Energy

R.I. to Buy Electricity from Solar Array Proposed for Conn. Quarry and Tobacco Farm

Two planned ground-mounted solar arrays in East Windsor, Conn., will cover 568 acres of quarry and tobacco farm. (Gravel Pit Solar II/D. E. Shaw Group)

National Grid has been given the exclusive right to buy the electricity from a sizable ground-mounted solar array proposed for central Connecticut.

The 50-megawatt Gravel Pit Solar II LLC project is being developed by the New York City hedge fund D. E. Shaw Group, the same investor that funded the Block Island Wind Farm.

Initially, D. E. Shaw would only say that the project would be in East Windsor, Conn., and asked the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to temporarily keep confidential the address of the solar facility, arguing that releasing the location might jeopardize permits, approvals, and the purchase of the land.

“Knowing the specific location introduces potential difficulties in securing those property rights if you know the exact specific location of the site,” Joseph A. Keough Jr., the attorney representing D. E. Shaw, said at the PUC’s March 27 virtual hearing.

On March 30, PUC chairwoman Margaret Curran ruled against the request, saying the information is undeniably public information even for a short period of time.

The application later showed the address as 40-52 Apothecaries Hall Road, in Broad Brook, Conn., a village of East Windsor.

In all, the renewable-energy project will be built on 568 acres covering two large parcels. A total of 310 acres is classified as active or closed sand-and-gravel quarry. Another 243 acres is listed as active tobacco farm or land used for forestry. Fifteen acres are vacant commercial land.

The lots are near existing but much smaller solar arrays, a gun club, and pockets of existing homes.

The PUC approved the purchase of electricity by National Grid for 20 years, paying 5.3 cents per kilowatt-hour. National Grid will share 1 percent, or 0.5 megawatts, of the electricity with the Pascoag Utility District and the Block Island Utility District.

Because of the low price for the electricity to be generated from the proposed solar installation, consumers are projected to save more than $30 million over the 20-year power agreement. National Grid will own all of the renewable-energy credits (RECs) generated by the facility.

The 50 megawatts, enough to power 18,500 homes, will count toward Gov. Gina Raimondo’s goal of securing 1,000 megawatts of renewable energy by this year.

D. E. Shaw plans to secure all permits for the project by April 30, 2022. The approval to build must be obtained from the Connecticut Siting Council, Connecticut’s version of Rhode Island’s Energy Facility Siting Board. D. E. Shaw expects approval from the Connecticut Siting Council by July 31, 2021 and have the project in commercial operation by Jan. 15, 2023.

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