R.I. joins regional solar initiative

As he was celebrating the completion Wednesday of a 8,500-panel solar array in Quonset Business Park, Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee announced that Rhode Island has joined the New England Solar Cost-Reduction Partnership, a regional effort to reduce non-hardware or “soft” costs of photovoltaic solar electricity systems. More

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R.I. joins regional solar initiative

COURTESY QUONSET DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION
GOV. LINCOLN D. CHAFEE (center) joined Quonset Development Corporation Managing Director Steven J. King (left) and Nexamp Inc. Chairman and CEO Zaid Ashai (right) to flip the switch Wednesday on New England’s most powerful solar rooftop array located at Quonset Business Park. The array, built by Nexamp, is expected to produce nearly 3 million kilowatt-hours per year, or enough energy to power more than 500 homes, the QDC said.
Posted 11/7/13

NORTH KINGSTOWN – As he was celebrating the completion Wednesday of a 8,500-panel solar array in Quonset Business Park, Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee announced that Rhode Island has joined the New England Solar Cost-Reduction Partnership, a regional effort to reduce non-hardware or “soft” costs of photovoltaic solar electricity systems.

The initiative, coordinated by the nonprofit Clean Energy States Alliance, has received $1.5 million in competitive funding under the U.S. Department of Energy’s Rooftop Solar Challenge II program to streamline solar permitting, update planning and zoning codes, and improve standards for connecting solar power to the electric grid.

The Rooftop Solar Challenge II is part of the SunShot Initiative, which strives to make solar energy fully cost-competitive with other forms of energy by the end of the decade.

“Regional clean energy initiatives are vital in playing a role in generating in-state job growth and helping to promote carbon-free local, renewable sources of energy,” said Chafee in a release. “This project paves the way for an affordable solar market in Rhode Island and sends a message beyond our borders that our state cares about the environment.”

Under the New England Solar Cost-Reduction Partnership, the R.I. Office of Energy Resources will collaborate with agencies from Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont to refine and more widely implement innovations developed in Connecticut and Massachusetts for the Rooftop Solar Challenge I program.

“Information sharing among the states and better understanding of the needs of stakeholders will help us identify efficiencies, potential collaborative activities, and opportunities for reducing soft costs,” said Warren Leon, executive director of the Clean Energy States Alliance. “These states are all committed to the common goals of reducing the cost of solar electricity and building a strong regional market. We are excited to be partnering with them for this project.”

After announcing Rhode Island’s participation in the New England Solar Cost-Reduction Partnership, Chafee flipped the switch Wednesday on New England’s most powerful solar rooftop array at Quonset Business Park. Built by Boston-based Nexamp Inc., the array comprises 8,500 solar panels, covers an area the size of three and a half football fields across two rooftops, and is expected to produce nearly 3 million kilowatt-hours per year.

“This is a great day for Quonset, for the environment, and for Rhode Island,” Chafee said at the event Wednesday. “Perhaps most importantly, this project shows how our legislature and Rhode Island can work to support domestic renewable energies, reduce environmental impacts, diversify state energy sources and stimulate economic activity all at once.”

Michael and Steven DiCenso, the owners of the two buildings in the West Davisville portion of the business park, lease the rooftop space to the owner of the solar project, True Green Capital, which then sells the energy produced to National Grid – potentially enough energy to power more than 500 homes in a year, according to the Quonset Development Corporation.

The solar rooftop array – made possible through renewable energy legislation passed by the R.I. General Assembly in 2011 – is one of several renewable energy initiatives at Quonset Business Park, including one of the state’s largest solar land arrays and a co-generation energy system being built, both part of the Toray Plastics (America) Inc. campus in the park, and the future site of Deepwater Wind’s off-shore wind-turbine construction and staging.

“This is another terrific example of the innovation and growth we’re seeing every day at Quonset Business Park,” said Steven J. King, managing director of the Quonset Development Corporation. “The QDC and its board approved this project as it was a unique way to utilize existing rooftop space, did a good thing for the environment, and brought additional construction jobs to the state of Rhode Island. Like 175 other companies at the park, we believe Nexamp saw Quonset as a place to succeed, and we are grateful they did.”

The completion of the Quonset Business Park array and the launch of the New England Solar Cost-Reduction Partnership represent Rhode Island’s latest efforts to bolster solar development in the state.

In addition, the R.I. Economic Development Corporation recently awarded $280,000 to local energy-management firm VCharge under the state’s Renewable Energy Fund, after approving grants late last month for two new solar energy projects by Teknor Apex of Pawtucket.

The Teknor Apex grants, each in the amount of $22,500, will fund two 30-kilowatt solar arrays at the company’s plastics manufacturing facility. Beaumont Solar of New Bedford will design and install both systems, which cost $122,500 each.

The EDC also deferred a request for $18,504 for an 18-kilowatt solar array at Belcourt Castle in Newport – owned by Alex and Ani founder Carolyn Rafaelian – until its November meeting.

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