Providence Water Pine Hill Solar Array
Providence Water has a history of pioneering sustainability and environmentally responsible initiatives. Through our Water Quality Protection Program, we have protected more than 3,800 acres of watershed land from development and safe-guarded our natural resources. Providence Water has been diligently working to reduce our carbon footprint and reach our goal of being 100% powered by renewable energy through a number of projects. In July 2020, construction was completed on a new Providence Water 17,739 panel, ground-mounted, 4.99 megawatt solar array that is expected to generate approximately 8,500,000 kWh per year. The completion of this new solar project, combined with our COF rooftop solar array, has enabled us to achieve our goal of becoming 100% green and utilize all electricity from our own renewable energy systems that produce no greenhouse gas emissions.
Our internal solar team worked with our environmental staff to identify potential Providence Water-owned parcels that would be a good fit for a new renewable energy project. Considerations included minimal necessary clearing, appropriate nearby 3-phase electrical interconnection and viewshed impact. The site located at 10 Pine Hill Road in Johnston was determined to be the best-suited location. Purchased in 2008 as part of an 80 acre acquisition, this 30 acre site is located at the border of our watershed. Providence Water owns much of the abutting property and natural areas/woodland serves as a buffer for neighboring privately-owned properties. In addition, minimal tree clearing (61 trees on less than one acre) was necessary and replacement seedlings/trees were easily planted near the cleared area.
The Providence Water solar team issued an RFP and vetted more than 20 renewable energy partnership proposals before awarding the solar project to EDF Renewables/AEP (EDF) in April 2019. Providence Water owns the site property while EDF constructed the array and funded the cost of construction. As such, the project was designed and built at no cost to Providence Water. Providence Water has agreed to purchase the electrical power from EDF at the contracted fixed rate of $0.0914/kWh for the next 25 years, with an option of an additional 10 years. During the first year of operation, we expect to benefit from approximately $600,000 in electric utility cost savings and over the next 25-year period, the new solar system is projected to save Providence Water approximately $25 million in electricity costs.
The new solar system went into operation in August 2020. As a result of a great team effort, Providence Water and EDF were able to complete the construction of the solar array during the challenging conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although equipment and supplies were being delivered from other countries, and site conditions and supplying the proper labor force became difficult, the team worked diligently, held their course and completed the project. The new solar project provides significant environmental benefits including reductions in carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to taking more than 1,298 cars off the road each year, as well as providing long-term cost savings and hedges against future electricity price increases. It is very important to Providence Water, as a public water supplier and environmental steward, to set an example and take a community leadership role in the use and development of renewable energy. Through our on-going environmental initiatives, Providence Water continues to protect the environment, reduce our carbon footprint, secure a clean, reliable and cost-effective energy supply, and ensure the sustainability of our water supply system for future generations.