Solar Leases – November Ballot Question 2

The restoration of Town Hall is not the only question on this fall’s ballot. Voters will also be asked to approve leasing town-owned properties to generate electricity.

What else will appear on the Nov 5th ballot?

The Town of North Kingstown, on June 24, authorized the Town Manager to enter into an agreement to build solar-electricity facilities on two sites owned by the town, one a former landfill. The two sites will provide more than enough electricity to provide for all town government operations. Part of that agreement entails leasing town land at the sites to the solar developer. The town’s authority to enter into lease agreements is limited to ten years without voter
approval. The developers want the lease to match the 25-year life of a solar installation, so a referendum is necessary to approve the longer term.

Why is the town using solar electricity?

The short answer is to save money and support renewal energy. This is accomplished through the state’s Remote Net Metering program.

What’s on the land now?

This is not forested land or open space. One site is a closed town landfill and the other is at a town water supply well head.

What is Remote Net Metering?

Remote Net Metering (RNM) is a State program through which renewable-energy facilities can be located remotely from the end user, providing “credits” to the municipality for the electricity generated. Instead of mounting panels on the building roof or on the property, RNM allows renewable-energy facilities to be placed elsewhere (that’s the “Remote” in RNM), while still crediting the municipality for the electricity produced.

In Rhode Island, RNM is currently available only to municipally-owned projects.

How does RNM work?

The town has agreed to allow a solar developer to install solar energy facilities on two town-owned properties, a former landfill site, and a well-head. The developer will cover the equipment and maintenance costs of the facilities in return for a percentage of the electricity-cost savings to the town.

How does the town save money?

For each unit of electricity produced, up to the annual amount consumed by town-government operations, the town will receive a credit on its electricity bill. The town then pays the developer 75-percent of the amount credited; the remainder is savings for the town. The town will also lease land at the solar sites to the developer, and will collect property tax from the developer.

What happens if there is excess electricity produced?

The two sites will produce more electricity than the town uses, so the solar developer will sell the excess solar electricity to the grid, compensating the town. In addition, the developer will lease the land under the excess solar panels and pay property tax to the town.

What is the actual ballot language?


Should the North Kingstown Town Council, in accordance with Section 314 of the Town Charter, be authorized to lease a portion of 395 Hamilton Allenton Road, Plat 80, Lot 1 and 480 Oak Hill Road, Plat 97, Lot 1 for a period not to exceed 25 years for Public/Private Partnership Renewable Energy Projects on such terms and conditions as the Town Council in its sole discretion shall deem fit and proper?

Who is the developer? How did this work?

We’ll let a former town councilor speak to this point.