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Monday, October 28, 2013

Wonderful example of the business side of green

Does it make sense to take an old, capped landfill (an obvious liability), install  a 6 MEG solar array (with potential to add other panels) and bring much needed revenue (now a wonderful asset) to a struggling city while powering over 500 homes with clean energy?  

Despite some setbacks and delays, this project, financed by a private investor, is a model for sitting new energy projects on land that does not interfere with other development and is virturally useless for any other purpose.   

We, as you know, reported on this story many times and, in fact, interviewed the developer (Bill Martin, CME) on a series of shows we shot in East Providence, RI.  We also followed up with his RI rep, Kevin Stacom, on the radio side.

Good to see The Providence Journal catch up with the story as well:

An intriguing project in East Providence highlights the potential for expanding solar power in Rhode Island. Atop the closed Forbes Street landfill, workers are installing 12,848 panels that will capture energy from the sun. As reported by Journal staff writer Alex Kuffner, the East Providence solar field is expected to generate enough power to supply 500 households.
For some time, Rhode Island has relied heavily on natural gas to meet its energy needs. With the nation entering what some have called the natural-gas century, that reliance should continue well into the future. Still, to maintain a degree of energy independence, having a mix of sources is the best strategy over the long run. Renewable sources such as solar and wind power have the added benefit of being friendlier to the environment.
The East Providence project deserves high marks. First, it makes use of an otherwise unusable “brownfield site.” Tainted soil makes the landfill unsafe for farming, commercial activity or residences. Yet, given the scarcity of land in Rhode Island, the state can ill afford to let such large tracts go to waste. The solar farm will make use of 22 acres. In another economizing move, gravel from the demolition of the old Route 195 overpass was used to cap part of the landfill for free.
The solar farm should prove more tolerable to neighbors than many alternatives. Solar fields are virtually silent. And they are low to the ground, circumventing the aesthetic objections often lodged against wind turbines.
Rhode Island has lagged behind other states in developing solar power. The East Providence solar farm will be the state’s largest, with a 3.7-megawatt capacity. But Rhode Island’s overall capacity, which currently includes installations by businesses and private homes, will remain dwarfed by that of Massachusetts. Rhode Island is approaching a capacity of around 19 megawatts, while the Bay State has 74.6. Massachusetts and Connecticut both subsidize solar power.
The Forbes Street project probably would not have happened without legislation passed in 2011. That law set price ceilings for medium- to large-scale renewable energy projects, and required National Grid to contract for a certain amount of power from renewables. The program is due to expire next year, however.
Like wind, solar power is currently more expensive for National Grid than its fossil-fuel cousins. But as more projects are tried and refined, both sources could eventually prove cheaper.
Several projects similar to East Providence’s are currently being considered in Rhode Island. Not all will prove feasible. But modest investments in solar power appear to be a good bet for the state. The General Assembly should consider extending the solar-power program.


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  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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