Rhode Island

Morrone wants Town Council to explore options on solar power | Daily-news-alerts

WESTERLY — The City Council President has asked local leaders to consider installing a solar power system at Westerly’s closed landfill.

Edward Morrone has asked the council to study the potential for solar development at the site “over the coming weeks and months”. He also wants the corpse to find new locations for freshwater wells and shore up the city’s protective coastal dunes.

Morrone provided an example of a similar solar project that took place in South Kingstown.

“On Rose Hill Road, where the South Kingstown transfer station is located, there is an impressive solar array on the closed landfill,” Morrone said.

The Council President said South Kingstown has been able to place solar panels on its landfill without penetrating the protective membrane, using large, weighted feet to rest each panel on the surface.

Two decades after the Rose Hill landfill was designated a Superfund site, a four-year, $14.5 million cleanup of the area was completed in 2012. The 4-megawatt Rose Hill landfill on a 20-acre site has been online since September 2018.

It is part of the South Kingstown Solar Consortium, which also includes a 1.3-megawatt site in West Kingston and a 3.3-megawatt facility at the University of Rhode Island.

Westerly already has a solar field project that is also scheduled to go online. Work on a 30-acre ground-mounted solar array at the former White Rock Road quarry was completed last month. The long-delayed solar project is expected to significantly reduce the city’s and school system’s electricity spending.

More than a decade ago, the city discussed plans to build a solar array at the former landfill site off Route 91.

In what was touted as the state’s largest proposed solar farm in 2010, a ground-based photovoltaic array — a $10.5 million project — on 30 acres of the city’s old landfill would have powered community and school buildings.

However, those plans stalled when it was discovered that the sealed landfill was not strong enough to handle the number of slabs required to complete the project. The landfill also reportedly presented problems connecting to the electricity grid.

In March 2019, the municipal council approved the city’s first solar power ordinance. The ordinance regulates both residential complexes and larger solar parks for generating electricity for public and private utilities, industry and commerce.

In addition to exploring solar energy options, Morrone also wants the council to consider strengthening beach dunes. During a major storm on December 23, between eight and ten dunes along Atlantic Avenue suffered fractures. The cracks had to be repaired by the city.

“The dunes get washed away, we replace them, and then it happens again,” Morrone said. He said the city should explore measures such as using plants and fences similar to state beach dunes to ensure they don’t breach during a severe storm.

Westerly also needs to address its future water needs, Morrone said.

“It might be good for us to start thinking about future drill sites now,” he said. “Sites that we identify, acquire if prudent, drill and cap so that they exist for future generations and we don’t have to search for a water source in the event of a drought.”

Last August, US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack designated all five of the state’s counties — Bristol, Kent, Newport, Providence and Washington — as primary natural disaster areas due to the 2022 drought.

“When we talk about climate change, we always think of rising tides. We had a bloody drought last summer,” Morrone said.

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