Rep. Phillips legislation would explore possibility of building solar panels on highway medians
STATE HOUSE — Rep. Robert D. Phillips (D-Dist. 51) has introduced legislation that would explore the possibility of building solar panels on the median strips of the state’s major highways.
The bill (2022-H 6657) would establish an advisory commission to determine the placement of solar panels on Interstate highways, RI-Route 146, carports at state parking lots, and other locations.
“There’s an awful lot of real estate running along our highways that could be used for the creation of renewable energy,” said Representative Phillips. “This commission would assess the potential for installing those panels, and mapping this potential will help the General Assembly to make well-informed and confident decisions about renewable energy. This is especially important as new technology brings increased infrastructure demands of our roadways.”
This legislation would also direct the General Assembly to seek to utilize funds received from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 in making appropriations to support this project and to implement the recommendations of the commission.
“With the potential of the highways, Rhode Island could conceivably generate carbon-free electricity worth millions of dollars,” said Representative Phillips, who serves as vice chairman of the House Committee on Environment and Natural Resources. “The Department of Transportation could also take advantage of operational cost savings, such as reduced median maintenance and reduced energy costs, over the lifetime of the project.”
In making those determinations, the commission would seek placements that would provide and generate maximum returns on the investment as well as producing substantial amounts of energy.
The commission would consist of the director of the Department of Transportation, or designee, the director of the Department of Environmental Management, or designee, the chairperson of the Public Utilities Commission, or designee, the director of the Office of Energy Resources, or designee, and three members of the public appointed by the governor.
The legislation, which is cosponsored by Representatives Gregory J. Costantino (D-Dist. 44, Lincoln, Smithfield, Johnston), Mary Ann Shallcross Smith (D-Dist. 46, Lincoln, Pawtucket), Deborah Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown), Terri Cortvriend (D-Dist. 72, Portsmouth, Middletown), Lauren H. Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport), June Speakman (D-Dist. 68, Bristol Warren), Bernard A. Hawkins (D-Dist. 53, Smithfield, Glocester), Edward T. Cardillo Jr. (D-Dist. 42, Johnston, Cranston) and Gregg Amore (D-Dist. 65, East Providence), has been referred to the House Finance Committee.