Officials’ shadows show as they look over New England’s most powerful solar rooftop array in the Quonset Business Park in North Kingstown, R.I., Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013. The array is the size of three-and-a-half football fields and will generate nearly 3 million kilowatt-hours per year. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)
NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee threw the switch to activate the most powerful rooftop solar power array in New England on Wednesday, saying the nation’s smallest state can still do big things when it comes to renewable energy.
The 8,500-panel array will generate enough electricity to power about 500 homes. The size of three-and-a-half football fields, the array is constructed on two sprawling buildings at the Quonset Business Park in North Kingstown.
Chafee, a Democrat, said the state must embrace wind and solar power and other renewable energy sources to ensure a stable energy supply without damaging the environment or contributing to climate change.
“We just have to look ahead to future generations,” Chafee said before he flipped the large switch that started the array.
The buildings’ owners leased the rooftop space to the owners of the array, who will in turn sell the power generated from it to National Grid, which provides electricity to customers in the state, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. It’s the largest rooftop array in the region, according to Zaid Ashai, chief executive officer at Nexamp Inc., the Boston-based company that built the array.
Ashai said rooftop arrays are a creative and effective way to generate power without taking up a lot of room — an important advantage in a state the size of Rhode Island.
“It’s a remarkable size, given that we don’t have that much land mass,” Ashai said.
The business park at Quonset Point is home to more than 175 companies employing 9,500 people. The development and management of the area is overseen by the Quonset Development Corp. Managing Director Steven King said the solar array is a perfect fit for the business park.
“It was a unique way to utilize existing rooftop space, did a good thing for the environment and brought additional construction jobs to the state,” King said.
The two buildings underneath the array house 22 different businesses, including warehouses and light industrial companies that employ a combined 175 workers.