RIPTA Powers Up With Solar Energy From East Providence Brownfield


The Dexter Street solar installation will generate enough energy to power 350 homes. (City of East Providence)

A ground-mounted solar installation erected on a former oil terminal in East Providence will allow the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) to save money on electric costs.

Under a remote net energy agreement with the project’s developer, Kearsarge Energy, RIPTA will receive energy credits for power generated by the 6,000-plus waterfront solar panel array on Dexter Road. RIPTA officials estimate that buying the credits from Kearsarge will save the transit authority at least $250,000 annually.

“As we move toward adding more zero-emission electric buses, we know that they will need charging infrastructure and that finding economical and eco-friendly energy sources is of increasing importance,” said Scott Avedisian, RIPTA’s chief executive officer.

Supporters of the 2,807-kilowatt project, which didn’t require the clear-cutting of forest, noted that the energy installation brought new life to an already-disturbed property in need of remediation. The site was formerly utilized as a petroleum product storage facility which was taken out of service and demolished in the 1980s.

East Providence officials said the construction of the solar array on the 9-acre brownfield has both fiscal and environmental benefits. The solar power the site will generate means less carbon emissions and new tax revenue from an underused propriety.

Kearsarge obtained a brownfield solar grant from Rhode Island Commerce to help cover the cost of mitigating any contamination remaining on the property from prior uses. If the solar installation is decommissioned in the future, the property will have been remediated and ready for other development, according to state and local officials.

“This solar project, the second in our city, has not only removed millions of pounds of CO2 from the environment, but it has also produced dozens of job opportunities,” Mayor Roberto DaSilva said.

The 6-megawatt Forbes Street solar array, built atop a 227-acre former municipal landfill that operated between 1970 and 1980, features 25,144 solar panels and generates enough energy to power 1,000 homes.

Kearsarge, which is based in Boston and has offices in Rhode Island, proposed the solar installation about a year ago. Construction was completed in December. Kearsarge also developed the 9.3-megawatt South Kingstown Solar Consortium on brownfield and Superfund sites.

Andrew Bernstein, managing partner of Kearsarge Energy, noted that the company’s East Providence project is a great example of a public-private partnership.

“We were able to lease formerly underutilized real estate and build a clean energy resource that will provide discounted energy credits for RIPTA as well as taxes for East Providence for the next 20 to 30 years,” he said. “This project is an excellent example of how close coordination by the state in permitting a brownfield and providing a grant, local permitting with East Providence and the Historical Waterfront District, and RIPTA’s agreement to buy the energy credits came together to make this a successful project for all involved.”

The energy produced from the site will save about 62,000 tons in carbon emissions over 25 years, according to Kearsarge.


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