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U.S. Department of Environmental Management Awarded $1.5 Million for Solar

U.S. Department of Environmental Management Awarded $1.5 Million for SolarPROVIDENCE – The Department of Environmental Management has been awarded $1.5 million in federal funds from the RI Office of Energy Resources to install solar panels at nine DEM facilities throughout the state. The solar panels are designed to turn the energy from the sun into electricity that will be used to offset the energy needs at the state facilities. The funding was awarded as part of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) of 2009.

The majority of solar panels will be mounted on existing roof structures on a standard aluminum racking system. Panels will be attached to standing seam roofs with clips, and to asphalt shingled roofs using a “quick-mount” system. Each 40-inch wide by 66-inch high panel is one and a half inches thick, and will be raised slightly above the roof surface. The number of panels used at each facility will vary depending on the size of the installation. Each panel contains 60 square mono-crystalline cell modules that will collect and convert solar energy to electricity. Every installation will include a number of new inverters to convert the electricity from direct current produced by the panels to alternating current used by the building. All the installations will be tied to the electric grid and will include new bi-directional meters to count the amount of electricity that is being made, so that the state’s electric bill can be reduced accordingly. The solar panels meet the requirements of the Buy American Act.

“These installations demonstrate a significant investment in Rhode Island’s commitment to renewable energy. The projects will not only reduce our electricity bills at the different facilities, but will provide a great educational tool for the public,” said Governor Lincoln Chafee.

“This is yet another example of how we are working to increase the use of clean, renewable energy at DEM facilities throughout Rhode Island,” said DEM Director Janet Coit. “These solar arrays illustrate how properly-sized renewable energy projects can work at a wide range of publicly-owned sites. The technology is proven and will result in lower electrical bills for the state for many years to come.”

DEM is installing a web-based “dashboard” reporting system that will allow the public to track the amount of electricity produced by the solar panels and the wind turbines at Fisherman’s Memorial State Campground and Salty Brine State Beach in Narragansett. A third wind turbine is being installed at East Matunuck State Beach in South Kingstown, and data from this wind turbine will be available on the dashboard once the turbine has been completed. Using this system, which is expected to be in place early next year, the general public, students, and other interested parties will be able to see data on the renewable energy that is being produced at all the DEM-owned facilities.

As part of the solar panel site selection process, the Department targeted facilities that both require a substantial amount of energy for operations and would provide an opportunity for the public to learn about the beneficial use of renewable energy in various settings. Although the installations will be similar in outward appearance, the facilities are very different. They range from popular beaches and campgrounds to a community urban farm and an island research reserve.

Solar panels will be installed at the following facilities starting this week:

Scarborough State Beach in Narragansett. Solar panels will be added to the existing roof of the main beach pavilion, and will generate almost 10,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity to save the State $1,400 a year.

Fisherman’s Memorial State Park and Campground in Narragansett. Solar panels will be installed on a maintenance barn at the park and will generate over 10,000 KWH of electricity each year. Last month, a 100 kWh wind turbine was installed at Fishermen’s Memorial Campground that will supply about half of the facility’s electrical needs each year. Combined, the two systems will save the State over $25,000 per year.

Misquamicut State Beach in Westerly. Solar panels will be added to the roof of the existing beach pavilion at Misquamicut. Over 8,500 kWh of electricity will be generated annually by these solar panels that will save the State $1,200 per year.

Burlingame State Park in Charlestown. Three buildings in the existing maintenance compound will be fitted with roof-mounted solar panels that will produce over 78,000 kWh of electricity to save the State $11,000 per year.

Lafayette Fish Hatchery in North Kingstown. Solar panels will be installed on the top surface of the existing 8-foot tall protective cage that covers the existing raceways where fish – primarily trout – are raised to stock RI waterways for public fishing. The solar panels will generate over 21,000 kWh of electricity a year to save the State $3,000 per year in electric costs at this site. The panels will also serve as a shading device for the cold water-loving fish being raised at the hatchery and as a barrier for fish-eating birds in search of prey.

Dawley State Park in Exeter. The park’s administrative building will be fitted with solar panels that will produce over 19,000 kWh of electricity to save the State $2,700 annually. In addition, a back-up electric heating system will be installed in the building to reduce the use of the existing gas heating system and to further reduce operating costs.

Prudence Island Research Reserve. A single, pole-mounted solar array will be installed at the Research Reserve, and will generate over 3,700 kWh of electricity each year. Students involved in educational programs at the Prudence Island Research Reserve will learn about sustainable energy created by solar panels and other renewable sources as part of the facility’s teaching curricula. The solar system is estimated to save the research reserve $500 per year.

Urban Edge Farm in Providence. Founded in 1981, Urban Edge Farm is a one-acre urban farm in Providence run by Southside Community Land Trust. Solar panels will be installed on the roof of the DEM-owned building located on the farm, and will produce more than 3,600 kWh of electricity a year to save $500 in operating costs.

East Matunuck State Beach in South Kingstown. DEM is currently building a new beach pavilion as part of a $4 million revitalization of this popular beach facility. The renovation project includes a new beach pavilion, deck, concession stand, restrooms, a new10 kW wind turbine, and a small solar hot water system for the concession stand. This additional ARRA grant money will fund a solar panel system that will be installed on the new restroom building roof that will generate over 21,000 kWh of electricity per year. The wind turbine and solar systems at this facility will save the State $5,600 per year.

It is estimated that all work will be completed by the end of February of 2012.

Source: Department of Environmental Management

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