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Charlotte City Council OKs renewable energy projects to meet climate goals

City of Charlotte
The Charlotte City Council approved a solar farm land lease in Huntersville and money for battery storage under solar panels at Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department's Central Division Headquarters on West Fifth Street (above).

This story appeared first in reporter David Boraks' weekly email newsletter. Sign up here to get the latest news straight to your inbox first.

The city of Charlotte has a goal of switching to carbon-free energy in city vehicles and facilities by 2030. Getting there is a project-by-project task. On Monday, the City Council approved two more projects that will help the city reduce its use of electricity generated by fossil fuels. Both passed without discussion.

The council gave the go-ahead to lease 11 acres of city-owned land at the McDowell Creek wastewater treatment plant in Huntersville for use as a solar farm. As I reported Monday, a private developer plans to build a 1.2-megawatt solar farm in partnership with the local electric cooperative, Energy United. Electricity from the site would help power the wastewater treatment plant's operations.

It's a big deal. The solar farm's generating capacity is equal to all the solar on Charlotte's public buildings now.

"This one project really represents a key opportunity to capitalize on a site that is unique for the city of Charlotte, that can, in one project, do something that is taking us multiple projects to do across our rooftops," said Sarah Hazel, Charlotte's chief sustainability and resiliency officer.

The developer, McDowell Creek Solar, plans to lease the site for $1 a year for 20 years. Charlotte Water would buy the electricity through Energy United in the form of what are called Renewable Energy Credits, which will add about $19,000 to $24,000 a year to the city's electric bill.

The project could begin supplying electricity by 2024. The city also is working with a developer on a much larger 35-megawatt solar farm in Statesville and recently sought bids for another similar large project.

Meanwhile, the council also voted to accept a $20,000 grant from the nonprofit Joules Accelerator to help pay for battery storage units at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s Central Division headquarters, 700 West 5th St.

Joules Accelerator is a nonprofit organization that supports climate tech startups in the Southeast. The city will buy the equipment from Yotta Energy, a climate tech startup based in Austin, Texas. The batteries would be installed beneath solar panels on the police building, providing power when the sun is not shining. The city plans to match the Joules grant with $39,200 from the city budget.

David Boraks previously covered climate change and the environment for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.