With a total area of just over 1,200 square miles, Rhode Island’s compact geography presents some unique opportunities for the Ocean State to go big in the deployment of alternative fuels and advanced vehicles.
“Rhode Island may be small, but we have the second-highest population density in the country, so fueling infrastructure projects can have substantial impacts in the local market,” said Wendy Lucht, coordinator of Ocean State Clean Cities Coalition (OSCCC).
From its headquarters at the University of Rhode Island, the coalition works with fleets and other stakeholders to cut petroleum use across the state.
The OSCCC recently collaborated with the Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources and other partners on an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act project to install 50 electric-vehicle charging stations, effectively providing access to free charging for all 1 million Rhode Islanders.
Harnessing Sustainable Potential
Seeking to harness Rhode Island’s potential, Gov. Lincoln Chafee recently launched an initiative to lead by example, aggressively transitioning the state fleet away from conventional vehicles and fuels. The OSCCC is part of the working group that’s guiding the effort, convened by the Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources.
In February, the state issued a request for proposal (RFP) for a master price contract for B-20 biodiesel. Once in place, the contract will lock in biodiesel prices, not only for state vehicles, but also for fleets operated by municipalities and quasi-state agencies, such as the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority and T. F. Green Airport.
Biodiesel is growing in popularity among fleets throughout Rhode Island. Newport Biodiesel, a waste-grease recycler and OSCCC member, produced 1.2 million gallons of biodiesel in 2013, of which 573,000 gallons were sold as vehicle fuel.
Even for smaller fleets, biodiesel use is proving to be an attractive and affordable way to cut lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions. Crystal Spring Water Company of Middletown, R.I., operates six delivery trucks and uses about 300 gallons of B-20 every week.
“The fleets that get involved with OSCCC are making a tangible difference in terms of mitigating the environmental effects of transportation,” Lucht said.