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16 Rhode Island Renewable Energy Projects Reap $2.7 Million in Public Funds

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November 01, 2011

16 Rhode Island Renewable Energy Projects Reap $2.7 Million in Public Funds

By Cheryl Kaften
TMCnet Contributor


America’s smallest state has big green-technology aspirations. Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee and Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation (RIEDC) Executive Director Keith Stokes have announced the disbursement of $2.7 million in federal stimulus funding to 16 organizations and municipalities statewide for renewable energy projects.

The recipients responded to a Request for Proposals (RFP) in late August for the development of non-utility-scale programs. The public funding they receive will be matched by $3 million in private capital, for a total of $5.7 million.

These initial grants are part of an aggregate $6.5 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds that the state will use to advance its renewable energy development and to support energy efficiency programs to help businesses operate more cost-effectively.

 “Lowering the cost of doing business in Rhode Island is a top economic development priority. By providing increased renewable energy alternatives that will help businesses realize energy cost savings that directly contribute to their bottom line, we will make the state more competitive and encourage future industry and job growth,” said RIEDC Executive Director Keith Stokes. “We look forward to funding some exciting new projects, which can be up and running by next year through this RFP.”  

The specific objectives of the program are to fund projects that: • Can be completed by March 1, 2012;• Will create and retain jobs;• Are ready for deployment;• Will realize energy cost savings;• Can reduce dependence on imported fuels;• Leverage other funding sources;

• Demonstrate the ability to support market development and transformation, as well as sustainability; and • Have a high probability of reaching successful installation and operation.

 “These funds will provide a valuable resource for businesses, local governments and community development organizations to help them operate more efficiently and cost effectively and evaluate renewable energy solutions that will benefit Rhode Island residents, the environment and help businesses succeed in our state,” Governor Lincoln D. Chafee said.

Of the 16 projects, four are municipal; three, non-profit; four, residential; and five, commercial—as follows:

Project Descriptions – Municipal

·         Solect Energy, on behalf of the Town of Coventry–$325,000 for the installation of a 125 kw solar PV system on the roof of the Town Hall Annex, using a municipal Power Purchase Agreement. The system will be net metered in accordance with the recently passed Rhode Island State Net Metering rules for public-private partnerships. In addition to directly reducing the Town’s energy payments, this project is expected to generate over $187,500 in direct labor wages, the majority of which will be spent on Rhode Island workers.

·         City of East Providence– $100,000 for predevelopment expenses associated with the city’s proposed 10 MW solar farm, to be located at a 220- acre municipal site that includes a 70-acre closed municipal landfill (the former Forbes Street Landfill). The Forbes Street solar deployment could be one of the largest solar facilities in New England. The power generated from this facility will directly offset the utility expense of the City, while also returning a “brownfield” property that has been fallow since 1980 to productive use. 

·         Town of Jamestown–$117,775 for a wind feasibility study and pre-development support associated with a planned 1.5 MW wind turbine project.

·         Washington County Regional Planning Council (Town of Westerly)– $22,000 to complete the interconnect studies for potential renewable energy projects at the Westerly Landfill— primarily, exploring the options for large-scale solar PV and wind generation.  Working with the Washington County Regional Planning Council (WCRPC), the town has identified its former closed and capped landfill as its premier site..

Project Descriptions – Non-Profit

·         Economic Development Foundation of Rhode Island (Town of Cumberland)– $339, 870 for installation of a 108 kw solar PV system on a commercial office building. EDFRI is a private, non-profit development company, focusing on developing high-value business parks throughout Rhode Island as a means to attract new investment and jobs to the state. EDFRI is now investing in a new flex-building project in Cumberland that can house up to four individual businesses. The building is designed to LEED standards and represents some of the highest-quality flex business space on the market. EDFRI will install a solar PV system at the site, which is estimated to provide more than 53 percent of the building’s annual energy needs. 

·         Business Innovation Factory (Providence)– $167,500 for an in-depth study into the current behaviors and experience of commercial energy users, resulting in analysis that will provide policymakers with a deeper understanding that will support the development of more effective energy policy and solutions.

·         Chafee Center for International Business at Bryant University (Town of Smithfield)– $123,244 to complete a “net-zero” energy feasibility study across the state’s public high school facilities.

Project Descriptions – Housing/Residential

·         West Broadway Neighborhood Association (City of Providence)–$500,000 to implement the “West Side Solar” program – a neighborhood-based bulk purchase and deployment of residential solar PV arrays for more than 250 households. The program is a first of its kind, in terms of legal and organizational structure. The average system size is expected cover approximately 60 to 80 percent of the electricity used by a typical residence in the neighborhood. The savings produced will go directly back to the home and business owners of the system, with the anticipation that these savings will ultimately be re-invested back into the local community.

·         Alteris Renewables (City of Providence)–$125,750 to aggregate and install 50 kw of solar PV on up to nine residential projects. The renewable energy produced from this project will reduce the energy bills of Rhode Island residents over the 30-year lifetime of the systems. This project will not only support the nine residences but will also strengthen Alteris’ ability to remain competitive in Rhode Island, as well as maintain and grow staffing annually to provide additional job opportunities to state residents.

·         Omni Development Corporation (City of Providence)–$74,000 for the installation of a total of 19.9 kw of solar PV across scattered site affordable housing units. Omni currently is working on the Phoenix Housing Development, which involves the total rehabilitation of 17 dilapidated buildings in the West End. In addition, several buildings that are deemed beyond repair will be demolished and replaced with nine new structures. When completed, 83 apartment units in 26 buildings will be available for rental to lower-income families.  The renewable energy grant funds will allow for the installation of four solar PV power arrays.  The power produced from this system will reduce the energy bills for operating these multi-family apartment buildings.

·         Island Solar (Town of Jamestown)–$49,931 to aggregate and install solar PV and solar hot water systems on up to six residential projects. The renewable energy produced from this project will reduce the energy bills of Rhode Island residents. Island Solar is a small, local renewable energy contractor, utilizing all -local labor for the project.

Project Descriptions – Commercial

·         Newport Biodiesel (City of Newport)– $365,775 for expansion of an existing biodiesel manufacturing and processing facility. The biodiesel fuel will be derived from waste vegetable oil (WVO) collected from a network of restaurants. The company is seeking to expand its current processing facility in order to accommodate the current demand for biodiesel in Rhode Island.

·         Tiffany  & Co. (Town of Cumberland)–$250,000 for a 248 kw roof-mounted solar PV installation at its manufacturing facility in Cumberland. The project represents a long-term commitment to retaining  the company’s presence in Rhode Island.

·         GWH Ph II, LLC (Town of Lincoln)–$130,000 for the installation of a 40 kw solar PV system on a commercial office building that GWH currently is competing to develop. This system is expected to reduce the overall operating expenses of the building and make it more competitive in a lease market. 

·         Waterfalls Quick Lube, Inc. (City of Central Falls)–$20,003 for design and installation of a 6 kw rooftop solar PV system. Waterfalls Quick Lube is a local automotive service center in Central Falls, R.I. that is also expanding its facilities to several other locations across the state. As a small business, this company has directly felt the effects of the local economy, which includes rising fuel and motor oil costs. The company has yet to pass on these increases to its customer base and has been seeking other cost saving measures to counter this effect. One such measure is the installation of a solar PV system. Savings from this system will reduce the operating costs for this business.

·         Tyde Farm (Village of West Kingstown)–$18,311 for the installation of a 7.5 kw solar PV system on this potato farm, in order to provide up to 100 percent of the farm’s energy needs.  The solar system is also expected to serve as a marketing tool, drawing in customers who are specifically attracted to the sustainable way in which the food is grown. 

Cheryl Kaften is an accomplished communicator who has written for consumer and corporate audiences. She has worked extensively for MasterCard (News - Alert) Worldwide, Philip Morris USA (Altria), and KPMG, and has consulted for Estee Lauder and the Philadelphia Inquirer Newspapers. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Carrie Schmelkin

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