Woman holding binoculars Join today and get outside at one of our 60+ wildlife sanctuaries.
Woman holding binoculars Join today and get outside at one of our 60+ wildlife sanctuaries.
A hawk perches on a rooftop solar panel, with tree branches in the background

A Campaign to Grow Solar and Protect Nature

Massachusetts needs to transition away from the dirty fossil fuels that are overheating our planet and destroying our ecosystems. To do that, we need to build a lot more clean energy—and quickly. 

Unfortunately, much of the solar energy developed in Massachusetts so far has been built at the expense of forests, wetlands, and top-quality farmland. This pattern isn’t good for the planet. Natural lands absorb heat-trapping pollution out of the atmosphere. When we destroy them to build clean energy, we’re using one weapon against climate change to eliminate our best defense. 

Mass Audubon is advocating for a strategy that will allow us to build the clean energy infrastructure we need while protecting the nature we have. To succeed, we need your support. 

Massachusetts Needs More Clean Energy 

Climate change is already causing flooding, extreme heat, and major threats to wildlife in Massachusetts. To combat it, we need to shift away from the fossil fuels that are trapping heat in our atmosphere. 

As of 2023, Massachusetts still generated roughly half of its electricity by burning dirty fossil fuels. In addition, most of our buildings, cars, buses, and trains still run on oil, diesel and gasoline. To clean up these sources of pollution, we’ll need to switch them to electric power. That means that in the decades ahead, we’ll need to generate a lot more electricity, and it will need to come from clean sources like solar, wind, and geothermal.

Solar panel in green vegetation to the left, and three garden plots and a white tent cover to the right.
Endicott, Wenham

Forest, Farmlands, and Wetlands are at Risk 

Clean energy developers face few restrictions on where they can build projects. In practice, that means solar energy projects and transmission infrastructure are built at the cheapest locations—often forests or farmlands. 

Since 2010, over 5,000 acres of forest, wetlands, and farmlands have been destroyed for solar development in Massachusetts, resulting in the emission of over half a million metric tons of CO₂— more than the annual emissions of 100,000 passenger cars. 

Not only is this destruction bad for the climate, it’s devastating to the plants and wildlife that call Massachusetts home. Bobcats, bears, and countless bird species face major threats from habitat destruction. Additionally, Massachusetts already has very limited farmland available, meaning every acre lost takes a major toll on our local food security.  

Mass Audubon’s analysis shows that if current patterns of solar development continue, Massachusetts could lose an additional 60,000 acres of high-value forests and farmland by 2050, compared to a situation in which we prioritize lower impact solar development. Although building more clean energy is critical, we need a new strategy for doing so that protects our irreplacable forests, farmlands, and wildlife habitats. 

Growing Solar, Protecting Nature Report 

To find a strategy for building the clean energy we need while protecting the nature we have, Mass Audubon teamed up with Harvard Forest to write Growing Solar, Protecting Nature, an analysis of Massachusetts’ option for future solar energy development. This report shows that we can build most of the solar we need on existing rooftops, parking lots, and already developed lands, while leaving most of our forests and farmlands intact.  

How You Can Grow Solar and Protect Nature 

Mass Audubon is working to shape a clean energy strategy for Massachusetts that will allow us to generate the energy we need while protecting the nature we have. 

First, we’re working to eliminate subsidies for projects on forests and farmlands, while pushing for greater incentives for projects on rooftops, parking lots, and already developed lands. Second, we’re working to influence the Massachusetts State Legislature to commit to a sustainable solar energy strategy in their 2024 climate action bill.  

To achieve both goals, we’ll need to show that thousands of Massachusetts residents believe we need to protect nature and produce clean energy. You can sign up to help today. 

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Dive Deeper

Group of people in front of solar panels
Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, Lenox

View the Research

Read or learn more about Mass Audubon's Growing Solar, Protecting Nature Report

Two solar panel arrays behind a field of shrubs
Solar Panels at Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, Lenox

Read Our Position on Solar Energy

Learn how Mass Audubon considers the balance between protecting nature and developing clean energy

Students speaking at Arcadia's Youth Climate Summit © Phil Doyle

Become an Advocate

Help us grow solar and protect nature by joining Mass Audubon's team of grassroots nature and climate advocates