Rhode Island’s solar-powered move: Conti signs 35 MW EPC agreement with Southern Sky

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Rhode Island is a small state, in fact the smallest at approximately 1,214 square miles. Palm Beach County, Florida is 2,383 square miles – just short of doubling the size of Rhode Island. That hasn’t slowed the state’s highest office, led by Governor Gina Raimondo (D), to aim for 1 GW of clean energy by the end of 2020. For a state that has just over 2 GW total of natural gas capacity in seven power plants, that’s a lot of change in just a few years.

As part of that goal, Conti Solar recently signed an agreement to build 35 MW of solar power for Southern Sky Renewable Energy. The portfolio is of five projects – including brownfield, landfill, and greenfield projects located in the towns of Warwick, Cranston and Johnston in central Rhode Island.

Conti Solar has extensive landfill solar power experience, and that experience is part of why Ares Management bought a controlling stake in them back in April.

The portfoluo includes a 21.5 MW array in western Cranston that, when completed later this year, will be the largest solar development in Rhode Island, covering 108 acres.

And again, 35 MW might seem small – but at the end of Q2 2018 – the state had installed a total of 98 MW of solar power. As such, this batch of projects represents greater than 30% of the state totally installed capacity. However, by the time they’re completed, it seems there will be much more solar in place. According to a report by local paper Providence Journal (see below image), the state has an immense amount of solar power coming – to the point where it is causing local jurisdiction stress as the population comes to grip with what their open land might be used for.

Some of the stresses in the state may have led to solar power being classified as ‘manufacturing’ per a local judge. The logic used was that the facility will be used to manufacture electricity from sunlight, as such the facility cannot be built in a residentially zoned area since manufacturing isn’t allowed.

The projects are coming though, with proposals ranging in size up to 58 MW. Green Development, based in North Kingstown, is proposing a 65 MW portfolio.

When combined with the 400 MW of offshore wind power coming to the state, it looks like Governor Raimondo has a plan that’s moving forward.