Development of new solar farm begins at landfill

Development of new solar farm begins at landfill

North Providence Public Works Director Bernie Salvatore inspects ATV tracks at the capped town dump on Smithfield Road. Solar panels will soon be installed on top of the landfill. (Breeze photo by Ethan Shorey)

NORTH PROVIDENCE – Preliminary work on a new 2.5 megawatt solar farm on top of the town’s old landfill off Smithfield Road has begun, say town officials.

The company developing the project, Southern Sky Solar, is waiting on more approvals from the Department of Environmental Management before the actual build-out of panels will proceed, but preparation work is ongoing.

Public Works Director Bernie Salvatore has spent the past few weeks clearing out tons of debris that built up over time at the edge of the landfill as yard waste was discarded there. New fencing is going up that will keep ATV riders off the landfill, which will have a locked gate. Gravel and other materials stand at the ready as Southern Sky Renewable Energy awaits word that it can proceed.

The town will continue to bring yard waste to the edge of the landfill, but it will be shipped out on a regular basis, said Salvatore. The town is also maintaining piles of reclaimed asphalt from town roads to use as base layers for new streets, said Salvatore. The practice, started last year, brings significant savings for taxpayers, he said.

A 25-year deal with Southern Sky is expected to bring some $150,000 in revenue to the town and allow officials to power municipal buildings at a reduced rate.

Attorney Charles Ruggerio, at a meeting this month, recommended that the Town Council approve an amendment to an agreement with Southern Sky that better delineates everyone’s responsibilities at the landfill going forward. The town is responsible for monitoring and maintenance of the landfill cap, while the solar company assumes any responsibility for damage done as part of operation of the solar site.

Essentially, said Ruggerio, if the cap is punctured during construction or operation, Southern Sky has the liability, but “all other liability remains with the town.”

The amendment also mandates Jan. 1, 2018, as the “drop-dead date” for the town to start collecting rent from Southern Sky, said Ruggerio. Regardless of where the company is in the permitting and construction of the solar farm at that point, town officials now have the assurance that the facility will become “economically viable” no later than the first of the year, he said. The solar plan has been percolating for three years, said Ruggerio, so it’s important for the town to start receiving rent even if the company hits another stumbling block in development.

Comments

Untold waste of money getting here, lost revenues from not having this built 4 years ago is just a sign of missing management skills in our town to get constructive things done (solar, LED street lights, reducing taxes, OPEB pension short fall of $70 MILLION and more) .
Taxpayers get hosed again, where is our new business manager?