This fall our Massachusetts Solar Carve-Out Program recently reached a milestone with the qualification of its 1,000th solar photovoltaic (PV) project. In the year and a half since its inception, the amount of solar capacity installed in the state more than tripled, from 20 megawatts in early 2010 to over 60 MW at the beginning of October 2011. Of the new solar installed, over 30 MW came from projects that qualified for the Solar Carve-Out, a market-based incentive program for eligible Massachusetts solar installations.
From projects like the 1.8 MW facility owned by Western Massachusetts Electric in Pittsfield, to smaller projects located on schools, public buildings, industrial parks, small businesses, and over 800 residential installations, the program has already helped facilitate the development of a wide variety of projects in 306 towns and cities across the Commonwealth.
As we move forward into 2012, the program continues to excite interest as Massachusetts is quickly becoming one of the fastest growing PV markets in the United States. Each day, new developers and investors from across the country and the rest of the world are inquiring about investing in PV projects in Massachusetts. In the last few months alone, DOER has spoken to investment banks from Germany, a trade commission from Spain, and met with many project developers and installers that until recently have only worked in other U.S. markets, Nearly all have expressed their enthusiasm for the program and several have already opened up offices in Massachusetts and begun hiring employees.
With over 30 MW of projects operating and another 20 MW qualified and soon to be installed, the program is well positioned to exceed the growth rate of the last year and a half. The next year promises to see continued growth in the residential and small commercial sector, with a known pipeline of over 1,000 small projects that have or will receive a rebate from the Commonwealth Solar II or Solarize Massachusetts rebate programs. We also expect continued growth in the number of mid to large scale commercial projects. Lastly, the largest growth in terms of MW installed will likely come from large scale projects (projects greater than 1 MW). Due to the increased complexity of such projects, they typically take longer to install and few have been qualified to date. However, we expect to see a number of projects in this size range become operational over the next year as they work through utility interconnection processes and set up project financing.
After the great success of the first year and a half of the Solar Carve-Out Program, the Massachusetts market sits poised to become one of the largest and fastest growing PV markets in the country. With any luck, the 2000th project is right around the corner.