JOHNSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — Dozens of residents packed the Johnston Senior Center Thursday night to express frustration over a developer’s proposal to construct a 160-acre solar panel farm along Winsor Avenue.
The Johnston Zoning Board heard from representatives of Green Development LLC, who explained their 19-megawatt solar field would be in use for at least 25 years and would likely generate more than $3 million in revenue over that time period.
This isn’t the first time a solar panel proposal has sparked controversy in Johnston. Residents came out in droves to protest a similar proposal last year, which the zoning board rejected after an hours-long hearing.
But Green Development LLC argues that this proposal is different, in part because it is slightly smaller in size and would no longer store lithium-ion batteries.
But residents argue that clearing the land to build a solar panel farm would have a negative impact on the environment.
“I’m concerned that all of the displaced animals will be roaming around and getting hit by cars,” Johnston resident Karen Silverbush said.
“There’s an impact for everything you do,” Steve Silverbush added. “If you don’t pay attention to that and look at the big picture, it could cause more problems. If the company’s not liable for it, who do you go to?”
The hearing on the similar proposal in 2022 lasted more than eight hours. To prevent that this time around, the zoning board agreed to split the meeting up.
The zoning board plans to continue the hearing in November. It’s unclear when a decision on the proposal will be made.