Just less than 140 megawatts of operational renewable energy projects currently exist across Rhode Island, mostly from solar and wind. However, Gov. Gina Raimondo wants to see more – much more – clean energy across the Ocean State in a very short amount of time.
At Quonset Business Park, in front of various business, state and local government officials, Raimondo March 1 announced a goal for Rhode Island to adopt and develop 1,000 megawatts of clean energy resources – close to 10 times the amount the state is currently producing – by the year 2020.
Appearing alongside Frank Epps of Energy Development Partners LLC and state Office of Energy Resources Commissioner Carol Grant, Raimondo, in addition to setting the bar high for renewable energy in Rhode Island, asked people across the state to recognize climate change as a “reality” and think about investing in clean energy through programs that are available.
“We live in the Ocean State and we are uniquely vulnerable to the challenges that climate change presents,” she said. “Super storms, rising sea levels, we all know it. The only silver lining in this is – if we come together to respond to the challenge of climate change, we can meet the challenge.”
Raimondo also said more renewable energy will create more jobs for the state. She believes the state can go from 14,000 green energy jobs currently to 20,000 by the end of 2020.
The groundwork for clean energy is already in place at various locations around the state, including locally. Quonset Development Corp. has entered into an agreement with Energy Development Partners LLC to build solar panels across two 200,000-square-foot building roofs in West Davisville, as well as adding 170 kilowatts to the 500-kilowatt Narragansett ground solar array on Davisville Road, QDC Managing Director Steven King said March 1.
When that project is completed, King said QDC has entered into a power purchase arrangement with the developer and that power will supply all of the park’s usage for all the public facilities in the park, whether it is the pump stations for the wastewater, the water supply wells or the lights.
“We’ll be 100 percent green energy for QDC’s purposes by this summer,” he said, also noting QDC, since 2010, has changed all the park’s lights to LEDs and added variable frequency drives on all large industrial motors, resulting in an 11 percent decrease in overall energy use.
“So, we’re proud of that,” he said.
Raimondo said after her announcement she would like to see state colleges – the University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College and the Community College of Rhode Island – “really embrace” the idea of clean energy, along with the various municipalities across the state.
“The reason I set such a high goal for 1,000 megawatts is, in order to hit that goal, it has to be in every city and town in Rhode Island, everything from residential to small business to big business,” she said.
Block Island Wind Farm, the nation’s first offshore wind farm, went live last year. It produces 30 megawatts of clean energy, in addition to the wind turbines located at the Port of Providence and Portsmouth.
North Kingstown, however, has a moratorium on constructing wind turbines after a lawsuit was filed – and subsequently dismissed in August 2015 – by former residents against Mark DePasquale, the owner of the 411-foot-tall turbine in the North Kingstown Green subdivision on Ten Rod Road.
The question now is how will the state increase its clean energy output by tenfold by the end of 2020. While a specific plan was not outlined at the governor’s announcement, Grant said after the presentation the 1,000-megawatt goal could be fulfilled “in a number of different ways,” whether through additional wind turbines, solar panels or hydropower. It will be a “combination of everybody’s efforts,” she said.
Grant also said homeowners who have installed solar panels on their houses and businesses “will be counted” toward the state’s megawatt number. The state itself is looking at ways to lower energy usage and costs by using renewable energy, she said, citing solar panels are being installed on her Providence office building across from the Statehouse.
“We don’t expect it will take new policies,” she said. “We think we can reach that [goal] by just accelerating our efforts and focusing our time and energy on making it happen.”
OER is currently available to municipalities wanting to discuss how to take advantage of the various clean energy programs and policies being offered, Grant said, “and would love to continue.” The Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank is also a major financial resource that can be utilized for clean energy projects, she said.
“We are glad to help any city or town that wants to consider what they can do,” she said.
Hoping various entities, from government all the way down to residential, will participate in clean energy activities, Raimondo said she is very confident her ambitious goal is “doable.”
“I know it’s a lot. But we can do this,” she said. “We have three years, we have an amazing team, we set the table, we have a good legislative framework ... I chose this [goal] because it’s that important ... so we move Rhode Island into a more prosperous, clean, sustainable future and then we create these jobs in the process.”