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WFAE reporter David Boraks explores how the way we live influences climate change and its impact across the Carolinas. You also can read additional national and international climate news.

Charlotte city council agrees to 25% price hike for solar farm

2020 CharMeck Govt Center.jpg
David Boraks
/
WFAE
The proposed solar farm would help the city of Charlotte meet its goal of powering its buildings with carbon-free energy by 2030.

The Charlotte City Council voted Monday in favor of amending the city's contract to buy electricity from a planned solar farm in Iredell County and absorb a 25% fee increase.

The solar farm is part of Duke Energy's Green Source Advantage program, which lets a limited number of large customers like the city buy solar power from third parties. Charlotte has a three-way contract with Duke and the solar developer, Ecoplexus. Last fall, the developer told the city that equipment costs were rising and without a 25% increase in electricity charges, the project would fail.

The council voted 10 to 1 to accept the change, with only Republican Tarik Bokhari opposed.

Republican Ed Driggs said the increase was justifiable and would help the city meet its goal of switching to carbon-free energy in its buildings by 2030.

"An amount of electricity can be developed through this solar contract that represents a significant percentage of the total power consumption of the city. And this does align with our plan," Driggs said.


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The farm would supply about 17% of the city's electricity.

The change to the contract means the city would pay an extra $750,000 a year for solar power, instead of saving money on its electric bill, as originally expected.

Lithium research center incentives

The council also approved a $7.2 million economic development grant to Albemarle Corp., which plans to build a $200 million lithium research center in northeast Charlotte. The state ($1.24 million) and Mecklenburg County ($4.2 million) have also approved incentives for the project, which would create 200 jobs.

Charlotte-based Albemarle announced plans in December to build the Advanced Lithium Technology Center at 6800 Solectron Drive in University Research Park, off Harris Boulevard. The company, which supplies lithium and other specialty minerals and chemicals, is expanding to take advantage of the rising demand for lithium for electric vehicle batteries.

The incentives require the company to meet targets for investment and new jobs.

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