Newport Solar got 28 new projects this year – 27 homes and one restaurant – as a result of the Rhode Island Renewable Energy Fund program for small-scale solar projects.
“It’s made me very busy,” said Newport Solar President Doug Sabetti, who has 30 years of construction experience and launched the specialty solar business in 2009.
“The funding pays for 25 percent of the installed cost of the project,” said Sabetti. “The past few years, there was no incentive in Rhode Island and my business was absolutely flat. I had three solar projects in 2010, two in 2011 and two in 2012.”
Several initiatives in the past couple of years are encouraging renewable energy projects, especially solar, to expand in the Ocean State.
So far this year, the Renewable Energy Fund has awarded more than $263,000 to solar-installation companies for the 25 percent share of eight small-scale solar projects, with the remaining 75 percent investment by the property owner, according to R.I. Economic Development Corporation spokesperson Melissa Czerwein.
In addition, the state has three other programs to encourage renewable energy projects, including commercial scale solar, pre-development loans and early-stage commercialization loans, said Czerwein.
“The state has made advancements on solar-energy development over the last two years with the launch of the distributive-generation-contracts program launched in 2011,” said Chris Kearns, chief of program development for the R.I. Office of Energy Resources.
“We’ve seen renewable energy projects proposed in 25 of the 39 cities and towns, and those are both private and public projects,” said Kearns “About 98 percent of those projects are solar, with a couple of wind-turbine projects.
Those projects are required to be operational in 18 months, starting with the first contract awards in December 2011. Under the distributive-generation program, the power is sold back to National Grid under a 15-year contract.
Some of the solar projects are larger-scale, including East Providence’s Forbes Street project, said Kearns. The East Providence project due for completion in November is a 13,000-panel solar farm.
“Because of programs like distributive generation and the adjustments we made to the Renewable Energy Fund through the legislature in 2012, we’re seeing an increase in solar activity in the state,” said Kearns.
“Before we restructured the Renewable Energy Fund program in 2012 to establish a residential program, we hadn’t had a residential program for several years in the state for solar to support small-scale solar development for homeowners, like we see in Connecticut and Massachusetts,” he said. “We started awarding funds for residential projects in 2013.