerville, Chelsea, Cambridge and Boston would need to cover 20-25 percent of their total land area with ground mounted solar to meet their projected share. Scores of other densely populated cities and towns in Massachusetts can’t possibly accommodate hundreds or thousands of acres of ground-mounted solar as their share. Their land is already built up and expensive. They know they can’t do it, and they don’t intend to try.
On the other end of the scale are small towns like Shutesbury whose “share” would be 15 acres of ground mounted solar. Yet, solar developers hope to place hundreds of acres of ground mounted solar there. There are dozens of small Massachusetts towns similar to Shutesbury.
Just as Boston’s share is not 5763 acres, 335 acres is not Amherst’s share. We really don’t know how much needs to be implemented. Clearly our town needs time to do more thinking about our approach to ground-mounted solar. We need a moratorium.
Michael Lipinski is a resident of Amherst
Note: I am citing my sources here as there was not enough time to include them in the 2 minutes we were allowed to speak.
- “Q. How Much Ground-Mount Solar Would Amherst Need to Meet its Share of the 2050 goals? A. 335 acres for solar within Amherst, proportioned by population That’s a little under 2% of Amherst’s total area Amherst 2020 pop. (39,263) is 0.56% of MA 2020 total pop. (7,033,469); 0.56% of 60,000 acres is 335 acres. Amherst total area is 17,765 acres. 335 acres out of 17,765 is 1.9%”
Brief Summary of Massachusetts’s Plan for Decarbonization by 2050 with a Focus on Electricity Generation, a Power Point presentation by Steve Roof, ECAC, 17 November 2021
2. “The Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2025 and 2030 states that “even with maximal rooftop deployment far in excess of historic levels, [this] will require the installation of ground-mounted solar on approximately 60,000 acres of land in Massachusetts over the next thirty years”. The Town of Amherst’s “share” of 60,000 acres proportioned by population works out to be about 335 acres, which is a little less than 2% of Amherst’s total land area.”
The Amherst Energy and Climate Action Committee, letter to members of the Amherst Town Council, Community Resources Committee, and Planning Board, December 20, 2021
3. Steve Roof’s Population Data For Calculating Community Share of 60,000 Acres of New Ground Mount Solar in ascending order.
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