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AP&S Guides Clients Through Successful Development of the Largest Solar Energy Project in the Region

Using their skills across a number of legal disciplines, AP&S attorneys guided and counseled their developer clients through the process of securing funding, obtaining permits, negotiating commercial and financial agreements, and closing the transaction for the successful development of the largest solar energy project in the region.

The Challenge:

In 2010, Forbes Street Solar LLC (“Forbes”) responded to a request to partner with the City of East Providence to design, construct, and operate the first-of-its-kind large solar energy generation project on a municipal landfill in Rhode Island. As a contaminated site, the landfill had been undevelopable for decades. To overcome all the obstacles, Forbes required the guidance of a leading law firm. Furthermore, given that no project of its kind had ever succeeded in Rhode Island, Forbes needed attorneys who not only possessed the requisite skills and experience, but who could also think outside the box. AP&S attorneys practicing in the areas of energy, environmental, tax, government relations, corporate and litigation provided Forbes, not just the requisite legal skills and experience, but also innovative strategies and practical solutions that enabled the development to succeed.

Tremendous obstacles threatened to derail this groundbreaking development at every turn, but with the guidance of AP&S attorneys, the development succeeded. The crucial services that AP&S provided included the following: gaining access to development funding opportunities; obtaining changes to local zoning laws; successfully negotiating leasing and tax agreements with the City; securing the necessary permits; establishing unique distributed generation interconnection arrangements with the local electric utility; closing transactions with construction entities and equity investors; and obtaining changes to confusing electrical licensing laws.

The Solution:

We arranged high-level meetings with Rhode Island governmental officials responsible for supporting renewable energy projects. AP&S attorneys then worked with the City’s Planning Department to develop new zoning laws that would support a large-scale solar energy project on landfill property and thereafter succeeded in obtaining the necessary local planning approvals. AP&S then took the lead in bringing environmental regulators to the table to devise a streamlined permitting review process, which resulted in securing the requisite permits that enabled site development to proceed simultaneously with the landfill closure process. AP&S attorneys also created the model for working cooperatively with the local electric utility in supporting interconnection arrangements for new large renewable solar energy projects. Finally, we established the new working rules for electrical contractors and installers for solar energy projects in Rhode Island, which were codified into legislation.

The Result:

As a result of these efforts by AP&S lawyers, new funding opportunities were obtained, new zoning and planning rules were adopted, newly designed interconnection arrangements were completed, equity investors were secured, an old, contaminated landfill was properly closed, and a long-abandoned and contaminated site was turned into a clean sustainable energy project that will supply solar energy to the electric grid for decades to come. With the dedication and tenacity of AP&S attorneys, our clients succeeded in financing, installing and operating the largest (4 MW) solar energy project on a closed landfill in the region. The project has won a number of renewable energy development awards, including the 2015 R.I. Office of Energy Clean Energy Future Award.

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