Environment

A solar farm in the Port of Providence needs your support

The new plan needs supporters, and the groups are actively searching for support. If you or your group would like to support this effort, contact providence neighbors@gmail.com. It’s a matter of equity. Those big beautiful wind turbines sprouting up in the Port of Providence provide power, not to Washington Park residents, but to Johnson and Wales University.
Photo for A solar farm in the Port of Providence needs your support

Published on January 10, 2022
By Steve Ahlquist

A coalition of neighborhood groups in Providence, including the Washington Park Association, the Smith Hill Community Development Corporation and the Fox Point Neighborhood Association are proposing a solar farm to be built on property that was once going to be the site of a waste transfer station – until public opposition killed that plan. The new plan needs supporters, and the groups are actively searching for support. If you or your group would like to support this effort, contact providenceneighbors@gmail.com.

It’s a matter of equity. Those big beautiful wind turbines sprouting up in the Port of Providence provide power, not to Washington Park residents, but to Johnson and Wales University.

They write:

“In late 2019 and early 2020, we the undersigned group of neighborhood associations, community and environmental organizations, and elected officials successfully opposed a waste transfer facility planned for the intersection of Thurbers and Allens Avenues – a neighborhood which disproportionately bears the burdens of asthma-inducing air pollution, noise, odors, and other harmful effects of heavy industry at the Port of Providence. 

“As the City’s Climate Justice Plan indicates, asthma is the most common chronic illness in children in Rhode Island, affecting 25,000 individuals, or almost 11% of children in the state. The problem is concentrated in Providence, and particularly in low-income neighborhoods of our city, which are experiencing some of the highest childhood asthma rates in the state and New England.

“Now, rather than only blocking a harmful development that would further exacerbate air pollution, we are excited to promote a healthy, sustainable use for the site: South Providence has a unique opportunity to provide clean solar energy for up to 300 homes neighboring 46-50 Thurbers Ave. After the transfer station proposal was rescinded, the Washington Park Association asked the Cranston-based firm Green Energy Development to create a blueprint for a community solar installation at the site, which abuts city property and could be expanded to six+ acres. Upon speaking to a variety of community members, city and state officials, this idea was met with much positive enthusiasm. Letters of support from Grow Smart Rhode Island and Climate Action Rhode Island have already been sent to Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza

“The benefits of this siting proposal include:

  1. Four acres of land with south-facing, unobstructed sunlight that could produce one megawatt of energy, powering 150 nearby homes. If combined with the abutting city land, the array could power up to 300 homes. 
  2. Repurposing a distressed urban brownfield for clean energy development rather than clearing many acres of forest or farmland. 
  3. The land use would not induce additional truck traffic to the already over-polluted area. 
  4. The land use is consistent with the goals of the City’s Climate Justice Plan and Comprehensive Plan. 
  5. This site could be transformed into a cooperative, community-owned solar facility that could create both power and income for South Providence residents. 
Site plan for proposed solar array at 46-50 Thurbers Ave, Providence

“We would greatly appreciate a response that indicates enthusiasm and commitment to moving ahead with this project – specifically to working with the current property owners, community residents, and solar experts to set the groundwork for the success of this must-needed investment in South Providence. If built, this would not only lower utility rates for local residents, it would also bring clean, green development to the most toxic neighborhood in the City while setting an example for urban clean energy development statewide. 

“In our last letter, we the undersigned members of the Providence Coalition of Neighborhood Associations and other stakeholders called on the City to implement the Climate Justice Plan and to take concrete action to reduce the burden of asthma and to improve the quality of life and health outcomes for all Rhode Islanders, especially those in low-income urban neighborhoods most affected by toxic air pollution. 

“Supporting the development of this community solar array is the right place to start.”

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