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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

New funding for solar projects

By TIM FAULKNER/ News staff

PROVIDENCE — The third and final round of solar-energy grants for 48 small solar projects were recently announced by the Economic Development Corporation (EDC).

The grants fund 25 percent up to $10,000 for new residential and small-business solar installations. The latest projects are bundled by installers:
  • Fifteen photovoltaic projects across the state for Newport Solar $79,228.
  • Eight photovoltaic and eight solar hot water projects across the state for Island Solar, $62,181.
  • Eight photovoltaic projects in Providence for Real Goods Solar, $40,312. Six of the projects are part of the West Broadway Neighborhood Association.
  • Six photovoltaic projects in Jamestown and Newport for Newport Renewables $47,190.
  • Three photo voltaic projects in Providence and Tiverton for Sol Power, $22,329.

In all, 204 kilowatts of new solar projects received funding. The 2013 grant program helped fund 86 solar projects, with $515,518 going to six local solar installation businesses.

Eric Beecher started Sol Power this summer after learning about the EDC's solar grants. “I think it’s the best thing right now for addressing climate change," he said. Beecher intends to grow the company as a cooperative, offering future employees ownership in the business.

Doug Sabetti, owner of Newport Solar, said the grant program saved his solar business. This year, he’s been able to hire a crew of four installers and partner with two electricians. During the first seven months Sabetti completed 28 installations compared to two or three last year. He has written estimates for another 30 customers. "So the interest is growing. It's great," he said.

The grant program, run by the Renewable Energy Fund, now moves into the second of three phases for solar funding. Phase II will fund larger commercial solar projects, and Phase III will fund early-stage renewable projects. The fund receives between $2 million and $3 million annually through a surcharge to utility customers.

In order to track the impact of this solar and other renewable-energy programs, the EDC also approved $100,000 to fund a review of Rhode Island's renewable-energy sector. The study was mandated by the General Assembly.

“We want to make sure we’re making smart decisions,” said Marion Gold, director of the Office of Energy Resources.