Ocean State Job Lot Unwraps Rooftop Solar Portfolio


Ocean State Job Lot has installed rooftop solar systems at two of its 10 Rhode Island locations, including its Johnston store. (Ecogy Energy)

Ocean State Job Lot could host more than Christmas decorations this winter. The North Kingstown, R.I.-based discount retail chain will be hosting 7,500 solar rooftop panels across 10 of its Rhode Island locations, starting with its Johnston store. The energy generated will be fed directly back into the regional power grid.

Harry Oakley, Ocean State Job Lot’s director of energy and sustainability, estimated the 2.5-megawatt portfolio will power up to 500 homes. The panels will take up about 400,000 square feet of roof space. The project is part of Rhode Island’s Renewable Energy Growth Program, which offers financial incentives for solar and wind projects.

“No company in the RE Growth program has ten locations with solar on its roof,” Oakley boasted.

The company’s rooftop solar portfolio was developed in partnership with Ecogy Energy. The Brooklyn, N.Y.-based business acts as developer, owner, and operator, with Ocean State Job Lot acting as the host for a project that will cover rooftops from Westerly to Woonsocket. Ecogy Energy declined to provide the estimated cost of the project, beyond to say it is a multimillion-dollar investment.

Each array of fixed panels will be held in place by a weighted ballast system that will sit directly on top of the roof without penetrating it, allowing the company to shift the arrays as roof repairs become needed.

“Rhode Island has some aggressive goals, like 100 percent renewable energy by 2050, so we’re trying to help that cause,” Oakley said.

Solar installations, mainly of the ground-mounted type, remain controversial. Residents complain that these non-roof arrays are eyesores and depress home values. The city of Warwick is rewriting its solar ordinances after public outcry denounced them as too permissive.

Warwick city planner Tom Kravtiz has rewritten a draft of the ordinance for the City Council to consider that limits solar construction to parking lots and industrial and commercial zones.

“That’s generally what people want to see,” Kravitz said.

Ocean State Job Lot is working on similar solar projects at its other locations in Massachusetts and New Jersey. The company has also pledged to host solar arrays on five additional roof sites. Job Lot has estimated the first 10 projects will be completed and operational by this summer. The permits for each site are already secured, and four of the sites are undergoing additional structural analysis, but the project is running into procurement issues over the solar panels.

The Johnston solar array is 70 percent complete, according to Oakley. Job Lot expects construction to start at its Woonsocket location following an inspection by the fire marshal, and the Pawtucket location will get the go-ahead once the panels arrive, according to Oakley.

“We’re trying to figure out how much solar real estate we can use with our partners,” he said.


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  1. Job Lot sets the bar high. They are a role model for other businesses with suitable roofs. Makes me want to drive down to buy something at Job Lot. Bravo!

  2. Thank you for "doing solar right" Job Lot! My complaint about ground based solar isn’t about eyesores or property values, It’s about counterproductivity. Why cut down perfect, nature made and maintained ‘solar panels"- AKA trees- to put in artifical panels that don’t even reduce Carbon in the atmosphere? There are thousands of unused residental and commercial rooftops around the state. They are already impervious, already devoid of nature. Let’s use that space to generate our electicity without destroying forests.

  3. Excellent work! Now consider how much easier it would be to plow parking lots in the winter and cool our cars in the summer if we simply covered parking lots with raised solar panels! Properly placed parking lot "islands" could collect the snow as it slid off rows of panels. Someday!

  4. Job Lot has set the standard for other businesses to follow. Developers should be encouraged to go rooftop vs ground. It just makes sense

  5. This is a great story. It has always mystified me why so relatively few owners of large-roofed buildings have enabled solar panels to be deployed on them. Let’s hope many follow Job Lot’s example.

  6. Bravo, Job Lot! If only the state of RI would prioritize this type of solar development over clear cutting our forests, which is beyond "controversial;" it is counterproductive as forests soak up CO2, cool with shade, and protect groundwater.

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