R.I.’s Largest Solar Energy Project is Now Twice as Big

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

Rhode Island’s revamped renewable-energy incentive, Rhode Island Renewable Energy Growth Program (RE Growth), recently approved an agreement to more than double the size of the state’s largest solar field.

The state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) awarded the electricity purchase agreement to the Forbes Street landfill in East Providence on Nov. 19, along with four more solar installations and one wind turbine. The approvals are the first under a revamped renewable energy incentive program. They don’t guarantee that the projects will be built, but instead provide a revenue mechanism that is typically the foundation for financing. The agreement requires National Grid to buy the renewable electricity for a fixed price for up to 20 years. However, the projects must be built within two years.

The pilot version of the distributed generation contracts program ran from 2011 to 2014 and launched about 20 solar and two wind projects. The program was modified and expanded in 2014 by the General Assembly. The new incentive offers an aggregate cap of 160 megawatts of electricity for new energy projects approved over five years. The initial program was designed for larger wind and solar projects, but the new RE Growth includes small residential and commercial systems with a capacity to generate 25 kilowatts or less of electricity.

The small-scale program is being heavily marketed by the Solarize Rhode Island program. Enrollment in the program is on a first-come, first-serve basis and was recently rolled out in seven communities. It offers an electricity purchase price of about 40 cents per kilowatt-hour. The current retail rate is about 10 cents per kilowatt-hour. Owners of the solar systems receive a check for excess revenue generated by their system.

Here is a look at the recent agreements approved by the PUC:

A 4-megawatt ground-mount solar array at the Forbes Street landfill. This complements an initial project that calls for a 3.7-megawatt solar field comprised of nearly 13,000 panels. The project will more than double the size of the state’s largest solar energy project. The addition received a purchase price of 16.59 cents per kilowatt-hour for 20 years.

A 206-kilowatt roof-mount solar array atop the hockey rink at Mount Saint Charles Academy on Logee Street in Woonsocket. The project received a fixed price of 24.4 cents per kilowatt-hour for 20 years.

A 499-kilowatt ground-mount solar array on open land at 48 Bank St. in Hopkinton. The project received 20 cents per kilowatt-hour for 20 years.

A 2.6-megawatt ground-mount solar array on Danielson Pike in Foster. The project received a price agreement of 15.94 cents per kilowatt-hour for 20 years.

A 4.5-megawatt wind turbine on Victory Highway in Coventry. The turbine will be built by WED Energy of North Kingstown. The project received a price of 22.35 cents per kilowatt-hour for 20 years.

A 999-kilowatt ground-mount solar array on private land at 540 Nooseneck Hill Road in Exeter. The project received 19 cents per kilowatt-hour for 20 years.