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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

EDC awards grants for RI solar projects

By TIM FAULKNER/ News staff

PROVIDENCE — Rhode Island may not be a national leader in renewable energy, but the Ocean State is making progress. The Economic Development Corporation (EDC) recently approved seven grants totaling $184,334 for several residential and smaller-scale renewable energy projects.

The awards, announced April 22, represent the first round of funding from a new program that assists installers and developers working in the state’s struggling solar-energy sector. According to the Solar Foundation, Rhode Island ranks fifth out of the six New England states in solar jobs per capita.

“This is great for the state,” said Michael Cabral, co-founder of Newport Renewables, a renewable energy consultant in Newport. "It's helping expand the industry."

Cabral and co-founder Stuart Flanagan are advising solar projects in Bristol and Tiverton that received funds. A 32.76-kilowatt solar array at Clem’s Electric in Bristol received $27,390, or 20 percent of the $136,952 total project cost. The new solar panels will have an added economic benefit of serving as training for 10 employees at Clem’s, which plans to offer solar energy installation to its customers.

Newport Renewables also is a consultant on a 8.95-kilowatt solar-electric project for three homes at Sandywoods Farm in Tiverton. A grant of $34,596 will offset electric costs in a project to build four “net-zero” homes in a low-to-moderate income housing development running exclusively on solar and geothermal energy.

Cabral said the new grant program will allow his company to work on multiple renewable energy projects in Rhode Island. Prior to the funding, most of his company's customers were outside of the state.

Other grants fund between 19 percent and 25 percent of multiple solar-energy projects:

  • $28,250 to help design and build a 39.76-kilowatt rooftop solar system at National Security Inc. in East Providence.
  • $31,869 to Entech Engineering to build three solar-electric systems with battery backup for three homes on Block Island. A fourth solar project will be built on a new wool-and-textile mill on the island.
  • $26,388 to Real Goods Solar to design and install four solar residential projects in the Providence area.
  • $13,197 to Newport Solar for five solar installations at homes in the North Kingstown area.
  • $22,644 to U.S. Solar Works to install three solar arrays on homes across the state.
The funds were awarded through a new grant and credit program within the state Renewable Energy Fund. The fund aims to boost business for installers of solar and other renewable energy systems for residential and small-scale commercial projects. Other money will help fund feasibility studies and start-up costs for larger renewable energy projects.