Onsite of North Providence, Rhode Island’s solar powered landfill – with PHOTOS

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Governor Gino Raimondo said, “This is one example of how we do business in Rhode Island.” The Mayor of North Providence, Charles Lombardi, noted the city will earn a projected $5.1 million during the project’s 25-year lifetime – while offsetting 100% of the municipality’s electricity usage. North Providence Council President Dino Autiello ran down the list of everyone important – far faster than I could scribble – who was in attendance. Autiello also pointed out that this project was first presented to the town in August of 2012. There were even beautiful people, Izzet Bensusan and Roshni Mali, from East 42nd Street finance firm Captona Partners, the owners of the project.

Southern Sky Renewables has delivered a ~2,640 kW-DC solar power project composed of Sungrow inverters, approximately 6,700 LG solar modules and a strongly built – but not identified – ground racking system. The pictured Sungrow model SG60KU-M is a 60 kW, 1000-V unit. The LG395N2W-A5 modules are 19.1% efficient premium products. The heavy racking structure sat on top of large concrete slabs that did not pierce the sealed landfill.

The most important picture, below, of the entire site is the landfill gas vent – rerouted because this solar power plant is built atop the collected refuse of humanity. Much ado was made of the “barren land” made use of by the solar project – especially noted, by every single politician, how the town was now making money from a site that was costing North Providence money. The win-win-win cliche was definitely in the air.

Captona founder Bensusan noted to pv magazine that the city would earn its $5.1 million via a combination of $15,000/year in taxes on the revenue earned by the project, ~$150,00/year through electricity savings in the signed 25-year PPA (which may vary in future years), and $42,000/year ($3,500/acre/year) via the land lease revenue that the solar project owner pays to its landlord, the City of North Providence.

The image to the left is simply to point out the very clean wiring job done by the Southern Sky Renewables installation crew. The company has been building in Massachusetts since 2010, when they built a 5.75 MW project atop the City of Canton Landfill.

Southern Sky’s Rhode Island arm has been big in the news recently as part of the state’s heavy solar power growth – including signing a deal with Conti Solar to build a 35 MW portfolio of projects. The portfolio 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. Company owner Ralph A. Polumbo, speaking below next to the North Providence Mayor and the Governor of Rhode Island, is – of course – a CPA.

A few reflections on the project:

  • The higher efficiency solar modules showed that a 19.1% product had come down in price far enough to pencil in the price competitive utility ground scale market, and that limited land space of 12 acres is now considered valuable enough for higher efficiency. This type of product had previously been used largely for residential rooftops, and high value commercial rooftops.
  • Much of the talk from the politicians focused on business and math. There was absolutely talk of the green aspects of the project, as part of the win-win-win conversations, but the focus by all around was definitely the economics. The hippies were wearing suits and signing checks.
  • It was a place to be seen by those who mattered, and the local Council President Autiello showed that as truth as he made sure to recognize everyone he could.

Solar power is the place to be. Nice install North Providence.

Two old friends in the distance

John F. Weaver - PV Magazine Staff Writer