Despite higher costs, Charlotte City Council approves solar farm project

CHARLOTTE — The Charlotte City Council is moving forward with a solar farm project with Duke Energy and Ecoplexus despite higher costs. City leaders voted Monday night, 10-1, to approve the project.

The Charlotte City Council wants to source energy from an Iredell County solar farm to power city buildings with a goal of all of them being carbon-free by 2030.

The ambitious plan and project have backers in the community.

“As a young person, I will have to contend with the repercussions with the decisions that all of you make today,” resident Isabelle Elizondo told Charlotte City Council.

“If you vote no on this project, I can only assume that fossil fuel-funded disinformation campaigns are holding you hostage,” supporter Tina Katsanos said.

When the Charlotte City Council struck the deal in 2020, the city expected an average savings of $100,000. But since then, the solar developer says it has battled COVID-19 delays, supply chain challenges, increases in commodity prices and interest rates, and tariffs on solar panels from China and other southeast Asian countries. Now the city says they will lose an average $750,000 a year in the project.

Councilman Tariq Bokhari opposes the project because of the financials of the project and questions over Duke Energy’s reliability to deliver power via solar energy.

“If you experienced rolling blackouts now, this is just the beginning,” Bokhari said.

Bokhari was the only no vote. Councilmember Dimple Ajmera says the project is vital and the city can’t let costs get in the way of progress.

“We have a choice to be bold and seize the moment and address one of the most pressing issues our generation faces, which is carbon pollution,” Ajmera said.

The city says once the solar project is running, the system will bring the city 35% closer to its goal of net zero carbon municipal buildings by 2030 and will offset 17% of the city’s electricity use.

The city says the challenges with the project are also happening nationwide.

The Charlotte City Council will not pay anything until the solar farm is running.

VIDEO: The push for more solar farms in North Carolina