Grid seeks easement for 3 poles to connect solar power

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The next step in National Grid’s quest to connect the solar farms in Western Cranston to the power grid is an easement they have requested, which would allow them to build three 12-foot by 5-foot poles on Laten Knight Road.

Currently, there is a Dept. of Environmental Management (DEM) restriction on the location that they want to build the poles because it is in the area of Knight Farm, which is “protected land,” according to Rupert Friday of the Rhode Island Land Trust Council.

Ted Kresse, spokesperson for National Grid, said that the three poles take up a “relatively small area” and “would have no environmental impact on the 265-acre park.”

He said that the project would specifically be to accommodate the use of guy wires and anchors to support three new poles on Laten Knight Road in order to meet the electrical standards for the higher voltage carried by the wires. He said the Grid is required by law to connect solar generation projects through the poles.

Friday, who said that his organization is a coalition of over 45 Rhode Island land trusts that works on protecting and restoring land in the state, thinks that the poles would violate state laws for the current management area and thinks National Grid should look at alternate ways of connecting their power.

Gail Mastrati, spokesperson for the Rhode Island DEM, didn’t hint as to what decision will be made on the poles, but said that National Grid has submitted a request for an easement and the dept. needs additional information in order to evaluate that request.

Douglas Doe, who is the president of the West Bay Land Trust, which manages the city-owned Knight Farm, has been an outspoken opponent of solar projects in Cranston from the get-go.

He said that this “snafu” could have been avoided had the process of interconnection been made public, because he thinks the involved parties would have been alerted of the DEM easement and made alternative plans.

Doe’s suggestion for the interconnection of the solar farms to the power grid is to bury the new lines underground in areas where there is already power line infrastructure, so as to not disrupt any more of the land in Western Cranston.

Kresse said Grid is required by law to connect the solar power to the grid, and he thinks that the improvements being made through these new poles “should offer enhanced reliability in the area.”

An ordinance vote was on August’s docket to allow the director of public works to authorize an easement for Narragansett Electric Company, by way of National Grid, to build these anchors. That ordinance vote has been continued to September 13’s ordinance committee as of now.

Council President Michael Farina said the council would continue to review the easement and will look at whatever National Grid puts forward for the project, whether it be an alternative or, if they are granted the easement from DEM, the current proposal.

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Douglas_Doe

A primary question is how did this easement ever make it to the City Council? The easement grants National Grid the power to remove trees, shrubs, and bushes. DEM holds the conservation easement for the land, which specifically prohibits the removal of trees and other plants and prohibits the construction of any structures including poles and lines. Did city officials forget about these details? They did not inform DEM of the easement. I know because the DEM official I emailed had no knowledge of the proposed National Grid easement. Conservation easements have specific legal protections that include IRS regulations.

To make matters worse, someone has surveyed and staked the actual Laten Knight Road right-of-way. If the stakes are accurate, then nearly all of the 80-90 trees scheduled for destruction are protected by the conservation easement and the John L. Curran State Park law (32-1-5.1), not just the small area mentioned in the article. If National Grid insists on this route, then they should be required to place underground any power lines proposed for any stretch of roadway that does not contain 19th century power line technology. Laten Knight and Lippitt Ave. are the only roadways that I know of in western Cranston that not marred by power lines and poles.

Saturday, September 8