By William Hamilton PBN Staff Writer Twitter: @waham
PROVIDENCE – The R.I. Economic Development Corporation awarded a $200,000 grant to a 10 to 15 megawatt solar-power project at a former East Providence landfill on Monday.
The EDC also approved a grant and a loan totaling $125,000 to a Bristol auto repair shop preparing to build a 50 kilowatt wind turbine.
EDC board members unanimously approved the grants and 10-year loan from the agency’s Renewable Energy Development Fund.
But while approving the $62,500 grant and $62,500 loan to Safeway Auto Service for a $250,000 turbine, some board members questioned the agency’s overall strategy in using the fund to develop renewable energy projects.
New board member Jack Templin called the investment in the Safeway project a “rifle shot,” meaning that the funds will benefit an individual business owner, unlike other projects -- such as the proposed East Providence solar-panel farm -- where the benefits would be spread more broadly.
The Renewable Energy Development Fund’s coordinator, Julian Dash, told board members that the agency is shifting the fund – paid for by an electric-bill surcharge – from subsidizing residential and small alternative energy projects to issuing loans instead.
The EDC’s $200,310 grant to the city of East Providence for the solar-power project will be combined with a $100,000 allocation of federal stimulus money as well as a $40,000 grant from the Rhode Island Foundation to help finance the $400,620 project.
City officials said the solar installation at a 220-acre site off Forbes Street is planned to take place in stages.
The city has hired Boston-based CME Energy to develop and operate the solar-panel farm, which officials hope will initially provide power to a nearby middle school, and to the city’s wastewater treatment plant.
East Providence officials have said they hope the city may be able to sell excess electricity back to the electric grid and collect revenue.