Meeting scrapped again on controversial North Kingstown solar farm

By John Krinjak

Email: jkrinjak@abc6.com

Twitter: @johnkrinjakABC6

NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WLNE) — For Keith Healey, a plan to build a solar farm on hundreds of acres off Route 1 in North Kingstown, quite literally hits too close to home–about 50 feet from his property along Westmoreland Lane.

He’s worried about issues like noise and environmental impacts.

"All of us have wells back here, so there’s issues with potential contaminants going into the well water," said Healey. "If you clear cut 200 acres back there there’s serious issues with water runoff. Beyond that is wildlife."

He was among more than 100 people who showed up at a planning commission meeting Tuesday night, which ended up not happening because TurningPoint Energy, the company proposing the plan, made some last-minute changes to its proposal.

This is the second time a meeting about the plan had to be canceled. Last month the discussion was tabled due to an over-capacity crowd. 

"We’ve spent a lot of time communicating with members of the community over the last few weeks, and decided that it would be appropriate to make some substantial changes," said TurningPoint vice president Adam Beal. 

Among them, shrinking the more than 500-acre site by 60%, reducing the number of solar units and donating the remaining land to conservation.

Even with those changes, many residents still aren’t sold.

"What I’m concerned about is that we’re not adopting a smart growth for clean energy. I’m very concerned about the number of acres involved in this project and the deforestation that would result from this project," said Michelle Fonseca of North Kingstown. 

Another complication–next week the planning commission will take another look at the town’s solar ordinance, which could lead to a change by the town council and put the whole project in limbo.

"I think the town council would like to have a second look at it in light of the fact that this may be the first use of the solar ordinance, this particular project," said North Kingstown Planning Commission chair Gardner Palmer.

The Planning Commission voted that Turning Point Energy must come back with a new proposal, given the number of changes made to their original plan.

Company officials say they plan to do that sometime in the next few weeks.

Many in town say they support expanding solar energy, just not in residential areas.