BURRILLVILLE – For the past year, the Burrillville Land Trust has been among the many organizations working with state entities to develop a new law that would determine where in Rhode Island solar energy projects can be located.

But members say the resulting legislation, now before the House and Senate, is not what they had hoped for.

“The result is a bill that incentivizes clear cutting forests,” said Paul Roselli, president of the BLT and the Rhode Island Association of Conservation Commissions. “That is not what we set out to do.”

Roselli said that if enacted, provisions within the legislation could thwart municipal comprehensive plans, housing, land use density and more.

“This legislation could impact every town, every village, every part of Rhode Island,” Roselli said. “Large scale solar farms caught many off guard, and their proliferation and permitting speed is impacting the land and water.”

To help others understand the legislation and its potential impact, BTC and RIACC held an event on Thursday, April 25 titled “Making Sense of Solar Siting Legislation in Rhode Island.” The meeting was held at Grace Note Farm and was geared toward citizens who wanted to know more about the bill.

Roselli notes that the move to develop siting legislation was prompted by concerns over the proliferation and speed statewide in permitting of ground-mounted solar and solar canopy installation.

“Many think that the rapid rise in installations destroys the rural sense of place where solar farms are being categorized as lite industrial but being placed in what many thought were residential zones,” Roselli said.

The Office of Energy Resources and RI Statewide Planning along with stakeholders from industry, non- profit, environmental groups and more got together for nearly a year to create the legislation that is now before the the General Assembly, including a meeting in Burrillville last October.

“But what was presented to the House and Senate was not what many in the stakeholder meetings wanted,” said Roselli.

“The last section of the bill mandates offsets in lost residential housing on land due to permitting and construction of solar farms, conservation land, industrial, commercial or manufacturing uses,” added Roselli. “The Senate bill would change comprehensive plans and take control away from local municipalities.”

Read full text of Senate bill S0661 here.

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