Tikoian favors solar farm on old Ridge Road dump

Tikoian favors solar farm on old Ridge Road dump

Breeze incorrectly identifies site

SMITHFIELD – The best viable option for solar energy in Smithfield is at the former town landfill site on Ridge Road, says Councilor David Tikoian.

Following a Town Council work session last week discussing possible solar projects on municipal properties, Tikoian said he is in full support of developing two town properties for solar.

The Valley Breeze & Observer last week incorrectly identified the privately operated Davis landfill as one of the two sites targeted for town solar and stated that Tikoian spoke in favor of the project, but he was speaking of the Ridge Road site. The municipal landfill off Ridge Road is the “best viable option” for the town to bring in developers for a solar array in Smithfield, said Tikoian this week. Closed in 1974, the old town landfill was “never really properly covered up.”

Tikoian said bringing in developers will help the town in many ways, including bringing electricity savings, payments in lieu of taxes for the municipal-owned property, and Department of Environmental Management-approved closure of the landfill, not at taxpayers’ expense. A long-term lease on the property would bring a steady revenue stream to the town, he said.

“The dump has been the albatross around here, we’ve been kicking the can. Here’s an opportunity to have developers come in,” Tikoian said.

Tikoian pointed to Smithfield’s neighboring town, North Providence, where the town entered a deal with Southern Sky Renewable Energy RI to build a 2.6-megawatt solar array on its old town landfill.

The deal boasted $200,000 in revenues and electricity savings, or $5.1 million over 20 years to taxpayers.

“It’s less than an eighth-mile away. If they can do it, why can’t we?” Tikoian said.

Tikoian said he was at the October 2018 ribbon-cutting ceremony for the landfill while serving as the North Providence chief of police. During the ceremony, North Providence Mayor Charles Lombardi said the landfill property was ideal for solar because it did not require cutting down forests, eliminating controversy.

Neither town properties up for discussion, including the Sand Trace gravel pit off Clarence Thurber Drive or the Ridge Road site, will need much clearing other than some minor tree and shrubbery removal, said Tikoian. He said the gravel pit is an ideal location because it is landlocked.

Much like the North Providence landfill, Smithfield’s old town landfill also can’t be developed into buildings or houses, Tikoian said.

“It’s a win-win for the town, what’s better than that,” he said.

Tikoian added that he favors solar projects on town property over virtual net metering deals where the town purchases electricity bill credits from other solar projects in Rhode Island.

The town considered purchasing credits from a large solar project in Westerly, and decided to send out requests for proposals for a clean energy finance consultant to review options.

“I’d like us to be Westerly,” Tikoian said, adding the town could profit off selling extra electric credits.