Rhode Island’s largest wastewater treatment authority is close to being powered by 100 percent renewable energy.
The Narragansett Bay Commission has reached a deal on two solar energy farms to be completed by next year in Coventry and Richmond.
The wastewater treatment authority already gets 47.5 percent of its electricity from wind power. With the upcoming solar farms, and an additional biogas project currently in the works, they’ll be at nearly 100 percent renewables by summer 2018.
The commission previously made a commitment to reach that goal by 2020.
Tom Uva, director of environmental science and compliance for the Narragansett Bay Commission, said it’s important for wastewater plants to watch their energy consumption because electricity is the largest operating cost.
"We use 36 million kilowatt hours of electricity per year," Uva said. "Our electricity bill is typically around $4 million, or somewhere around that range.”
Uva said the solar project is estimated to save the facility $18.5 million within the next 25 years.
Uva added the wastewater treatment authority has gotten complaints about taking up acres of land that could be used for farming. However, Uva said using the space for solar panels is a good thing.
"What we are really being is stewards of that land, and we’re basically preserving that land for the next 25 years. When a new technology comes out, that land will still be open spaces, it will be available," Uva said.
The solar farm in Coventry will take up 17.5 acres. The Richmond site will be 21 acres total.
Uva said the solar farms are expected to offset 110,092 metric tons of carbon dioxide over 25 years, equivalent to what a power plant would emit during that same timeframe.