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Wednesday, February 28, 2018

4th Annual Food Tank D.C. Summit, now live!

Just moments ago, our 4th Annual Food Tank Summit went LIVE on FoodTank.com from The George Washington University, in partnership with the National Farmers Union, National FFA Organization, National Young Farmers Coalition, and World Resources Institute.


All day, we are exploring the topic of "Cultivating the Next Generation of Young Food Leaders," and we have 35+ amazing speakers that will make today unforgettable!
I need your help making today a huge success. We offer these Summits in their entirety completely free via live stream (along with dozens of campus watch parties happening simultaneously), so we really want to reach as many people as possible.
Can you please do these five quick things to help us carry today’s message?
1. Click HERE and share the Summit Facebook Live stream to your personal page, group pages you belong to, and organizational pages you manage. This really helps gets Facebook’s algorithms humming to put the event in front of as many people as possible. 
2. Please use this sample tweet and Twitter image below, and share on your feed.
Sample Tweet:
LIVE TODAY (9:00AM–5:
30PM
 EST): 35+ Amazing Speakers "Cultivating the Next Generation of Young Food Leaders." Stream free NOW at FoodTank.com. Agenda: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2018-food-tank-summit-washington-dc-cultivating-the-next-generation-of-young-food-leaders-tickets-37008656889. #FoodTank Summit w/ @gwtweets, @YoungFarmers, @NFUDC, @NationalFFA, & @WorldResources.




Study: Most accurate climate change models predict the most alarming consequences

Study: Most accurate climate change models predict the most alarming consequences

by Chris Mooney
The climate change simulations that best capture current planetary conditions are also the ones that predict the most dire levels of human-drive warming, according to a statistical study released in the journal Nature on Wednesday.

The study, by Patrick Brown and Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford, California, examined the high-powered climate change simulations, or models, that researchers use to project the future of the planet based on the physical equations that govern the behavior of the atmosphere and oceans.

The researchers then looked at what the models that best captured current conditions high in the atmosphere predicted was coming. Those models generally predicted a higher level of warming than models that did not capture these conditions as well.

The study adds to a growing body of bad news about how human activity is changing the planet's climate and how dire those changes will be. But according to several outside scientists consulted by The Washington Post, while the research is well-executed and intriguing, it's also not yet definitive.

"The study is interesting and concerning, but the details need more investigation," said Ben Sanderson, a climate expert at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado.

Brown and Caldeira are far from the first to study such models in a large group, but they did so with a twist.

In the past, it has been common to combine the results of dozens of these models, and so give a range for how much the planet might warm for a given level of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere. That's the practice of the leading international climate science body, the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Instead, Brown and Caldeira compared these models' performances with recent satellite observations of the actual atmosphere and, in particular, of the balance of incoming and outgoing radiation that ultimately determines the Earth's temperature. Then, they tried to determine which models performed better.

"We know enough about the climate system that it doesn't necessarily make sense to throw all the models in a pool and say, we're blind to which models might be good and which might be bad," said Brown, a postdoc at the Carnegie Institution.
The research found the models that do the best job capturing the Earth's actual "energy imbalance," as the authors put it, are also the ones that simulate more warming in the planet's future.
Under a high-warming scenario in which large emissions continue throughout the century, the models as a whole give a mean warming of 4.3 degrees Celsius (or 7.74 degrees Fahrenheit), plus or minus 0.7 degrees Celsius, for the period between 2081 and 2100, the study noted. But the best models, according to this test, gave an answer of 4.8 degrees Celsius (8.64 degrees Fahrenheit), plus or minus 0.4 degrees Celsius.
 
Overall, the change amounted to bumping up the projected warming by about 15 percent.
When it comes down to the question of why the finding emerged, it appears that much of the result had to do with the way different models handled one of the biggest uncertainties in how the planet will respond to climate change.
"This is really about the clouds," said Michael Winton, a leader in the climate model development team at the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who discussed the study with The Post but was not involved in the research.

Clouds play a crucial role in the climate because among other roles, their light surfaces reflect incoming solar radiation back out to space. So if clouds change under global warming, that will in turn change the overall climate response.

How clouds might change is quite complex, however, and as the models are unable to fully capture this behavior due to the small scale on which it occurs, the programs instead tend to include statistically based assumptions about the behavior of clouds. This is called "parameterization."

But researchers aren't very confident that the parameterizations are right. "So what you're looking at is the behavior of what I would say is the weak link in the model," Winton said.
This is where the Brown and Caldeira study comes in, basically identifying models that, by virtue of this programming or other factors, seem to do a better job of representing the current behavior of clouds. However, Winton and two other scientists consulted by The Post all said they respected the study's attempt but weren't fully convinced.

Sanderson of the National Center for Atmospheric Research was concerned that the current study might find an effect that wasn't actually there, in part because models are not fully independent of one another — they tend to overlap in many areas.

"This approach is designed to find relationships between future temperatures and things we can observe today," he said. "The problem is we don't have enough models to be confident that the relationships are robust. The fact that models from different institutions share components makes this problem worse, and the authors haven't really addressed this fully."
"It's great that people are doing this well, and we should continue to do this kind of work - it's an important complement to assessments of sensitivity from other methods," added Gavin Schmidt, who heads NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies. "But we should always remember that it's the consilience of evidence in such a complex area that usually gives you robust predictions."

Schmidt noted future models might make this current finding disappear — and also noted the increase in warming in the better models found in the study was relatively small.
Lead study author Brown argued, though, that the results have a major real-world implication: They could mean the world can emit even less carbon dioxide than we thought if it wants to hold warming below the widely accepted target of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). This would mean shrinking the "carbon budget."

The study "would imply that to stabilize temperature at 2 degrees Celsius, you'd have to have 15 percent less cumulative CO2 emissions," he said.

The world can ill afford that — as it is, it is very hard to see how even the current carbon budget can be met. The world is generally regarded as being off track when it comes to cutting its emissions, and with continuing economic growth, the challenge is enormous.
In this sense, that the new research will have to win acceptance may be at least a temporary reprieve for policymakers, who would be in a tough position indeed if it were shown to be definitively right.

The Xeros Story Our innovative history/For Today's Show

Xeros Cleaning Technologies Logo
The story of Xeros’ unique polymer bead-based cleaning process begins, appropriately enough, in the halls of the University of Leeds’ world-renowned School of Textiles. This facility, which naturally has a long history of working closely with the textiles industry, is constantly engaged in research to improve different aspects of textile production.

A spark of genius

Xeros researchDuring research into improving the way in which dye is applied to different fabrics using polymers, the university, asked a question: if we can anchor dye onto fabric, can the process be reversed to remove unwanted stains from fabric? This question launched a new journey of research and development, one that focused on finding out which polymers would be the most suitable for use in removing stains from fabrics.
Xeros polymer laundry beadsAfter exhaustive research, the University of Leeds School of Textiles noted that nylon was an ideal substance for this use because it becomes highly absorbent in humid conditions and is incredibly resilient. To harness this discovery, the Xeros company was founded in 2006 with a mission to revolutionise the laundry industry with the power of polymer bead cleaning.

Forging alliances to build a better future

Xeros industrial laundry machinesFrom our laboratories near Sheffield, South Yorkshire in the UK, the Xeros team, led by CEO Mark Nichols, is constantly refining every aspect of our bead-cleaning system, from the absorbency of the beads to the efficiency of the machine. As a part of Xeros’ commitment to perfecting our beads, we have entered into a partnership with BASF, the world’s largest chemical company, to investigate more alternative bead chemistries to work with our proprietary bead-cleaning machinesand custom-tailored detergents. 
In trials, Xeros’ bead cleaning system has proven to be both highly-effective and resource efficient. Dry cleaning businesses such as Crest Cleaners and Jeeves of Belgravia have noted a significant reduction in water use (90% less water in Crest’s case), while producing superior cleaning results.

Monday, February 26, 2018

GreenCircle Certification Recognized by EPA as a Recommended Ecolabel for Federal Purchasing/RNN



Earlier this month GreenCircle Certified, LLC’s (GreenCircle) Certified Environmental Facts (CEF) multi-attribute label for flooring products was recognized by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Environmentally Preferable Purchasing (EPP) Program as a recommended ecolabel for sustainable federal purchasing. The EPA EPP Program provides recommendations of specifications, standards, and ecolabels to help federal purchasers identify and specify environmentally sustainable products and services.
The basis of these recommendations come from EPA guidelines developed through a stakeholder consensus process, ensuring a transparent, reliable approach. The recommendations leverage existing private-sector standards and ecolabels to encourage and simplify the process of sustainable purchasing in the US government, while developing a framework to recognize environmental performance and address the key environmental or health impacts within product categories. Product categories to date include: cafeteria, construction, custodial, electronics, grounds/landscaping, and office/furniture.
An internationally recognized, third-party certification entity providing independent verification of sustainability claims, GreenCircle is ISO 17065 compliant, following industry requirements for organizations certifying products, processes, and services. GreenCircle certification is additionally recognized by both the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) Home Innovation Research Labs’ (HIRL) National Green Building Standard (NGBS) and the International Living Future Institute (ILFI) as a valid third-party certification entity. GreenCircle’s CEF label for flooring products enables purchasers to easily review and understand flooring sustainability attributes, such as carbon footprint, recycled content, material ingredients, and manufacturing attributes.
“Now recognized by the EPA, GreenCircle’s CEF label for flooring products will continue to support the movement in government procurement to specify products with decreased environmental impact and verified sustainability metrics. When purchasers are accurately informed and educated, they are empowered to make the best choices. Purchasers have a big role in selecting sustainable products as well as encouraging continuous improvement with product manufacturers to provide more sustainable products.  We encourage all procurement teams to utilize the recommendations set by the EPA when making purchasing decisions,” said Tad Radzinski, co-founder and Certification Officer of GreenCircle Certified, LLC.
Government and private purchasing teams alike should utilize recommendations and guidelines such as these in order to meet sustainable purchasing goals, reduce impact, and reduce spending by selecting products with life-cycle cost savings. Refer to the EPA EPP Program Recommendations website for more information on certification criteria, and to view all the recommended specifications, standards, and ecolabels for federal purchasing.
The EPA guidelines encourage continuous improvement of not only the recommended standards and ecolabels, but the products and services addressed. Federal purchasers can visit GSA’s Green Procurement Compilation for all applicable green purchasing requirements, including EPA’s recommendations.
  • Click here for more information on the EPA Guidelines and recommendations.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Earth Day/April 22, 2018


Earth Day Network is committed to catalyzing the movement to put an end to one of the greatest threats to the survival of our planet and every living being on it. On Earth Day, April 22, 2018, with your help, we will mobilize across oceans and continents to End Plastic Pollution.
ACTIVATE YOUR EARTH DAY 2018 NOW!
Be part of inspiring, informing and mobilizing your personal and greater communities. Your participation on Earth Day will help to inform others and start a process for all of us to take personal responsibility.
Get started by visiting our website, and choosing whether you want to activate your Earth Day as an individual or as an organization.
Then download your FREE Earth Day Toolkits offering critical information about the threat of plastic pollution and practical tips on things you can do to reduce your impact. You'll also find full action plans designed to help you organize Earth Day events or activities in your communities—whether that means work, school, place of worship, clubs or in your neighborhood.
Ready to take the lead in educating and activating others to End Plastic Pollution?
Here are some ideas to help you get rolling!
  1. Organize an Event on Earth Day:  Our Earth Day Action Toolkit and the Plastic Pollution Primer and Action Toolkit give you both the content and process to organize an effective and powerful activity or event.
  2. Host a Teach-In: Involve your family, friends or co-workers; organize your local community; or develop an initiative in your organization to learn and agree on actions to reduce and eventually End Plastic Pollution. Find a Toolkit to help you organize here. Use it in combination with the Plastic Pollution Primer and Action Toolkit.
  3. Take Part in Climate Education Week: Climate Education Week will start April 16th and the Climate Education Week Toolkit will provide a week of activities for K-12 students to learn about and act to prevent local plastic pollution. A toolkit will soon be available on our website on this page
  4. Mobilize your Campus: For teachers and students at higher education institutions, check out the MobilizeU Toolkit that takes you step by step to organize a teach-in on your campus to address plastic pollution.
  5. Register your Event and Activity: Earth Day Network will give visibility to your event or activity. By collating information of events around the world we give global significance and amplify the effort that millions of people and thousands of organizations will be doing to protect the environment on Earth Day. If you are an individual, you can register your event/activity here and if you are an institution here.
  6. Spread the word and help grow the community: Please share with your network using #EarthDay2018 #EndPlasticPollution and @EarthDayNetwork to connect with other Earth Day events across the world. We want to hear what you are doing for Earth Day! Follow us on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram. Tag us @EarthDayNetwork, and you might get a shout-out!
Together we can End Plastic Pollution!
Thank you for your continued support of Earth Day Network, and of our planet.
Sincerely,
Valeria Merino
Earth Day Network



Friday, February 23, 2018

BP About to Invest More in Renewables and Clean Energy

Good company and continued good investments:

MORE AT RENEWABLE NOW.com



BP is looking to acquire more green energy firms, as the British oil giant pledged to set carbon targets for its operations.
However, while the chief executive, Bob Dudley, said the industry was in a period of major change, he made clear that hydrocarbons would remain the core of BP’s business.
“It’s not a race to renewables, it’s a race to lower greenhouse gas emissions. As fast as renewables and clean energy can grow, faster than any fuel in history, the world is going to require oil and gas for some decades to come,” he said.
The company reported last week that higher oil prices and growing crude production had pushed up profits 139% in 2017 to $6.2bn (£4.5bn) on an underlying replacement cost basis, the company’s preferred measure.
Dudley said the firm had enjoyed its most successful year for exploration since 2004. The company said it would start six new oil and gas projects this year, up from five previously, as it outlined a plan to return to growth into the next decade.
But much of the company’s strategy update focused on clean energy, which BP said would amount to around $0.5bn of its $15bn-$16bn capital expenditure programme. The carbon targets, including one for methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, will be announced by BP in the next two months.
Discussing the shift to green energy, Lamar McKay, the deputy chief executive, said: “Our industry is changing faster than any of us can remember, certainly in my career...."

Thursday, February 22, 2018

They thought the solar array would be a good neighbor to have. Then it rained./The Westerly Sun

Hard to believe that solar panels don't make the perfect neighbor, but here we see that, in fact, they don't.  Now, here we see a mistake that we hope does not happen very often:  An over zealous developer or installer not leaving in a proper natural canopy to slow the run off of water and shield the array from neighbor's view.

Good lessons for us all.  Certainly these panels will add more value and positives--lots of clean energy, local production, better use of land stripped of trees than more houses or industrial buildings--but that's hard to explain to a unhappy nearby community.

Richard Jurzyk, a property owner on Heaton Orchard Road in Richmond whose property abuts the Harvest Acre Farm solar array, is having problems with silted water runoff from the newly-built project. Harold Hanka, The Westerly Sun

RICHMOND — Two homeowners on Heaton Orchard Road who live next to a newly-built solar generating station are complaining that the installation is generating runoff that inundates their yards and floods the road. 
The solar array consists of 16,000 panels and covers approximately 23 acres of Harvest Acre Farm, owned by John and Cindy Duncan on Kingstown Road (Route 138).
The installation, which is split into two arrays, was built by WED Kingstown Solar 1 LLC, received Planning Board approval last April.
Richard Jurzyk, who owns a house at 5 Heaton Orchard Road, keeps an eye on the weather, because when it rains, water flows from the solar array into his wooded property. Sitting at his kitchen table, Jurzyk showed a series of photos he has taken of his flooded yard, the trees standing in deep ponds of water. There are also several photos of the flooded road and the solar panels in standing water.
At the rear of his property, where he was expecting that a wooded buffer would shield the array, instead there is a row of large boulders creating a barrier similar to a sea wall. The silt fence, which is required in order to minimize erosion, has been buried in several spots by sediment transported by water from the property. The solar panels are standing on bare ground that has turned to mud, and water flows under and between the big boulders.
Jurzyk said he first began having runoff problems in mid-January when a snowfall was followed by heavy rain. He turned to the town of Richmond for help, but the town directed him to the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, which is responsible for issuing stormwater and wetlands permits. He said DEM could not help him, either.
“The town says ‘contact the DEM,’ DEM said ‘contact the town,’” he said.
Richmond Town Planner Juliana Berry said the DEM, not the town, has the authority to regulate stormwater runoff.
“RIDEM permits were received/recorded in BPZ/Land Evidence on July 6, 2017, final plans were recorded on August 11, and Richmond building permits were subsequently applied for and issued,” she wrote in an email. “The town has now received a few inquiries from Heaton Orchard Road residents and from the Conservation Commission regarding who to contact on stormwater/runoff concerns related to this project. The permitting authority with purview over this matter is RIDEM.”
Contacted about the Heaton Orchard Road situation, DEM spokesperson Gail Mastrati said the agency was looking into the complaints.
“DEM has received a complaint regarding this matter and will be conducting an inspection,” she said.
Jurzyk, who, with his wife, Carol, has owned his house since 1988, said this was the first time he had experienced runoff problems.
“The 2010 floods have come and gone and there were no issues,” he said.
Like the solar installation, the home is in a light industrial zone, but Jurzyk said he had no idea how large and disruptive the project would be.
“It’s worse than a strip mine,” he said. “I had no idea. Okay, they’re going to put a solar farm in … Would I have liked it better if it had stayed woods? Yeah. But I’ve been here 30 years and I remember saying to my wife ‘we don’t own the property. It’s light industrial just like this is, and they do what they want.’”
Sections of Jurzyk’s back yard, which were covered with grass, now resemble muddy stream beds. On the perimeter of the array, there are no trees left to screen it from view.
“There wasn’t anything green left,” he said. “The topsoil is all gone. If there’s any topsoil left, it’s just a veneer.”
The water doesn’t stop at the Jurzyks’ house. It pools on Heaton Orchard Road and floods the yard of his neighbors, Bill and Candace Bishop. Bill Bishop said that after blasting occurred at the construction site, his well water became cloudy.
“My well has gone cloudy three times during heavy rain,” he said. “It’s the only time it’s happened in the 17 years we’ve been there. We put in a brand new well.”
“My whole front yard is a pond,” Candace Bishop said, adding that after they complained, the developer dropped a load of coarse gravel on the side of the road and at their driveway.
“They came and filled it in with rocks at the end of our driveway,” she said. “I have no problems with what John and Cindy Duncan have done with the farm, but I wish they’d do something about the flooding on the street.”
The Bishops complained to the DEM a month ago and are still awaiting a response.
“They never call you back,” Candace said. “They should address this before they [the developer] pull out. It’s not John and Cindy, it’s the developer.”
Berry said she intended to visit the neighborhood in the near future to assess the situation.
cdrummond@thewesterlysun.com

EPA Settles with Amazon for Distributions of Illegal Pesticides/RNN

Good news on our efforts to control pesticides and toxins getting into our eco-system.  We need even more stringent controls and fines for those who do not respect the need to take these noxious products out of our environment.

Some would say Amazon is growing faster than weeds, but are they growing so fast that they can’t accurately manage what they’re selling?
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced an agreement with Amazon Services LLC to protect the public from the hazards posed by unregistered and misbranded pesticide products. The agreement settles allegations that Amazon committed nearly four thousand violations of the “Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act” – dating back to 2013 – for selling and distributing imported pesticide products that were not licensed for sale in the United States.
“This agreement will dramatically reduce the online sale of illegal pesticides, which pose serious threats to public health in communities across America,” said EPA Region 10 Administrator Chris Hladick. “Amazon is committed to closely monitoring and removing illegal pesticides from its website, and EPA will continue to work hard to ensure these harmful products never reach the marketplace.”
Under the terms of today’s agreement, Amazon will develop an online training course on pesticide regulations and policies that EPA believes will significantly reduce the number of illegal pesticides available through the online marketplace. The training will be available to the public and online marketers in English, Spanish and Chinese. Successful completion of the training will be mandatory for all entities planning to sell pesticides on Amazon.com.
Amazon will also pay an administrative penalty of $1,215,700 as part of the consent agreement and final order entered into by Amazon and EPA’s Region 10 office in Seattle, Washington.
In late 2014, EPA began investigating online pesticide product distributions and sales through several internet retail sites including Amazon and third-party sellers that used Amazon’s online marketing platform. In March 2015, EPA inspected an Amazon facility in Lexington, Kentucky, and inspectors in EPA’s Region 10 office successfully ordered illegal pesticides from Amazon.com. In August 2015, EPA issued a FIFRA Stop Sale, Use, or Removal Order against Amazon to prohibit the sale of the illegal pesticide products that can easily be mistaken for black-board or side-walk chalk, especially by children.
EPA issued another Stop Sale Order against Amazon in January 2016 after discovering that certain unregistered or misbranded insecticide bait products were being offered for sale on Amazon.com. After receiving the stop sale orders, Amazon immediately removed the products from the marketplace, prohibited foreign sellers from selling pesticides, and cooperated with EPA during its subsequent investigation. The orders, as well as EPA’s subsequent engagement with the company, prompted Amazon to more aggressively monitor its website for illegal pesticides. As a result, Amazon has created a robust compliance program comprised of a sophisticated computer-based screening system backed-up by numerous, trained staff.
In October 2016, Amazon notified all customers who purchased the illegal pesticides between 2013 and 2016 to communicate safety concerns with these products and urge disposal. Amazon also refunded those customers the cost of the products, approximately $130,000.
Non-English speaking members of the public are at increased risk from these pesticides that are illegal in the U.S. but have long been used throughout Asia. These populations’ familiarity with these products make it more likely they will order them from online sources such as Amazon. By removing such products from Amazon’s online platform and by educating third party sellers on the hazards of these unregistered and misbranded pesticide products, this agreement will decrease the availability of these unsafe products and protect these vulnerable groups.
For more information on this settlement or to read a copy of the consent agreement and final order, go to: https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/amazon-services-llc-fifra-settlement.
Learn how to avoid illegal pesticide products:  https://www.epa.gov/safepestcontrol/avoid-illegal-household-pesticide-products.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Queen Elizabeth has declared war - on plastic

Queen Elizabeth has declared war - on plastic


Queen Elizabeth II has declared war — on plastic — with a new waste plan put into place across the royal estates.

The environmentally-conscious move was said to be inspired by nature documentarian and naturalist Sir David Attenborough, after the pair worked together on a documentary about wildlife in the Commonwealth,

Buckingham Palace has said the royal household has a “strong desire to tackle the issue” and would do so by cutting back plastics, such as straws and plastic bottles.
A spokesman for the Palace said, “Across the organization, the royal household is committed to reducing its environmental impact.

“As part of that, we have taken a number of practical steps to cut back on the use of plastics,” he said.
These steps would include phasing out plastic straws in public cafes and banning them completely from staff dining areas.

Royal cafe takeaway food containers will now be compostable or biodegradable, while those working and living within Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, and the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh will only be able to use crockery and glasses, or recyclable cups.
The initiative comes after the EU announced plans to make all plastic in Europe recyclable or reusable by 2030.

The Queen’s stance follows that of her son Prince Charles, who often talks about environmental issues, including the damage plastic garbage is doing to the oceans.
Last year he said climate change was “catastrophically underestimated” and urged that world leaders act urgentally to protect our marine environments.

Prince Charles has a long history of environmental advocacy and established the International Sustainability Unit in 2010 to address major environmental challenges across the globe including marine degradation, deforestation and animal conservation.

He has even weighed in on the degradation of the Great Barrier Reef, saying: “The fact that significant portions of the Great Barrier Reef on Australia’s eastern coast have been severely degraded or lost over the last few years is both a tragedy and also, I would have thought, a very serious wakeup call,” he said.

According Cleanup.org.au, an estimated 1 trillion plastic bags are used and discarded worldwide each year — and many of those bags are only used once.
Australians alone use around 5 billion plastic bags a year — with some 50 million entering the litter stream.

Single-use bags will soon be banned across all states and territories in Australia, except NSW. Meanwhile, major supermarkets — Coles, Woolworths and IGA — have already announced they will phase out single-use plastic bags this year.

 

Developer pitches 40-acre solar project near Holliston Sand/Valley Breeze

RI has a very good, robust plan for renewables.  They expanded again this year.  The result is what you see here:  Big investments by developers.  Great news.

A national company has plans to purchase seven properties in the area of Holliston Sand Company to build a 40-acre solar farm, one of the largest of its kind in the state, according to a pre-application submitted to the Planning Board.

Town code currently limits solar projects to six acres, and the massive 6.22-megawatt project will require additional approvals, as well as a zoning variance.

The proposal, submitted by TPE Rhode Island Solar Holdings2 LLC, also known as Turning Point Energy, would see a commercial solar array built primarily on a 64-acre property on Old Oxford Road currently owned by William Horton King. The heavily forested land sits within a Rural Residential Conservation zoning district near Holliston and Brookside Equestrian Center, which is also currently used for sand mining, according to the 47-page application.

The facility would take around five months to build and once complete, would power 1,200 Rhode Island homes according to documents prepared by the Denver-based company.

Image result for pictures of solar arrays

“This pilot program is among the first in the country and allows the residents of Rhode Island to purchase electricity at a discount to current National Grid rates without having to put solar on their rooftops,” the application states. “Residents will have the chance to subscribe to the solar facility and receive a 20 percent discount on their bills.”

Turning Point Energy has already developed some 750 megawatts of solar projects across the country, valued at more than $2.1 billion.

Additional properties potentially affected by the North Smithfield proposal include several parcels owned by Cheryl Bator and Keith Stone. Entrance, exit and utility connections would take place through two properties on Pound Hill Road owned by Alfred and Sandra Caron, through a 14-foot gravel access road. The Caron lots each hold one single-family home and the rest is used for “ATV riding, shooting and a minor hay operation,” according to the applicant.

The project could bring in new tax revenue, and would also provide relief to several property owners who have been unable to access their land for more than a decade.

The lots for the proposed solar project surround Old Tifft Road, an unpaved “paper street,” or mapped street that is no longer used, near the Slatersville Reservoir that landowners say was blocked off with boulders in 2003. Bator and Stone were part of a group that brought the issue to the Town Council in 2016, saying they’d been illegally barricaded from accessing their land.

Council members briefly considered legally adopting the paper street at the time, but learned that the issue was the subject of lawsuit in Superior Court. Holliston eventually won control of the dirt street through an adverse possession suit.

And lack of access isn’t the only problem making the properties worth little beyond their proposed use, according to the investors. The area also has groundwater contamination, states the application, and “economic development opportunities on these parcels are extremely limited.”

The only other use that could work, they note, would be another sand and gravel pit.

The combined total tax revenue brought in by the lots where the solar project would be built is $2,300, and TPE estimates that the number would jump to $31,600 once the facility is built, a 2,948 percent increase. Benefits would also include short-term and long-term job creation, with 50 to 75 people put to work during the construction process.

The solar farm would be fenced in and accessed with security gates, and would be one of the largest facilities currently in Rhode Island, according to TPE. The application notes that the company already has legal site control of all of the proposed land parcels as proposed real estate purchases at a significant premium to the current market.

Planning Board members showed general interest in the project during the conceptual review phase at a meeting earlier this month.

“You want to try to give the applicant clear direction,” Town Planner Tom Kravitz said of the process. “They want to see the next step.”

If the proposal passes the next stage of planning, the developers would need to resolve zoning issues. While TPE plans to leave a buffer surrounding the solar farm, one area would not meet the 100-foot setback from property lines required for solar arrays. Additionally, rules set out in the town’s solar ordinance, amended just last year, state that projects cannot exceed 30 percent of a lot, or be larger than six acres. On the King property, the company hopes to disturb 40 acres of a 60-acre lot.

Kravitz said the timeline for the project will depend how quickly TPE completes needed fieldwork, including land surveying.

“The ball’s in the developer’s court now,” Kravitz said.