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State counts 15k solar installations

State environmental officials say their efforts to increase the use of renewable energy have reached a milestone: The number of solar installations statewide has surpassed 15,000.

“This achievement is due in large part to the strength of the Massachusetts solar industry,” Governor Deval Patrick said in a statement. “Clean energy investments are smart for the environment and the economy, as proven by our 24 percent industry job growth in the last two years.”

The state now has 15,762 solar installations that produce 615 megawatts of electricity, enough to power about 94,000 homes. The solar panels are mostly on private homes, but also on businesses and schools and at landfills.

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The solar industry remains fragile, though, dependent on subsidies and accounting for only about 1.5 percent of the state’s overall energy production, said Krista Selmi, a spokeswoman for the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. Selmi said the state is on track to meet its goal of 1,600 megawatts of solar capacity by 2020. “Eventually, we’re trying to wean the industry off some of the incentives so it really will get on par with some of the other electricity sources,” she said.

The vast majority of the state’s power is generated by natural gas and coal plants, which last year accounted for 63 and 12 percent of the state’s energy, respectively, according to federal data.

As his administration draws to a close, Patrick has trumpeted its environmental accomplishments, calling Massachusetts a model state that ranks highly in indexes measuring energy efficiency, growth of renewable energy sources, and creation of so-called clean energy jobs. “He governs thinking about the next generation,” Selmi said.


Dan Adams can be reached at dadams@globe.com. Find him on Twitter at @DanielAdams86.