Recently, the news of a fantastic new renewable energy plan in the US state of Rhode Island, which is expected to benefit thousands of residents of social housing. Three new solar projects will be developed through a partnership between Nautilus Solar Energy (Nautilus), Veolia North America (VNA) and the Public Housing Association of Rhode Island (PHARI).
This venture is the latest notable chapter in the history of a US state aspiring to make great strides in embracing renewable energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions as a result.
An overview of Rhode Island’s current renewable energy ambitions provides context for the state’s broader dynamics alongside these new projects. In January 2020, Governor Gina Raimondo set the goal via Executive Decree 20-01 to see renewable energy sources meet 100% of the state’s electricity demand by 2030.
With a population of just over a million people and land boundaries that the US Energy Information Administration claims to be one-third of water – this bold goal of the residents of the “Ocean State” has certainly gained traction. ton of coverage, but also questions about whether it’s really achievable. Of course, no one can see into the future, and it is true that the target has been criticized for fear that the target will not be attainable by the end of the decade.
Yet in addition to many supporters claiming the goal is indeed possible, supporters also cite the underlying importance of Rhode Island aspiring to be the first state in the country to achieve that goal.
Subsequently, Ms. Raimondo resigned her post as Head of State in March 2021 to take up a new post of US Secretary of Commerce. Since replacing Ms Raimondo, Governor Dan McKee has presided over the passage of the Act On Climate law, finally signing the law in April 2021. which obliges the state to achieve zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
As mentioned previously, this plan brings together three major partners namely Nautilus, VNA and PHARI. Each of them brings significant expertise to it.
In business since 2006, Nautilus retains ownership of solar projects throughout their lifecycle and is fully owned by the global cross-platform alternative asset manager Durable energy. The asset manager has a long-term investment approach, focused on sustainable strategies.
VNA has over 7,000 employees and 250 locations across North America, with its global operations numbering over 178,000 employees! Within that group is SourceOne, VNA’s energy consultancy firm which has been an energy advisor to PHARI for over a decade. In particular, in 2020, the (global) Veolia group generated nearly 43 million megawatt hours and recycled 47 million tonnes of waste.
As a non-profit organization, PHARI’s primary duties are advocacy and education regarding public housing in Rhode Island. Incorporated in 1977, PHARI’s work also goes beyond housing exclusively, with an aspiration to help social housing residents improve their economic independence.
The plan will see the construction of three solar panel fields, located primarily in the cities of Exeter and Smithfield, with a total area of over 55 acres in total, with the panels expected to provide more than 20 million kWh of electricity.
Once in operation, solar power will be delivered to nine different housing authorities across the state: in Cranston, Bristol, Lincoln, North Providence, Newport, Providence, Smithfield, Warwick, Warren; and through this avenue, thousands of low-income residents will receive their electricity through solar energy sources.
The work of Nautilus, VNA and PHARI in these projects will provide guaranteed savings, with the hope of saving approximately US $ 30 million over the next twenty years. Nautilus will be responsible for overseeing construction, in addition to ongoing management, and sustaining long-term performance for the life of the projects, which is currently estimated to be 25-30 years.
While any solar energy enthusiast is rightly excited about the technological benefits these projects bring from a technological standpoint, there are of course also immense social benefits that will flow once they go live. Robert Coupe, co-chairman of PHARI and executive director of the Cranston Housing Authority, provided a clear overview of these when announcing these projects.
“Our partnership with Veolia North America / SourceOne and Nautilus will significantly reduce utility costs for many years to come, freeing up valuable resources to invest in property maintenance, facility improvement and operational support,” said said Mr. Coupe.
Like Alexey Cherniack, senior analyst for VNA / SourceOne told Solar Magazine, the social aspect is a key part of what makes this Rhode Island plan special, not only for what it can offer now, but also for the foundation it could lay for the future.
At present, the projects are in the early stages of development, but its construction is expected to begin in the first half of 2022.