By ecoRI News staff
The state Department of Environmental Management (DEM) has been awarded $1.5 million in federal funds — American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009 — from the Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources to install solar panels at nine DEM facilities. The solar panels will be used to offset the energy needs at the state facilities.
Most of the solar panels will be mounted on existing roof structures on a standard aluminum racking system. Panels will be attached to standing seam roofs with clips, and to asphalt shingled roofs using a “quick-mount” system, according to DEM officials.
Each 40-inch-wide by 66-inch-high panel is one and a half inches thick, and will be raised slightly above the roof surface. The number of panels used at each facility will vary depending on the size of the installation. Each panel contains 60 square mono-crystalline cell modules that will collect and convert solar energy into electricity.
Every installation will include a number of new inverters to convert the electricity from direct current produced by the panels to alternating current used by the building. All the installations will be tied to the electric grid and will include new bi-directional meters to count the amount of electricity that is being made, so the state’s electric bill can be reduced accordingly.
“These installations demonstrate a significant investment in Rhode Island’s commitment to renewable energy,” Gov. Lincoln Chafee said. “The projects will not only reduce our electricity bills at the different facilities, but will provide a great educational tool for the public.”
DEM is installing a web-based “dashboard” reporting system that will allow the public to track the amount of electricity produced by the solar panels and the wind turbines at Fisherman’s Memorial State Campground and Salty Brine State Beach in Narragansett. A third wind turbine is being installed at East Matunuck State Beach in South Kingstown.
Using this system, which is expected to be in place early next year, the public will be able to see data on the renewable energy that is being produced at all the DEM-owned facilities.
As part of the solar panel site selection process, the DEM targeted facilities that both require a substantial amount of energy for operations and would provide an opportunity for the public to learn about the beneficial use of renewable energy in various settings. Although the installations will be similar in outward appearance, the facilities are very different. They range from popular beaches and campgrounds to a community urban farm and an island research reserve.
Solar panels will be installed at the following facilities starting the week of Dec. 5:
Scarborough State Beach in Narragansett. Solar panels will be added to the existing roof of the main beach pavilion, and will generate nearly 10,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity to save the state about $1,400 a year, according to DEM officials.
Fisherman’s Memorial State Park and Campground in Narragansett. Solar panels will be installed on a maintenance barn at the park and will generate about 10,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity annually. Last month, a 100-kilowatt wind turbine was installed at the campground that will supply about half of the facility’s electrical needs each year. Combined, the two systems will save the state about $25,000 a year.
Misquamicut State Beach in Westerly. Solar panels will be added to the roof of the existing beach pavilion. About 8,500 kilowatt-hours of electricity will be generated annually and save the state about $1,200 a year.
Burlingame State Park in Charlestown. Three buildings in the existing maintenance compound will be fitted with roof-mounted solar panels that will produce about 78,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity to save the state about $11,000 a year.
Lafayette Fish Hatchery in North Kingstown. Solar panels will be installed on the top surface of the existing 8-foot-tall protective cage that covers the existing raceways, where fish — primarily trout — are raised to stock Rhode Island waterways for public fishing. The solar panels will generate about 20,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity a year and save the state about $3,000 a year. The panels will also serve as a shading device for the cold water-loving fish being raised at the hatchery and as a barrier for fish-eating birds in search of prey.
Dawley State Park in Exeter. The park’s administrative building will be fitted with solar panels that will produce about 19,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity and save the state about $2,700 annually. In addition, a back-up electric heating system will be installed to reduce the use of the existing gas-heating system and to further reduce operating costs.
Prudence Island Research Reserve. A single, pole-mounted solar array will be installed and will generate about 3,700 kilowatt-hours of electricity a year. Students involved in educational programs at the reserve will learn about sustainable energy created by solar panels and other renewable sources as part of the facility’s teaching curricula. The solar system is estimated to save the reserve $500 a year, according to the DEM.
Urban Edge Farm in Providence. Founded in 1981, the farm is a 1-acre plot run by the Southside Community Land Trust. Solar panels will be installed on the roof of the DEM-owned building on the farm, and will produce about 3,600 kilowatt-hours of electricity a year and save $500 in operating costs.
East Matunuck State Beach in South Kingstown. DEM is currently building a new beach pavilion as part of a $4 million revitalization of this popular beach facility. The project includes the new pavilion, deck, concession stand, restrooms, a 10-kilowatt wind turbine and a small solar hot water system for the concession stand. This additional grant money will fund a solar panel system that will be installed on the new restroom building roof, and will generate about 20,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year. The wind turbine and solar systems will save the state about $5,600 a year, according to DEM officials.
It is estimated that all work will be completed by the end of February.