The state of Rhode Island currently has an estimated population of 1.06 million people. The power plants use fossil fuels (95.9%) and renewable energy (4.1%) to generate electricity in the state. The fossil fuel power plants primarily use natural gas to generate power in Rhode Island. Biomass is the primary source for renewable energy in the state.
In 2014, the government of Rhode Island created the Renewable Energy Growth (REG) program to finance the development, construction, and operation of renewable energy projects in the state from 2015 through 2019. The goal of the REG program was to install a total of 160 MW in renewable energy projects over the five year period. In 2017, the REG program was extended to 2029. The goal of the revised REG program is to install a total of 400 MW of renewable energy from 2020 through 2029.
The government of Rhode Island is now promoting an innovative program to develop solar parks on polluted lands. The program is designed to ease tension between the state’s growing solar industry and environmentalists that want to preserve the state’s green space.
Opposition to solar began with the development of several large-scale projects in forested area, which meant clearing thousands of trees. Rhode Island’s new “brownfield” initiative is meant to solve the conflict between the solar industry and the environmentalists. The state’s innovative program is a result of collaboration with all stakeholders, including environmentalists, farmers, businesses and municipal planners.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) defines a brownfield as a solar development on contaminated or polluted land. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has identified more than 80,000 sites for renewable energy development. During the remediation process, the sites are cleared of any above-ground structures and are converted into large, flat, open surfaces, which are ideal solar photovoltaic (PV) panels.
In my opinion, Rhode Island is showing innovation in the quest to move from fossil fuel to renewable energy. I applaud the state’s collaborative approach to bring all stakeholders together to resolve disputes between solar energy advocates and environmentalists that want to preserve precious green spaces.
Rhode Island’s approach to renewable energy is a far cry from the states of California and Oregon that prefer to implement draconian cap-and-trade or carbon tax initiatives on their residents. An in depth look at cap-and-trade or carbon tax initiatives around the world show crippling price increases on the private sector and individuals. In my opinion, the legislators of California and Oregon should look at the progressive energy policies in Rhode Island, before implementing new carbon related taxes.