2018-03-22 / Editorial

Solar panel money is wise investment

A recommendation by Town Administrator Andy Nota to borrow about $500,000 to invest in solar panels at several sites around town is a shining example of the direction the town should be looking.

The plan calls for arrays to be built on the Fort Wetherill barn, Fort Getty pavilion, recreation center and highway garage. According to Newport Renewables, the project would cover more than 70 percent of the electricity used at these sites. It also would benefit taxpayers by generating a savings of about $30,000 in year one, with the cost of the panels paid off after about half of their 25-year warranty, Nota said.

Moving toward a green solution that helps the town’s energy independence is a smart move. Combined with plans to also add arrays to the library and schools as part of their renovation projects, it not only could provide a hedge against National Grid price increases but also is the direction in which communities should be moving.

The town should consider arrays on any building that would reap a benefit. A $224,000 investment to install solar panels on the wastewater plant, the police station and Town Hall was not recommended at the March 5 budget workshop, but should be kept at the forefront of the town’s thinking.

The consultants indicated state grants from Commerce Rhode Island would cut the cost of the proposal by about $120,000, and other grants may be available in the future as states incentivize the movement to cleaner energy sources.

This plan is vastly superior to the town’s previous dalliance with green energy via potential wind turbines. Not only is solar power considered a more practical green energy source, but it also is far less controversial. Having arrays on the locations suggested would not be eyesores and doesn’t carve into any of the town’s precious open space, making these locations ideal choices.

Hopefully, the town will move forward with this proposal as it only can light the way to a better future for the island.

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