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Are there efforts to incentivize solar development on disturbed sites over forested tracts?

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Short Answer
In recognition of forest preservation, a handful of policies are in place to incentivize the placement of solar arrays on disturbed areas, including a grant program from the Brownfields Remediation and Economic Development Fund, selective pricing from the Renewable Energy Growth Program, and a proposed allocation that prioritizes rooftop and carport projects. The brunt of authority resides with municipalities, which decide local zoning laws and approve land cover in their regions.

Long Answer
I. Organizations participating in virtual net metering currently receive no special incentives to develop on disturbed areas ahead of forested parcels.

II. The current policy framework consists of grants from the Brownfields Remediation and Economic Development Fund [1], supported by the Department of Environmental Management.

III. The bulk of land cover authority is delegated to local governments, which maintain responsibility for zoning. Municipalities can utilize ordinances to provide consideration for the individuality of their locations—a level of detail that a statewide directive could not deliver.

IV. One concern is that certain municipalities might be underprepared to supply a viable ordinance, considering the novelty of such widespread and large-scale solar development. Consequently, local governments may be steamrolled by overzealous solar developers. In response to this worry, the Office of Energy Resources (OER), alongside a stakeholder coalition that brings together all parties, is working to roll out a non-obligatory model ordinance and guidance packet for cities and towns. Moreover, the OER intends to make its resources available to any municipality that wishes for further assistance. The model ordinance and guidance document are scheduled for release in October [2].



[1] http://www.dem.ri.gov/programs/benviron/waste/pdf/bbrfp18.pdf
[2] http://www.energy.ri.gov/documents/renewable/Updated%20OER%20and%20Division%20of%20Statewide%20Planning%20-%20Solar%20Poli

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