EAST PROVIDENCE — The first phase of the Forbes Street solar farm project has received preliminary plan approval from the East Providence Planning Board and is slated for construction this spring.
Final steps are in process for regulatory closure of the former landfill through approval of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. Once these closure issues are finalized, construction of the first project, consisting of a three-megawatt solar array facility, will commence.
At full estimated capacity, the Forbes Street solar energy system would be one of the largest solar facilities in New England. The power generated from the project would directly offset the city’s energy expenses while also returning a brownfield property – abandoned since 1980 – to productive use. It would be the first active use of the 229-acre property since the landfill closed in 1979 after a decade as the city’s dump.
In January 2010, the East Providence City Council adopted an updated five-year comprehensive plan that called for the re-use of the Forbes Street site specifically for renewable energy purposes. The city eventually hired CME OCI Solar Power LLC, a team with extensive national and international energy development experience, including design of solar installations on closed landfills.
CME OCI proposed development of a photovoltaic solar installation of between 6 and 12 megwatts with an estimated construction cost of $40 million to $50 million.
The City Council approved a development agreement with CME OCI in November 2010 to begin a feasibility analysis of the project.
In a recent economic development newsletter drafted by the Planning Department, City Planner James Moran said the city can expect to receive between $70,000 and $100,000 in revenue, depending on how much electricity is generated at the facility.