RALEIGH -- There is a place for solar power and for renewable energy in North Carolina.
However, earlier legislation dealing with such facilities went too far and now the state is reaping "a very disastrous harvest," of what was planted by that legislation, Republican Rep. Jimmy Dixon said.
And with all due respect, solar facilities are not farms, Dixon told those who gathered Monday to hear him speak at a noon program at the conservative John Locke Foundation in downtown Raleigh.
"We are property rights people," Dixon said. "This organization is a property rights organization. So to thread the needle, and this is my way of explaining it, I believe that if you can jump through the hoops required to do whatever with your property, you have the opportunity to do that.
"It puts it into a different category when I have got to subsidize you for what you do on your property. That is the problem that it (solar facilities) gets into."
Dixon said he has seen statistics that 67 percent of the qualifying solar facilities in the U.S. are in North Carolina.
It is growing so fast that people are making money by selling their place in the queue to people further down on the list for such projects, he said.
There is an area in Duplin County referred to as "Nine Miles" where the infrastructure for a solar facility was nowhere near the capacity that it would take, Dixon said.
"So Duke goes to the people and says, 'This is out of the question -- it will cost $1.3 million to upgrade,'" Dixon said.
The response from solar facilities officials was that it would be no problem, and the company could do it.
"And you think there aren't high profits?" Dixon said. "I mean $1.3 million just like this."
Also, last week in Duplin County, five solar facilities produced electricity that was bought and never used, he said.
Connectivity is an issue and there is a tremendous battle going on now between Duke Energy and solar utilities about not being able to connect them, Dixon said.
Another issue that has not been addressed is the decommissioning of solar facilities, he said.
"I held in the North Carolina General Assembly the first in the United States of America a stakeholders group to talk about decommissioning," he said. "I have three study bills that are in the General Assembly now. We passed all three of them through the Environment Committee the other day.
"One of them is on all of the aspects of solar facilities. Take a look at that."
Dixon was referring to his House Bill 319 calling for a study on solar facility decommissioning requirements.
N.C. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler is aware of the dangers posed by solar facilities, Dixon said.
Every solar facility contract has a decommissioning clause in it that is really not worth the paper that it is written on, Dixon said.
"If I have a piece of land that I am going to put into a solar facility, while they are constructing that the solar company requires me to carry a million dollar liability bond in case there is accident or injury on that property," he said.
Buried in the contact, or at least in the ones Dixon said he has seen, is a mention of a decommissioning bond, but they do not put an amount on it.
"So here is what we want to know," he said. "No. 1, what is the current life expectancy of what is out there now? No. 2, what, if any hazardous waste is included in those panels, either as they exist or created in the demolition process? No. 3, what is the condition of the land?
"I will tell you this, you will never grow another peanut on land occupied by a solar facility. We already know that just from the leaching of the metals, the post and stuff like that."
Those are the basic questions, he said.
Also, can the materials be put in landfills, and if so, how, he said.
"Who is responsible for the ultimate cost of it?" Dixon said. "What is the procedure for reclamation of that property? There are just so many unanswered question."
Dixon said he is one of the co-chairs of the Environmental Review Commission.
The bill instructs the commission which is the proper vehicle through which environmental legislation should be introduced, he said.
Since it is a commission, people who testify before it are under oath. It also exercises subpoena power. Yet it never meets, he said.
"I told the committee the other day my bill is just a simple attempt to take the bull.... out of when we meet as an Environment Review Commission so we could have these discussions," he said.