Tough Questions for Massachusetts in Weighing Solar Development Against Land Conservation

Sally Pick lives in Montague, Massachusetts, a town of under 9,000 residents in the western part of the state. It’s made up of five smaller villages established among forest and farms and is also home to the Montague Plains Wildlife Management Area, a conserved region of rare pine plains.

In addition to sitting on the town’s energy committee, which worked to reduce Montague’s overall energy use 20 percent from 2008 levels through energy efficiency initiatives, Pick works as an environmental consultant and volunteers with Climate Action Now Western Massachusetts, a group that supports 100 percent renewable energy in the state. But she’s watched with dismay as developers have planned more and more solar installations around Montague.

Over the last several years, as solar capacity grew exponentially in Massachusetts, towns and counties in lesser-populated western and central Massachusetts have become increasingly anxious about the resource’s impact on the region’s land.

“There’s a lot of concern among towns in this whole area that have a lot of forests about the potential for a huge amount of development,” Pick told Greentech Media.

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