A recent article in the Providence Journal  warned of ‘solar sprawl’—the uninhibited spread of solar projects to undesirable locations. Is this a concern? Can there be a moratorium on solar projects while officials reorganize around this issue?
While a moratorium may seem like a safety valve for a tense moment, such an action would amount to little more than the appeasement of the fossil fuel economy. The effects of climate change are global, but its tremors are felt in Rhode Island, especially in the Ocean State’s sensitive coastal regions. Waiting is no longer affordable; renewable energy needs to be an immediate priority. While individual cities and towns, like Glocester, can still institute a moratorium to meet municipality-specific challenges, a statewide moratorium would likely shepherd renewable business out of state, forcing Rhode Island to pay more for imports and rely more heavily on the actions of neighboring states.
I. Climate change will not obey a moratorium. Human-caused global warming is an extant danger—now is a time for boldness, not complacency.
II. A moratorium refuses to solve the problem. The future demands vast renewable infrastructure. A moratorium only delays this challenge.
III. Not all cities and towns desire a moratorium. Many feel capable of handling renewable siting. A statewide moratorium would hurt those municipalities that are ready to integrate solar. Cities and towns may enact their own moratoriums as they see fit, but a statewide act would be a hindrance to those ready to see projects get underway.
IV. A model ordinance, intending to provide guidance to cities and towns and reel in undesirable solar projects, will be ready in October. Once available, this document, in addition to assistance from the Office of Energy Resources, will hopefully assuage the fears of unfettered development and irreparable loss of forest.
V. A moratorium would put good solutions on hold, like climate change mitigation that enhances conservation.
VI. There currently exist a number of hurdles that a developer must overcome before having a project approved, including studies of impact, effects on on habitat, ensuring an interconnection point to the grid, and securing a customer for their system. Sensitivities toward location are just one component.