Another solar farm boosts Quonset growth

State-owned business park becoming a hub for renewable power in R.I.

NORTH KINGSTOWN — The Quonset Business Park is continuing its push into renewable energy with the approval on Tuesday of a lease for a 500-kilowatt solar farm proposed by a Colorado-based developer.

The Quonset Development Corporation’s unanimous vote in favor of an agreement with Bella Energy follows the approval last December of a similar-sized solar project in the park planned by a subsidiary of rTerra, a Middletown clean-energy firm.

The state-owned business park on Narragansett Bay is quietly becoming a hub for renewable power in Rhode Island as the QDC looks to maximize the use of marginal properties that are not suitable for traditional development.

“We’re trying to fit it in where we can,” said Steven King, managing director of the Quonset Development Corporation. “We wouldn’t otherwise put development on these properties.”
Much has been written about Deepwater Wind’s selection of the Port of Davisville in the business park as the staging area for its two proposed offshore wind farms in waters off Rhode Island. The projects are massive and would create hundreds of jobs during assembly and installation.

State officials have talked of positioning the port as a construction center for the offshore wind industry on the East Coast. But Deepwater’s first wind farm, a five-turbine demonstration project off Block Island, won’t start installation until fall 2015 at the earliest. Other projects are still years away.

But in the meantime, a series of smaller clean-energy projects in the 3,207-acre business park have been moving forward one after another. In 2011, Toray Plastics America built a 445-kilowatt solar field at its manufacturing plant where thin plastic films are made. The factory, which is the largest individual consumer of electricity in Rhode Island, has also invested in two cogeneration plants that make it largely independent of the power grid.

At the time it was installed, Toray’s solar array was the largest in Rhode Island. That system seems almost quaint in comparison to newer projects.

What is now the state’s biggest solar project — a 3.7-megawatt facility — was installed last fall on top of a closed landfill in East Providence. But the Quonset Business Park has the second-largest array in the state, a 2.4-megawatt system that Boston developer Nexamp built last summer on top of two industrial buildings in West Davisville.

The system is five times the size of Toray’s and is tied for the largest rooftop solar project in New England.

Last September, NEO Energy, of New Hampshire, announced plans for a 500-kilowatt plant in the park that would generate energy by burning the gas given off by rotting food. The anaerobic digester would take food scraps from restaurants and supermarkets to create biogas and the organic matter left over from the process would be sold as compost...

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