On November 15th, the Environmental Council of Rhode Island, ReNewable Now Network and Rhode Island College held a forum on the often contentious but vital issue of siting renewable energy projects in Rhode Island.
The forum featured speakers representing several of the groups who are the most involved and have the most at stake in the siting process, including farmers, renewable energy developers, conservationists, and government officials. We had a lively discussion of the current reality of siting projects, as well as how we can handle these issues in the future.
◊ Brian Wagner, Town of Coventry
◊ Doug Doe, West Bay Land Trust
◊ Paul Raducha, Renewable Energy Developer
◊ Diana Kushner, Arcadian Fields Organic Farm
◊ Jeanne Boyle, City of Pawtucket (Download PowerPoint presentation)
◊ Kaitlin Kelly, Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (Download PowerPoint presentation)
Thanks to The ReNewable Now Network, we are able to share video of the event.
Part 1 highlights the challenges of renewable siting from different perspectives: municipal, business and agricultural.
Some takeaways from this session are:
- Municipalities are struggling to develop ordinances to address renewable siting. They are using each other's work as models and inadvertently restricting good developments like projects on land fills and brownfields. A model ordinance will be presented in Part 2.
- Large solar installations are clear cutting large areas of forested land and sometimes clearing top soil and/or even paving the site.
- Developers are willing to put renewable energy projects in already developed areas, such as brownfield and super fund sites. But these projects are more complicated, require extra permits and are more expensive.
PART II demonstrated that there are good solutions to the various issues which arise while siting renewable energy projects.
- Jeanne Boyle discussed RI's first landfill solar project.
- Kaitlin Kelly described how Massachusetts is using their renewable energy program pricing incentives to drive development away from farms and undeveloped land.
- Massachusetts also has siting requirements which leaving top soil in place and do not allow paving the site that would address some of the issues raised in the first panel.