Johnston Ocean State Job Lot’s empty roof now full of energy potential

Solar panels installed on roofs of Johnston and Woonsocket stores


Ocean State Job Lot had a big empty roof. In fact, the store chain has 147 big empty roofs in New England.

Following a groundbreaking ceremony on Wednesday, the 750 solar panels newly installed on the Johnston store’s roof will start soaking up sunlight and generating as much electricity as 50 household solar arrays.

“We have a lot of roof space,” said Harry Oakley, Ocean State Job Lot Director of Energy and Sustainability. “And we wanted to partner with somebody who was going to take our roof space and really maximize the value.”

Ocean State Job Lot (OSJL) has partnered with Rhode Island-based Ecogy Energy to transform vacant rooftop space into energy-generating solar fields. The two companies held an event in the Hartford Avenue store’s parking lot this week to celebrate the kickoff of their Rhode Island portfolio of solar projects.

”The solar portfolio will be hosted atop OSJL stores all across Rhode Island, ranging from Hope Valley to Woonsocket,” according to Andrew D. Araneo, Ecogy Energy Policy & Marketing Analyst. “Each project in the portfolio will provide a diverse array of benefits to its local community through the creation of local clean energy jobs and the generation of additional tax revenue.”

OSJL and Ecogy started the solar project atop the Johnston and Woonsocket store locations.

“There are 750 panels on the roof of the Johnston store at this location, and another 750 at the Woonsocket location,” said Ecogy Energy Director of Development Brock Gibian. “And those are just our first two. So we’re talking in the thousands and thousands of panels overall through this partnership.”

Solar policy differs from state to state.

“In the state of Rhode Island, it works really well for real estate owners, like ourselves, to be able to offer our roof space to solar companies who are helping the state of Rhode Island provide solar energy,” Oakley said. “In Rhode Island, it doesn’t feed into the building. It does feed into the grid. They pay us to be on our roof.”

OSJL owns 147 New England stores.

“We want all 147 if we can, but it’s really Ocean State, however they see is best,” Gibian said. “Just this system, is roughly 30-50 households. So just these two projects (in Johnston and Woonsocket) is roughly equivalent of 100 households going solar. It really is a big deal.”

Ecogy workers set up a few solar panels and batteries in the parking lot to power a pair of flat screens and a microphone for Wednesday’s event. The lectern was crafted from recycled wood pallets.

“This event is run on 100 percent renewable energy,” Oakley explained.

“You can see the battery there, and the solar power,” Gibian added. “So the speakers and the TVs. It’s a small thing, but I think every little bit helps.”

The OSJL endeavor is a uniquely Rhode Island project, enabled by uniquely Rhode Island green energy policy.

“I want to thank all the local and state representatives from Rhode Island,” Ecogy Energy CEO Jack Bertuzzi told the crowd gathered in the parking lot. “Rhode Island is one of the most forward-thinking states when it comes to clean energy. And without state support, projects like these just would not happen.”

Some communities have been struggling to permit solar arrays on the ground, as the necessary clearing of trees and land has become controversial neighborhood topics of debate.

On rooftops, that debate is moot.

“We’re the ones who developed the project on the roof behind us,” Bertuzzi said. “And more pertinently, we are going to own and operate the system for the next 25 years, and that’s a long time. This plant behind us went from contract signature to breaking ground in under nine months, and that was during an ongoing pandemic and one of the worst supply chain constraints we ever faced.”

Mark Shovlin serves as Divisional Director of Construction & Property Management at Ocean State Job Lot, a North Kingstown-based company.

“I have the privilege of sharing this time with you all to announce our goal in hosting the largest rooftop solar portfolio in Rhode Island, through our partnership with Ecogy Energy, beginning with this store right here in Johnston, and continuing throughout the state with as many as 15 other locations,” he told the crowd.

Shovlin introduced Rhode Island state Rep. Deborah Fellela (D-Johnston), who thanked OSJL and Ecogy for their partnership and cooperative efforts.

“Their most recent endeavor, with Newport-based Ecogy Energy, will further serve to offset greenhouse emissions in the Ocean State, helping us reach the aggressive and necessary green goals,” Fellela said. “As a coastal state, Rhode Island is at the forefront of climate crisis. Our coastal and urban communities, industries and future generations are relying on us to take bold action.”


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