Updated August 28 at 12:41am

The gaining popularity of solar power in R.I.

By Emily Greenhalgh
PBN Web Editor

As the threat of climate change continues to garner attention on the regional, national and international levels, and energy costs continue to rise, municipalities, businesses and homeowners alike are searching for ways to “go green,” both in the environmental and economic sense.

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ENERGY

The gaining popularity of solar power in R.I.

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As the threat of climate change continues to garner attention on the regional, national and international levels, and energy costs continue to rise, municipalities, businesses and homeowners alike are searching for ways to “go green,” both in the environmental and economic sense.

In addition to recycling and paperless billing programs, there has been focus on the renewable energy sources of wind and solar as a way to bolster both the environment and bank accounts.

But as wind-energy projects in the Ocean State receive pushback from neighborhoods that dislike the idea of large wind turbines blocking their idyllic views, solar options for renewable energy have gained in popularity.

“[Wind] is very difficult to site because it is so large, and I would say the experience both in New England and across the globe with solar is that it’s generally more palatable to local communities because it doesn’t stick so high up in the sky,” said Marion S. Gold, Rhode Island’s commissioner of energy resources, who added that her office considered itself “energy neutral,” and was considering both wind and solar in the state’s energy plan, which is scheduled to be submitted in the fall.

Gold said the state had made “significant progress” in solar energy through its distributed-generation contracts program, which is for small to medium-sized solar projects. Since December 2011, 13 municipalities across the state have built solar projects totaling 17 megawatts – enough to power roughly 1,300 Rhode Island homes, she said.

“We’ve seen [solar] go from early adopters to now really mainstream, where just about all businesses understand that there are significant benefits that they can take advantage of using solar,” said Phil Cavallo, president and CEO of New Bedford-based Beaumont Solar Co., a full-service solar engineering procurement and construction company.

Cavallo’s company, which was founded in 2007, is responsible for engineering three of the six solar projects awarded to different companies in National Grid’s Open Enrollment Program in March. National Grid’s program accepts applications for projects three times a year. The latest Open Enrollment Program from the utility began taking applications on June 17.

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