Businesses say county not warming up to solar energy
By Tara Ramsey Business is growing for Charlotte-based solar-energy companies — but not because of the market in Mecklenburg County. With 250 sunny days a year, and state and federal tax credits for solar-energy investments that could potentially return 65 percent of the cost to property owners, it might seem that Mecklenburg County should be ablaze with people harnessing the sun’s energy. But according to those in the solar industry, other regions have moved toward solar-energy usage more than Mecklenburg County. One solar-energy business owner believes it’s because of North Carolina Utility Commission rates, while another thinks it has more to do with the culture in Charlotte. The cost of the technology also plays a part. Keith Pehl, president of Optima Engineering in Charlotte, said his company designed its first solar-energy — known as “photovoltaic” in the renewable-energy industry — installation in 2006 in Mint Hill in Mecklenburg County. Since that time, Optima, which designs solar-energy projects, has completed 45 to 50 projects, but only about a half dozen have been in Mecklenburg County, he said.