Solar Site: North Kingstown residents oppose solar farm

    Residents in North Kingstown want a solar ordinance taken off the books. (WJAR)

    Solar farms are now becoming more common across Rhode Island and not everyone is thrilled.

    Residents in North Kingstown want a solar ordinance taken off the books.

    The Town Council passed a solar ordinance in January.

    Now, the Planning Commission has been tasked with taking a second look, as solar developers start making their pitch to come to the Ocean State.

    "It’s as sterile and flat as a pool table," one North Kingstown resident said at a special Planning Commission meeting Tuesday.

    He was referring to the deforestation of large parcels of land near a solar site in Western Cranston.

    "It's completely contradictory given the circumstance if you're tearing down those trees to go green," another resident said.

    Under the current ordinance, free standing solar farms are allowed within single or multi-family zones if granted a special use permit.

    It paved the way for a Denver-based company to propose a ground-mounted solar facility on roughly 567 acres of land near Shermantown and Tower Hill Road in North Kingstown.

    But a proposed revision introduced by the Planning Commission would prevent commercial-scale solar arrays from being developed in those areas.

    "All the residents and all the members of ‘Save NK Woodlands’ support solar completely," said North Kingstown resident Gary Blanchette. "It's just trying to find the responsible way to develop it."

    But those in favor of solar argue the energy produced is more cost-efficient and better for the environment.

    It’s the idea behind proposed zoning changes in rural communities across Rhode Island, such as Exeter and Hopkinton.

    In West Greenwich, residents will weigh in on proposed zoning changes for the state’s largest solar proposal Wednesday at 7 p.m.

    "We're 100 percent for solar and green energy, we just don't want to see forests and wetlands get evaded for that," said North Kingstown resident John Soucy.

    The Town Council would have to review and approve any proposed changes to the ordinance.

    Some said they want to see the ordinance repealed altogether.

    "We hope that the state will move forward and incentify development in a responsible manner on previously used lands, brownfield sites, etc., instead of incentifying irresponsible companies to cut forests and woodlands," Blanchette said.

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