By ETHAN HARTLEY
Thankfully, it doesnâ€™t need to be hot for sunshine to produce green electricity through solar panels. All you need is some direct sunlight, and what Monday morning lacked in the way of warmth it certainly made up for in a cloudless, pristine blue sky of sun that bathed the more than 15,800 solar panels sprawling within the 37-acre solar array on Kilvert Street.
The array should produce enough electricity annually, 6.3 megawatts, to offset the power requirements for the entirety of the cityâ€™s municipal buildings. The array eliminates the annual emissions of 1,335 vehicles and takes the equivalent of 673 households off the grid, according to a fact sheet produced by the arrayâ€™s developer, Southern Sky Renewable Energy of Rhode Island.
â€śToday I am proud to stand here and say that this 37-acre brownfield site is a cleaner site producing clean energy, generating electricity savings and tax revenues for the city of Warwick and welcoming travelers to T.F. Green Airport,â€ť said Ralph Palumbo, president of Southern Sky, during a ribbon cutting ceremony that ceremonially flipped the switch to the array. â€śVisitors see the city and the stateâ€™s commitment to renewable energy and a sustainable future as soon as they arrive here in our state.â€ť
The site, adjacent to the Dean Warehouse property and the newly opened Proclamation Brewing Company in the midst of City Centre, was formerly owned by the Leviton Manufacturing company that operated out of a facility on Jefferson Boulevard for many years, where various electrical components, including electrical outlets, were manufactured.
For decades, the hilly gullies in the large parcel were utilized as pools of wastewater that resulted from the factoryâ€™s operations, which resulted in the contaminated site being capped as a brownfield approximately 20 years ago, according to Terrance Gray, Assistant Director for Air, Waste and Compliance for the Department of Environmental Management (DEM).
DEM began working with Southern Sky a few years ago on the project â€“ which was reported to have cost $11 million â€“ to ensure they cleaned the site and filled in areas with clean soil. Mayor Joseph Solomon praised all those involved to help make the collaborative process come to fruition.
â€śThis site has been vacant for approximately 20 years, but thanks to our partnerships with the IBEW, partnerships with real estate developers, partnerships with elected officials who are present here today and those who arenâ€™t present here today, partnerships with the Department of Environmental Managements â€“ the state â€“ and Ralph, under your leadership and guidance, this beautiful edifice has been completed,â€ť he said. â€śIâ€™m proud of everyone at every level that made this project a success.â€ť
The array is the first of two projects developed by Southern Sky in Warwick, and is the first to go online in the city. According to Palumbo, Southern Sky has installed over 200,000 panels to date in New England.
â€śItâ€™s the perfect use for this kind of site,â€ť said Gray, who displayed in his hand a long-since disposed of electrical plug that was found during the remediation of the former brownfield â€“ a perfect symbol to summarize the environmental progress of the site. Janet Coit, director of DEM, called the project the very definition of a â€świn, win.â€ť