Solar farm planned at Cumberland Quarry

Solar farm planned at Cumberland Quarry

This map shows the boundaries of the Cumberland Quarry properties targeted for solar power along the Blackstone River.
Board also recommends new rules on size

CUMBERLAND – A new solar facility could soon be coming to the Cumberland Quarry after the Planning Board conditionally approved a master plan for it.

The plan at Douglas Vaughan Properties calls for 6.8 acres of panels in this five-megawatt facility, according to Director of Planning and Community Development Jonathan Stevens.

Also at a March 27 meeting, the Planning Board decided to recommend a revision to the town’s zoning ordinance to increase the maximum coverage for a solar farm site on larger industrial sites from 20 percent to 60 percent. There had been a proposal from the owner of the property to allow up to 80 percent lot coverage for parcels, but “it did not reflect what the town was willing to support,” said Stevens, and the board went with the lower number. The plan from the company calls for coverage far lower than even the 60 percent number, he noted.

There are four properties falling under the parameters of the proposed change to allow up to 60 percent coverage on industrial properties of greater than 10 acres, three old quarries and the FedEx property on Industrial Road. There’s little chance FedEx owner Brad Dean would be getting in line for a solar project, Stevens said.

The section of the Cumberland Quarry targeted for a solar farm is not the part visible immediately to the right of Route 99 heading into Woonsocket. That portion is still active, but the solar project is planned on a defunct portion further down the Blackstone River. The two properties that would house the project currently have a couple of small businesses operating on them.

The Planning Board voted for conditional approval, subject to the council’s approval of a zone change for the site.

The board recommended favorable action on the zone change with the provision of 60 percent maximum lot coverage, according to Stevens.

The quarry solar project is one of several separate solar initiatives happening in Cumberland. Officials last week approved a 25-year net metering agreement with Southern Sky and they’re also pushing forward with plans for a solar farm on the old Albion Landfill.

The council has been asked to do a zone change to allow ground-mounted solar installations on larger properties. Current rules limit solar installations to lot sizes of five acres minimum with a maximum of 20 percent lot coverage.

The next phase of the quarry solar project will be the preliminary plan phase, when the developer is expected to present plans in greater detail.