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Milton, Massachusetts Embraces Solar to Increase Resilience

| By Zack Loehle, Interstate Renewable Energy Council

Located just outside of Boston, the community of Milton, Massachusetts is one of the newest SolSmart Bronze designees. This suburban town has undertaken a number of innovative initiatives to expand solar energy and support a sustainable future for its residents, including a focus on using solar to support a resilient electric grid.

Officials from Milton, Massachusetts, including former Environmental Coordinator Meera Patel (L) and Assistant Town Planner Josh Eckart-Lee (R) with the town’s SolSmart plaque.

One project underway is a feasibility study for a solar microgrid that will power Milton’s town hall, police department building, and an affordable senior housing complex. When complete, the solar microgrid will lower electricity rates and create a backup source of electricity in case of grid failure. The microgrid will be “cloud-based,” meaning that solar and battery storage will be installed at the three buildings but no new transmission infrastructure will be necessary to install and operate it.

“This is a direct response to concerns raised about the impacts of extreme heat and extreme cold on our energy system, especially for the elderly,” said Josh Eckart-Lee, Milton’s Assistant Town Planner. “This microgrid sets the stage for us to connect residents and blocks in our community with power that is entirely locally generated.”

Massachusetts is one of many states with its own sustainability initiative that works in concert with SolSmart. The Massachusetts Green Communities Division offers a designation program for local governments that demonstrate progress on clean energy initiatives. Milton was an early Green Communities designee, and achieving SolSmart Bronze will help the town continue to meet the criteria for the state program. Meeting those Green Communities criteria opens up opportunities for new state funding, Eckart-Lee said. 

With a view toward long-term sustainability, the town recently completed a greenhouse gas inventory to pinpoint their emissions sources and identify ways to address them. In addition, Milton has incorporated sustainability measures into its 10-year master plan, and is in the process of creating a climate action plan. As these plans get underway, SolSmart helped town staff identify opportunities for improvement in their zoning code that they hope to address in the next town meeting. “Knowing what we know from the zoning analysis done by SolSmart, we’ll have some really concrete actions that this committee can put into plan format,” said Eckart-Lee. By closing loopholes in the zoning code, Milton will be even more welcoming for solar energy.

Rooftop solar on a municipal building in Milton, Massachusetts.

Milton residents have numerous options for obtaining renewable energy, even if they don’t install rooftop solar on their homes. Through the Milton Community Electricity Aggregation (CEA) program, residents can opt for electricity drawn from a higher proportion of renewable sources than the area’s main utility provides. Approximately two-thirds of the town currently participates in either the Milton Basic, Milton Green, or Milton 100% Green energy options. As of May, the Milton 100% Green option was 10 cents cheaper per kilowatt hour-than the standard utility option, though savings are not guaranteed. 

Milton’s strong commitment to resilience and sustainability, supported by the tools and technical support of the SolSmart program, has paved the way for these sustainability advances. SolSmart will help Milton continue to expand solar energy and shift toward a more sustainable and resilient community.
Any city, county, or regional organization across the U.S. can achieve SolSmart designation. To get started, contact us here, and begin your own path toward a cleaner energy future.