A design plan submitted to the town by Turning Point Energy shows the site of a future solar farm near Slatersville Reservoir. To the east of the farm is Trout Brook Pond, while to the south (not shown) is Pound Hill Road and to the north and west are Holliston Sand Company and the Brookside Equestrian Center.
NORTH SMITHFIELD – A national company is moving forward with plans to build a solar farm in the area of Trout Brook Pond and Slatersville Reservoir, with a groundbreaking planned for this summer.
Turning Point Energy, operating locally as TPE Rhode Island Solar Holdings LLC, received its final approval on Feb. 7, nearly one year to the day after company representatives first pitched the project to members of the Planning Board last February. According to Adam Beal, executive vice president of development for the company, the solar farm is expected to undergo a five- to six-month construction process and go online by the end of the year.
While Beal noted the project design is still being finalized, earlier versions of the proposal estimated the farm’s energy output at 6.22 megawatts with panels covering approximately 40 acres of the 105-acre site. By the company’s estimate, the project will generate at least $65,000 annually in local tax revenue compared with $1,150 assessed on the property now.
The company is in the process of purchasing several parcels from local landowners to piece together the site along Trout Brook Pond between Pound Hill Road and Slatersville Reservoir. The area was previously the subject of a dispute between landowners and the owners of the adjacent Holliston Sand Company and Brookside Equestrian Center over access to several parcels reachable only by boat or via an unpaved former “paper street,” or street that is only found on maps. As part of the project, Turning Point Energy negotiated an easement with Holliston Sand Company to access the site from the west rather than by Pound Hill Road to the south.
“Two of the parcels to be purchased front along Pound Hill Road. Therefore, the project could have used Pound Hill Road for its ingress and egress,” explained Beal. “However, considering the quiet, residential nature of that stretch of Pound Hill Road, not to mention a wetland crossing that would have had to have been upgraded and improved, we felt it best to instead attempt to obtain rights to access the project site from the west.”
The site also abuts a former landfill, a point considered favorable to the project by the developers who noted its limited possible uses due to environmental contamination. The solar farm is expected to be operational for at least 35 years, and a decommissioning plan has been submitted to the town.
While the facility will remain out of sight for a majority of North Smithfield residents, locals can still feel its impact on their energy bills, according to Beal. Thanks to an agreement with National Grid, residents will be able to “subscribe” to a share of the solar farm equal to the amount of electricity they use at home. The share will then be credited to their utility bill in the form of net metering credits, allowing residents who do not have their own solar panels to participate in a system designed to feed renewable energy back into the grid at the same rate a household uses energy. The shares, said Beal, will likely be sold at a discount, resulting in a net savings for subscribers.
The program is not limited to North Smithfield residents, but Planning Board members requested the company target local residents in their promotional materials so that they have an opportunity to sign up before others in the state. The farm will produce enough energy for about 2,400 Rhode Island residents to participate in the program.
The project is one of two proposed solar developments that made the rounds before town boards last year. The other proposal, a much larger, 40-plus-megawatt solar farm proposed near Greenville and Iron Mine Hill Roads, is still undergoing review by the Planning Board. That project was proposed by Green Development, a North Kingstown-based solar and wind energy company.
According to Beal, Turning Point Energy also recently received approval for another solar farm in West Greenwich that will be built along the same timeline as the North Smithfield project. The company also has several other Rhode Island projects in the early stages of development.
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