Work underway on R.I.’s largest solar farm

Work underway on R.I.’s largest solar farm

Construction has begun on the new solar farm off Iron Mine Hill Road, which is scheduled to go online in October 2021. (Breeze photo by Lauren Clem)

NORTH SMITHFIELD – Construction has officially begun on what will soon become Rhode Island’s largest solar farm, a 38.4-megawatt array located between Iron Mine Hill Road and Route 146.

By the time the farm is completed next year, the array will include 122,000 solar panels spread out over a 160-acre fenced-in area. About 185 acres of trees were cleared for the project, which is located on a site of more than 400 acres.

In addition to being the largest solar farm in Rhode Island when it’s completed, Mark DePasquale, founder and CEO of North Kingstown-based Green Development, said it’s the largest project the company has ever taken on.

“This is one of the biggest projects in New England,” he said.

Though the company only received its official signoff from the Planning Board earlier this month, tree clearing for the project began late last year after the company obtained a forestry permit from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. DePasquale said all clearing and stumping has been completed and the next step is grading, which is expected to include blasting on the property.

Last Thursday, members of the town Planning Board and Conservation Commission took a tour of the site, including the foundation of a historic farmhouse that once belonged to the Mowry family. The foundation, which was not mentioned in an initial archaeological survey earlier this year, later became a source of debate after board member and North Smithfield Heritage Association President Richard Keene pointed out its existence and lobbied for its preservation.

The company has agreed to preserve the foundation and a 25-foot area around it.

Despite the tour being listed as a public meeting, Green Development declined to allow reporters on the property, citing concerns about liability and the wishes of the landowner, Ralph Ferra. DePasquale and Green Development Engineering Director Kevin Morin answered questions at the entrance to the site, saying they were excited to begin construction.

“It’s a long project. We’re happy that it’s done, it’s going to be good for the town,” said DePasquale, referring to the project’s 27-month approval process, which began in March 2018.

DePasquale said the company has hired about 20 new employees to work on the project, with approximately 27 on site last week. At its peak, he said, the project will require between 200 and 300 employees on the property daily after panel installation begins in the fall.

The solar farm is scheduled to go online by October 2021.

Comments

Someone tell me with a straight face that the de-forestation of the land for this project is being completed in the name of GREEN and is somehow good for the Town! It's so good that the owner and developer wouldn't let reporters see the devastation in progress. Even they are embarrassed.

Someone needs to fly a drone over it or fly over in a small plane to take photos and post them online. Show everyone the hypocrisy of the Green movement.

Come on by to my house, I will let you over for coffee and we can take a stroll in my yard.. I live on the property and every single day it's the same noise & massive amounts of land being cleared. The animals are displaced. The amount of land they cleared is just astonishing and sickening. All my landlord talks about is the $$ they are getting from Mr. Green, how she's all set for the rest of her life etc.. it's a terrible shame and I hate seeing it every single day. This property was beautiful, but in my years of living here, all the tree companies who came and cleared and promised to fix the 3 to 4 foot trenches their trucks made in the yard where my kids play, of course they never did. It's all about the $$$. They do not care about the land, animals or residents and I will be leaving my 7 year home because of it.