Another RI town discusses renewable energy proposal

South County

Residents in Exeter are currently discussing a plan to bring solar energy to various parcels of land in town.

Green Development LLC, the company proposing new solar panel farms, attended a Town Council meeting Monday night to introduce its plan.

Green Development President Al Buckman said the company has gone over the town’s zoning ordinance, and has worked with the planning board to identify 15 parcels of land, each 27 acres or more, that could be developed with solar panels.

“We see ‘not my backyard’ everywhere we go, and we’re sensitive to it. We live here. We work here. We’re going to be here 25, 30 plus years with these projects,” Buckman said. “This [plan] is a nice way to generate tax revenue for the town, and allow farmers to continue to keep the land in their family and keep their business going.”

While many residents said they support the company’s ideas, most agree they don’t want it in their town.

“Do I want solar in my backyard, within feet of my backyard, stripped land with a fence versus the beautiful trees and canopy that I have? Absolutely not,” Exeter resident Susan Persechino said.

Green Development LLC says its solar proposal in Exeter alone would generate $12 million in tax revenue, a $338 thousand scholarship fund, and local job creation. But, the Rhode Island-based company is also proposing a similar plan in other municipalities statewide.

“It’s happening everywhere in Rhode Island,” Exeter Town Planner Ashley Sweet said. 

Sweet, who is also a liaison for the Rhode Island Chapter of the American Planning Association, says Rhode Island has the resources to develop these renewable energy projects, but cautions they require planning.

“Renewable energy feels good. It’s good thing, and people want to be in favor of it,” Sweet explained. “But, we have to talk about where it belongs and what it should look like for each community.”

In Exeter on Monday, there was supposed to be a public hearing after Green Development’s proposal was introduced, but the Town Council opted instead to ask the company to revisit its proposal and iron out the details. Sweet said the planning board was under the assumption Green Development wanted to development 129 parcels of land in the town, not 15.

In Exeter, the solar panels will not be brought to the Town Council again until June 4.But the debate continues in several communities across Rhode Island. On Tuesday, a similar hearing will be held in North Kingstown to discuss a solar panel farm being built there.

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