To the Editor,
The Warwick City Council’s Public Hearing on Monday, March 7 provides a valuable opportunity for residents to advance what so many of us have been fighting for over the past …
To the Editor,
The Warwick City Council’s Public Hearing on Monday, March 7 provides a valuable opportunity for residents to advance what so many of us have been fighting for over the past six months—a smart solar development policy that protects Warwick’s residential areas, forests, farmland, and open space from utility-grade solar.
I strongly encourage residents to call and email their council person—and to come out in force on March 7 to support the Comprehensive Plan Changes (PCO-2-22) and the New Solar Zoning regulations (PCO-3-22)— and to oppose any amendments that would permit commercial solar in residential areas or weaken the performance standards.
These documents were developed with extensive public input and support. The process began with Mayor Picozzi hosting an informational meeting in October, where over 75 residents packed the Police Station. This meeting was followed by packed City Council meetings in November where, in addition to extensive public testimony, the Council was presented with a petition signed by 240 residents opposing the original solar ordinance. That ordinance, drafted with substantial input from ISM Solar Development, LLC, would have permitted utility-grade solar throughout the City of Warwick. In the end, the Council voted unanimously to withdraw the original ordinance, and to establish a six-month moratorium on solar development while new policies (PCO-2-22 and PCO-3-22) were completed.
Planning Board meetings in December and January again demonstrated overwhelming public support for the new policies, with extensive testimony from residents and more than 100 letters of support to Planning Board members. By unanimous vote, the Board forwarded these policies to the City Council with a favorable opinion. These are the policies the Council will be considering on March 7.
The new solar policies reflect the reality that large-scale solar development is an inefficient use of prime, environmentally valuable land. A report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory finds that solar development consumes 8.9 acres per MW. This has been a problem in Rhode Island. According to The Public’s Radio, over 1,000 acres of forest have been cleared for solar development in Rhode Island over the last four years.
Despite the protestations of ISM Solar, these new policies are not anti-solar.
They provide a framework for Warwick to do its part to stave off the worst effects of climate change. In addition, they enable the city to do this while protecting its forests, which also mitigate climate change and provide other ecological, recreational, and quality of life benefits. Applying the most conservative estimates in a recent Synapse Energy Economics report, the policies advanced in PCO-2-22 and PCO-3-22 would support: 174 MW on Warwick’s commercial/industrial properties; 86 MW on rooftops; 74 MW in parking lots; and 16 MW in landfills and brownfields.
In a time when so much of our public discourse is marred by cynicism and distrust, Warwick’s process for developing these new solar policies has been a model of civility and public inclusion.
For many people, like myself, who have never been involved in local politics, it has been a breath of fresh air to interact with the Mayor, Planning Director, Planning Board, and City Council, and to engage with residents who are passionate about the issue.
PCO-2-22 and PCO-3-22 are the fruits of this collaborative process and could provide a model for solar regulation for other cities and towns, in Rhode Island and elsewhere.
Let’s turn out in force by telephone, email, and in-person to demonstrate to the City Council how strongly Warwick’s residents support the new solar ordinances!
Bob Oberg is a poet and author who has been a resident of Warwick’s Ward 8 for 39 years.
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