Amherst Town-Wide Solar Assessment
The Town of Amherst adopted climate action goals to reach carbon neutrality by 2050 and solar development is one way to advance these goals. Given that, the Town is working to understand how much solar energy could be generated, and how much is needed.
Several efforts are underway to assess solar development in Amherst:
- The Energy and Climate Action Committee (ECAC) guides the Town in meeting its climate goals.
- The Solar Bylaw Working Group (SBWG) is preparing a solar development bylaw to establish the review procedure for ground-mounted solar arrays and batteries.
- Amherst contracted GZA GeoEnvironmental, Inc. (GZA) to provide technical support to the ECAC and SBWG by:
- Preparing a geospatial (map-based) assessment of where solar may be feasible;
- Conducting public outreach to gather residents’ thoughts, opinions, and values regarding solar development; and
- Compiling and reporting on the collected information.
Geospatial (Map-Based) Assessment
The geospatial assessment reviewed Amherst to understand where and how much solar energy Amherst could possibly generate. The Town was assessed in 30-foot by 30-foot grids using available map data. The Town, residents, or solar developers are welcome to use this assessment to explore solar potential.
The following areas were excluded from the assessment:
- Properties owned by Universities and Colleges as these institutions have renewable energy plans;
- Resources with legal prohibitions on development which includes wetlands, streams, and other protected open space (i.e., conservation restrictions and agricultural preservation areas);
- Other infeasible areas due to logistical constraints which includes roadways, railroad lines, and other rights-of-way.
Remaining areas in Amherst were then ranked based on:
- Slope (i.e., how steep is the land)
- Aspect (i.e., which direction does the land face)
- Distance to transmission line (important for understanding relative costs of development)
- Transmission line capacity (necessary to add electricity to the grid)
Ranked areas will be classified based on the land use, which may include the following breakdowns:
- Built environment
- Residential rooftops
- Other rooftops (i.e., apartment buildings, churches, schools, businesses)
- Municipal parking lots
- Privately-owned parking lots
- Unbuilt environment
- Agricultural lands
- Forest lands
- Residential (i.e., undeveloped portions of residential properties)
- Municipal-owned areas
Please join us in the following ways:
Monday March 13 at 7:00 PM – Informational Presentation
Join us virtually as we present the project goals and progress, share the mapping assessment outcome, and provide information on how to get engaged. ASL Interpretation and language translation will be provided.
March 3 – March 31 – Engage Amherst
Provide your input on the town's online public engagement platform Engage Amherst and start a dialog with your neighbors.
March 3 – March 31– Community Survey
Complete a survey about solar development around Town to help us understand your thoughts and priorities. **Survey now closed, thank you for participating!**
Saturday March 18 from 12:00 – 2:00 PM – Community Workshop
Thursday March 23 from 6:00-8:00 PM – Community Workshop
Drop by the Woodbury Room at the Jones Library to let us know what you think. These workshops are informal, and you can join for a little or much time as you would like. The activities and questions will be the same at each event. Light refreshments and activities for the kids will be provided. ASL Interpretation, as well as Cantonese and Spanish translators will be available.
The final report and map will be shared by the Town on their website for public review and use. A final presentation on the findings from the community outreach portion of this project will be during the ECAC and SBWG meetings held on Wednesday April 26 at 4 and Friday April 28 at 11:30, respectively. These meetings are recorded and will be available on the Town YouTube Channel.
Still Have Questions?
Check out these related resources:
- Interested in making your home or business more sustainable, efficient, and affordable? Visit MassSave to learn more.
- Interested in more information on Amherst’s climate goals and plans? Visit the Amherst Climate Action Adaptation and Resilience Plan (CAARP).
- Interested in more information on Massachusetts’s climate plans? Visit the Massachusetts Decarbonization Roadmap, the Massachusetts Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2025 and 2030 and the Massachusetts Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2050.
- Want to learn more about solar energy in Massachusetts? Check out the UMass Clean Energy Extension.
- What are others doing to support solar in Amherst?