Push for more solar energy efforts in Charlotte

by Melissa Hankins

Charlotte recently ranked fairly well in a listing of cities leading the way towards an increase in the usage of solar power, landing 26th in the nation.

Graham Givens is with Environment North Carolina, the agency behind the study, and he says we've made leaps and bounds all across the state over the past few years.

"We have 3100 jobs in North Carolina that are based in solar," he says, "and that's a growth of 121%."

Locally, the push has come from both public and private enterprise, the scale both big and small.

In 2012, Discovery Place built a couple of solar trees to power an electric vehicle charging station on its parking deck. Last year, The Charlotte Area Transit System installed 126 solar panels to produce clean energy for electric buses. And Ikea installed an expansive solar energy system at its University City store.

But Shannon Binns, executive director of Sustain Charlotte, says we need to do more.

"In New York, they allow property taxes to be deducted or credited back for solar energy installations on private property," Binns says. "I just think that would be a tremendous example of something we can easily do here that would make a big impact."

The timing could be ripe for new legislation in our area. Duke Energy's massive coal ash spill at the Dan River has leaders talking about how to clean up the utility's toxic waste and activists calling for new forms of energy that are clean to start with.

Charlotte city councilman John Autrey says the solar movement makes sense.

"We can't underestimate the value of protecting our environment," he says.

But he also says expansive change would start with citizens.

"Get an assessment of your own home to see if solar would work for you," Autrey says.

And to try to get tax credit for it, "contact your city council member, contact your state legislator, contact your congressmen and senator, let them know you support solar," suggests Givens.

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