SMITHFIELD – The town of Smithfield is one step closer to potentially hosting renewable energy projects on two town sites.
At the June 1 Town Council meeting, councilors approved issuing a request for proposals for renewable energy growth proposals on two town properties: the Sand Trace gravel pit, located at 0 Clarence Thurber Drive, and the landfill located between 265 and 275 Ridge Road. The gravel pit is 38.6 acres, while the landfill is 24 acres total.
A separate request for proposals for a virtual net metering agreement and project proposals from out-of-town solar arrays was also approved by councilors last Tuesday.
Councilor David Tikoian, who has said he favors solar at the Ridge Road site, asked if they could get a company to place solar on town properties, would there still be a need for virtual net metering.
“It depends on what they find when they look at it,” Michael Phillips, director of planning and economic development, responded, noting that it might not be enough to provide for the town’s needs.
At the request of Councilor Angelica Bovis, the request for proposals will not only welcome solar proposals, but pitches for wind energy projects as well. Council Vice President Sean Kilduff said he doesn’t think wind energy is worth looking into in Smithfield because he can’t think of any sites that would be able to house a large wind turbine.
Christopher Kearns, of the R.I. Office of Energy Resources, who has been working with the town, said that solar is the only option at the landfill site but that he couldn’t speak to whether wind might work at the Sand Trace gravel pit location. He also noted that wind turbines often don’t have support at the local level, but said that there’s nothing that locks the council in to choose wind if they do receive proposals.
“At least you’ll know whether or not it’s viable,” he said.
“I think personally it might be worth exploring wind,” Bovis said. “It’s worth it to our community to make our energy as efficient as possible.”
The goal of this request for proposals is to find the most qualified developer who can design, permit, install, finance, operate and maintain renewable energy growth projects on the two identified town sites over a 20-year period, according to town documents.
There will be a non-mandatory site walkthrough of the town’s landfill and gravel pit site for interested developers on Thursday, June 17, with access to the town landfill from 10 to 11:30 a.m. and then at the town gravel pit from 12:30 to 2 p.m.
With the net metering proposals, the town will give greatest consideration to solar projects or systems located on commercial, industrial and business-developed or undeveloped lots, brownfields, landfills, gravel pits or any other disturbed type properties and not in undeveloped residential lots, according to a memo from Phillips to the council. The town is seeking 20- and 25-year proposals from renewable developers to provide virtual net metering agreement with the town electricity accounts. In a net metering option, the town commits to a percentage of its electric usage, typically between 80 and 90 percent, to outside solar arrays for a tax credit, The Valley Breeze & Observer previously reported.
Proposals for both the town-owned properties and net metering will be opened on Friday, July 30.
Relatedly, at the meeting councilors also approved issuing a request for proposals to hire a qualified clean energy finance consulting firm at the recommendation of Phillips. Town officials have been working with Kearns to develop the request for proposals to hire a clean energy consultant to assist the town in evaluating net metering proposals and agreements, according to Phillips.
“The town of Smithfield is soliciting proposals from clean energy finance consulting firms to evaluate potential virtual net metering and renewable energy growth projects and make a recommendation on a virtual net metering and/or renewable energy growth tariff agreements and projects to the Town Council that provides the greatest long-term savings and/or revenue to the town,” Phillips wrote in a memo to the council.
He noted that there are three to four qualified firms that offer this type of service to municipalities and that the cost of the service is expected to be reimbursed by the firm that is awarded the net metering agreement/project contract.
Tikoian offered to be a member on the committee that reviews the proposals, and Town Manager Randy Rossi responded that he’d love to have a council member involved.
Also at the Town Council meeting:
• In a closed session, which Rossi announced at the start of the open portion of the meeting, councilors authorized the town manager and town solicitor to finalize a lease agreement for the William Winsor Elementary School property on Putnam Pike to the Northern Rhode Island Collaborative for a one-year term in the amount of $218,000 with two options to extend the term for one year each.
• Councilors voted to approve the town manager enter into a contract with Applied Geographics Inc. for three years of GIS services in the amount of $7,000 per year plus implementation costs of $6,100.