Former East Providence Landfill to Receive Solar Makeover


EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Rhode Island can now measure its solar projects in acres, as the state’s largest solar installation broke ground Aug. 14. When finished, the Forbes Street Landfill project will cover 14 acres with some 13,000 solar panels. The project is expected to be completed in mid-November. It will have a capacity to generate 3 megawatts of power, or enough electricity for 496 homes.

The project almost didn’t get off the ground because of the city’s financial woes and delays caused by Hurricane Sandy. William Martin, president of Boston-based CME Energy, the co-developer for the $9 million project, said 88 percent of solar projects never get off the drawing board. The Forbes Street project, however, has many attributes, such as a large chunk of land that was too fallow for other uses. The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) also donated 250,000 cubic yards of clean dirt to cap the old dump, saving the project about $1 million. RIDOT delivered the fill from the Interstate 195 highway redevelopment project.

The city’s Department of Public Works helped cut cost by performing work on the site with a bulldozer that the Police Department provided at no cost. Funds were also obtained from the state’s Renewable Energy Fund ($200,310) and the Office of Energy Resources ($100,000).
“We were absolutely committed to this project,” Martin said.

The connection agreement with National Grid also went smoothly, Martin said. Other projects, such as the three wind turbines erected at the Narragansett Bay Commission, were delayed by several months because of connection issues.
Nick Bullinger, chief operating officer of Nashville-based Hecate Energy, praised Rhode Island’s fixed-pricing program — also known as the distributed generation (DG) contracts program — for making the project attractive for financing.

“I think it’s an excellent state for development,” he said. The DG program, run by the Office of Energy Resources (OER), National Grid and the state Public Utilities Commission was awarded a 15-year power-purchase agreement to sell at a price of 23.9 cents per kilowatt-hour. The city is expected to earn some $5 million in revenues in 25 years through the lease of the land.

There is also room for growth at the 227-acre Forbes Street Landfill, which served as a dump from 1970-1980. About a third of the property is now used to compost leaf and yard waste. Some 45 acres remain suitable for solar.

Solar landfills cost about a third more than traditional solar projects. Typically, the foundation can’t dig into the ground for fear of disturbing the landfill cap. Instead a special concrete ballast will sit atop the fill to secure the solar panels.
Drainage, venting, raised access roads and space for lawn mowers to move within the solar arrays are required to be part of the design. The arrays also will be surrounded by a fence. A prospective landfill must also be closed and the land allowed to settle for at least 15 years before construction begins.
While the East Providence solar project will be the state’s biggest, other sizable ones are also moving forward in West Greenwich, Jamestown, Middleton and the Quonset Industrial Park in North Kingstown.
The Forbes Street project is expected to create 40 jobs during construction.


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  1. I think the number or wording of the price per kilowatt hour is in error since electricity costs consumers in the neighborhood of 14 CENTS per kilowatt hour in RI.

  2. I have the same basic question as the previous post. Can someone explain what math is involved and what it means to the residential customer who now pays less than 7 CENTS ($0.07) per kWH, when National Grid buys the power at a price of $23.90/kWh? That price divided by 15 (years) = $1.59/kWh. What am I missing?

  3. I'm not positive on this case, but typically Electricity companies will pay much higher to Buy electricity then they charge to Sell it. This is because they want to avoid having to build a new power plant to keep up with increasing electricity demand. New power plants cost millions and take decades to pay off.
    Therefore, they see these small projects as a way to keep up with increasing demand, without having to invest any capital themselves.

    But this assumes (as they do) they make a lot of money on the power they already generate, enough to cover the loss on these small projects.

  4. Ahh. Thanks Tom. I see it has been corrected in the article. I have been known to have problems with decimal points too. John's comment also makes sense. Thanks guys!

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