Zoning Approval for the Installation of Solar Infrastructures in Rhode Island’s Municipalities

Zoning Approval for the Installation of Solar Infrastructures in Rhode Island’s Municipalities

Rhode Island is an exciting place for solar projects. In the last six years, there has been a conscious effort in siting solar development throughout the state. Rhode Island has a goal: 1,000 megawatts and 20,000 clean energy jobs by 2020, set by the government in March of 2017. It’s a piece of Rhode Island’s longstanding commitment to renewables and an Energy Fund was created for the success of this initiative.

The Rhode Island Renewable Energy Fund today offers forty-eight programs to boost renewable energy use, promote energy efficiency and help consumers purchase electric vehicles.

The initiative has also given rise to the number of solar workers by 16 percent in a twelve-month period.

However, these landmark achievements did not come without the approval of cities and towns before solar infrastructure installation. A number of innovatory laws also solidified the foundation to make the future very exciting.

We shall discuss the process of zoning approval for the installation of solar infrastructures in Rhode Island’s cities and towns and the mode of agreement they enter with property owners where the infrastructure would be situated.

Before the statewide permit application was implemented, the 39 Rhode Island municipalities each had their own permitting processes, which varied by requirement. Also, the permitting deadlines varied in each city or town, leaving solar companies and their customers to navigate and balance the processes.

The effect of this was additional time needed to get projects approved and sometimes confusion – solar developers had to learn each municipality’s unique process and respond accordingly.

Following this disparate approach, state legislation was designed to streamline the approval process for renewable energy projects. This paved the way for the creation of uniform statewide solar permitting, and funding support of the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank (RIIB).

At the present time, the new state permit application applies to all scales of solar project development across the state. This measure seems more appropriate for Rhode Island because it will encourage equivalent treatment for solar development.

Nevertheless, both the solar developers and the property owners need the assistance of a utility and energy lawyer to reach agreement in order to ensure the installation success of the solar project.

Benefits of Agreement Between Property Owners and Solar Developers

Property owners can protect themselves through negotiation of a lease agreement, there are various benefits which they stand to gain under these agreements.

We will quickly go over some of attractive benefits for both parties here;

Development Funding
It is recently understood that every Brownfields area can be re-valued if a solar project is sited on the area.

Through a lease agreement, the state’s Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) can facilitate financing for clean energy improvements to commercial, industrial, agricultural, non-profit and some multifamily properties. Funding may also be available through the RIIB mechanism.

Tax Incentives
Most contaminated sites for redevelopment are usually located in Enterprise Zones. Companies that relocate to these areas have the benefit of getting savings from taxation. In addition to this, the cost for remediation can be offset.

Good Labor
Finding labor may be facilitated, mainly because Brownfields sites are located in the heart of the cities and towns.

Our energy has to come from somewhere. The Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank has a collection of projects they are financing and the grant money is available for both property owners and solar development companies.

For Rhode Island to further develop solar infrastructure, parties will need to reach consensus under the above discussed processes.

If you need assistance or want more information about how an utility and energy law attorney can help you with zoning approval for the installation of solar structures, call us at 401.477.0023 or email: help@desautelesq.com.

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