Plans for highly-contested solar project in North Kingstown delayed

Plans for a highly-contested proposed solar project in North Kingstown were put on hold Tuesday, April 3, 2018. (WJAR)

Plans for a proposed solar project in North Kingstown were put on hold Tuesday night.

It’s a highly contested project, but the Colorado-based company, TurningPoint Energy, said Rhode Island would benefit from the solar proposal.

“We’re very passionate about climate change, we’re very passionate about reducing our carbon footprint, and solar is the right way to do that,” said Adam Beal, who is the executive vice president of development for TurningPoint.

North Kingstown’s planning commission voted to deny a request to continue the pre-application hearing for TurningPoint Energy after the company said it plans to make changes to the project.

“We just really want to see the town put together a smart plan that’s consistent with our town,” said North Kingstown resident Elke Schaumberg.

About 200 people attended the meeting, which was postponed last week due to an overcrowded room. Tuesday night’s meeting at the Beechwood Senior Center in North Kingstown was also at max capacity, with people asked to leave.

TurningPoint Energy has not submitted a formal application for the project, but original plans called for a 32-megawatt ground-mounted solar facility on 567 acres of land near Shermantown and Tower Hill Road.

Now, the company said it’s looking to reduce the size of the project by about 60 percent.

“We would take whatever land we weren’t using for the two solar projects and immediately donate it to conservation,” Beal said.

Many people opposed to the project said they’re concerned about its impact on the environment.

“We are struggling to understand how taking down trees on almost 600 acres of land is in any way consistent with a green policy,” Schaumberg said.

Schaumberg said she and many others are not against the idea of solar, but feel the project could be developed at a different location.

TurningPoint Energy said energy from solar is cheaper and better for the environment.

But some said they don’t want it in their backyard.

“I have a lot of concerns about my two-year-old playing in the backyard next to a 13-megawatt solar facility,” said North Kingstown resident Keith Healey.

The Town Council recently passed a solar ordinance, which led the way for this first-of-its-kind project in North Kingstown.

The planning commission set to give that a second look at a meeting next Tuesday.

“It’s aroused quite a bit of interest and I think it has the Town Council wanting to look at the ordinance again,” said Planning Commission Chairman Gardner Palmer.

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