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A bright idea

A Charlotte landfill closed for nearly 50 years will soon finally find new life as a solar farm.

Charlotte City Council has approved a lease on 22 acres on the old landfill site just north of uptown. The site has not been used since the landfill closed in 1970 — well before there were standards in place on what kind of waste could be put there or even that the trash should be buried.

Solar farms are one of many ways North Carolina is trying to reuse the 675 old landfill sites across the state. A Gaston County landfill may also soon be home to solar panels.

“The idea from the get-go was, how do we bring somebody in who could do something on top of a landfill? It’s been a long process. (Solar) fits in really well with our vision for bringing that property back into play, but is something that is not really very impactful to the site,” said Charlotte Energy and Sustainability Manager Rob Phocas.

Solar farms aren’t the only way to put back into use the 675 old landfills that dot North Carolina. A state program gets about $8 million a year from a tax on waste and is working to clean and repurpose about 80 landfill sites across the state. Some have been turned into parks or business sites.

“It’s an opportunity to restore land and make it usable, and also protects the public,” said Cheryl Marks, who leads the state program. “There’s nothing worse than buying a piece of property thinking it’s pristine and finding out it’s not.”

Power Resource Group said it can use the solar panels on the old Charlotte landfill site to power about 500 homes a year and the company can use land that might not get used otherwise.

“We love the concept because it’s a great use of that land,” said contractor Rich Deming of Power Resource Group. “You’re not displacing farmland or development land, and it’s a huge win for these municipalities, which get a (lease) check.”

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