NORTH KINGSTOWN—At its monthly board meeting Tuesday, the Quonset Development Corporation (QDC) entered into an agreement with Bella Energy, Inc., a Colorado-based solar energy company, to construct a new solar panel array in the area of Camp Avenue at the Quonset Business Park. The lease agreement, which gained approval to be signed Tuesday, will potentially bring in a 1.5-acre solar array and provide electricity to customers through National Grid.
“This lease makes sense for a variety of reasons,” said Ted Kresse, spokesperson for the QDC. “It promotes alternative energies within the state, helps encourage a diversity of companies within the park, and it also provides a good, quiet and compatible land use to the adjacent residential area.”
Quonset had been significantly active in recent months in promoting the establishment of alternative forms of sustainable energy projects on their land, including a new solar array at Toray Plastics last fall. Kresse stated that the land on which Bella Energy seeks to construct is solar facility cannot be developed for any commercial use.
“It is land that we consider marginal at best, and we can’t do industrial development on it anyways,” said Kresse. “They are taking what would be very non-productive land and putting it to a productive use.”
Bella Energy was awarded the opportunity to sign a lease agreement after responding to the QDC’s call for RFPs this past year. The terms of the 15-year lease include two five-year options, prices for which will be negotiated in the future, and payments of approximately $9,500 per year. The electricity which the array ultimately produces will be sold to National Grid, and ownership of the facility itself is still being discussed, according to Hunter Strader of Bella Energy.
“[The project] is not 100 percent engineered yet, and there are a bunch of steps that go into the developing of solar,” said Strader. “One is permitting, [and] we still need to finalize lease agreements/ We will be meeting with the neighborhood and talking with them about the benefits and address their concerns, and we will need to secure financing.”
“Those are kind of moving parts that need to be addressed before the array is built,” he added.
Strader hopes that construction will begin on the array by this fall, and stated that once the engineering and planning process is completed, the solar array should be constructed within two to three months.
“We just did an array in Colorado that was twice the size, and as soon as we started construction, it took less than two months to get it operational,” he said. “So the actual installation process is pretty quick.”
The lease rate has been discounted for Bella Energy because of the site work which must be done prior to construction, such as bringing in fill to level the wetland areas of the property. Strader stated that the 500 kW per parcel solar facility is expected to take up only 1.5 acres of physical space, although the lease allows for the development of approximately 10 acres.
Strader noted that Bella Energy, which was established in 1982, has been doing more in New England as incentives for solar energy projects have increased, and that the current project will not only provide an alternative form of energy to customers, but create jobs.
“There is a great partnership in Rhode Island,” said Strader.” There are a lot of folks competing for a small slice of pie, but we are able to excel and do well in that environment because we have a tremendous amount of experience, having done over 600 projects.”
“When we operate in Rhode Island, we don’t send crews from Colorado, but utilize the local labor force,” he continued. “That is a big goal of the solar industry; to help the local economy, create jobs and fight things like climate change.”