Here’s how a new Iredell County solar farm could lower Charlotte’s carbon footprint

The Charlotte City Council Monday approved a solar farm project in Iredell County involving Duke Energy and Durham-based Ecoplexus.

The 35-megawatt solar facility will be located off of Interstate 77 north of Statesville in Iredell County. Charlotte is investing in it to help reduce the city’s carbon footprint. The facility is expected to offset 17% of Charlotte’s existing electricity use.

The solar energy project will cost the city $750,000 annually for up to 20 years and its expected to be completed in November 2023. The city will not incur costs until the solar farm is built.

The project is part of Duke Energy’s Green Source Advantage program, an effort to increase renewable sources of energy. The city initially entered an agreement in early 2020 to join the Green Source Advantage program and says the new solar farm will get Charlotte 35% closer to its Strategic Energy Action Plan goal of net-zero carbon municipal buildings by 2030.

City documents say the project will reduce carbon emissions by 53,000 metric tons. The average car in the U.S. produces one metric ton of carbon dioxide over a three-month period.

“If you vote ‘no’ on this project, I can only assume that fossil fuel-funded disinformation campaigns are holding you hostage,” resident Tina Katsanos told the council during a public hearing.

Councilman Tariq Bokhari was the sole dissenting vote, citing high costs and Duke Energy’s reliability issues. He referenced rolling blackouts over Christmas as a reason to be wary.

Here’s a rundown of what else the Charlotte City Council discussed and voted on Monday night.

Charlotte City Council greenlights Albemarle Corp. expansion

A rendering of Albemarle Corp.’s $200 million facility planned in Charlotte’s University City area that will focus on lithium and battery technology.
A rendering of Albemarle Corp.’s $200 million facility planned in Charlotte’s University City area that will focus on lithium and battery technology.

The Charlotte City Council Monday approved a $7 million package for chemical manufacturing company Albemarle Corp. to expand to Mecklenburg County.

The county and North Carolina already approved about $5 million in subsidies for the company, which announced plans for its lithium technology center in December. In exchange for government subsidies, Albemarle Corp. promised $200 million in capital investments and 200 jobs with an average wage of $87,381.

Property taxes due from Albemarle Corporation must be paid before the grant payment is made according to the city’s Business Investment Grant program. If Albemarle decides not to expand its operations in Charlotte, it must pay back the grant to the city.

Albemarle Corp. is a development, manufacturer and marketer of chemicals for energy, electronics, transportation, construction, pharmaceuticals and agriculture markets.

Its expanded facility is expected to open in early 2025, with completion of the campus by late 2026, according to Albemarle’s website.

Charlotte changes water codes after lawsuit settlement

South End sewer infrastructure installed by Charlotte Water.
South End sewer infrastructure installed by Charlotte Water.

Council members approved an amendment to Charlotte Water codes to clarify any of its revenue, not just regular operating fees, can be used to pay for capital investment projects following recent lawsuits.

Charlotte Water, the public water and sewer utility for Mecklenburg County, announced a proposal to raise water bills by 6 cents a month, or 72 cents a year, to help pay off $106 million from lawsuits.

Some water plant upgrades will also be delayed, and the city’s thermal hydrolysis process project will be delayed a year, Charlotte Water officials said. The latter will change technology for the city’s wastewater treatment plants.

In 2018, a group sued Charlotte Water for unlawfully using a capacity fee paid by developers when connecting to Charlotte’s water and wastewater systems prior to 2017. The utility used the fee for future expenses rather than existing services before the state legislature made it OK in 2017, according to the court ruling.

Daedalus, LLC, a Phoenix-based corporate real estate consulting company representing developers, sued Charlotte Water again, challenging the utility’s methodology for calculating said fee between 2016 and 2018.

The first lawsuit was completed in April with a $90 million judgment, and Charlotte Water settled the second lawsuit in December for $16 million.

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Affordable housing support

The council approved $1.6 million in affordable housing subsidies for Lakewood Apartments and East Lane Townhomes.

The developer of Lakewood Apartments, a 36-unit new construction development to be built on Lakewood Avenue in northwest Charlotte, will receive $800,000 from the city to cover increased construction material prices and interest rates, The city previously invested $2.25 million for the development of the apartments.

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The units will be available to households earning less than 60% of the area median income. For a family of four in Charlotte, that’s an annual income below $56,520.

The council approved the allocation of an $894,000 Community Development Block Grant to subsidize 17 townhomes to be built by Habitat for Humanity in east Charlotte in council district 5. This type of grant is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for community-based development like community centers or affordable housing.

The East Lane Townhomes already received $230,000 in Housing Trust Fund support after the council approved the allocation in April.

Utility assistance and displacement support

The Charlotte City Council also approved spending almost $2 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds toward utility assistance for Charlotte Water customers and another $2 million on housing stability and relocation for low-income households to prevent displacement.

ARPA was a federal stimulus bill passed in March 2021 for pandemic-response expenditures, revenue shortfalls and to support those hardest hit by COVID-19.