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Solar panel manufacturer eyeing facility in Fort Mill, SC

Aug 18, 2023

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FORT MILL, S.C. — A solar panel manufacturer is hoping to come to Fort Mill. The company got its second round of approval from York County leaders Monday and needs one more vote before moving forward.

The news comes as solar energy gains popularity in the Carolinas.

"10 years ago it was less than 1% of our energy mix in the Carolinas," explained Duke Energy spokesperson Ryan Wheeless. "Today it’s about 6%."

Duke Energy’s solar plant in Monroe has 600,000 panels and powers about 10,000 homes a year. Wheeless said North Carolina is fourth in the nation for solar power. He added about 42,000 homeowners have roof solar panels in North Carolina.

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"What you’re gonna see in the future is Duke Energy building more of these solar facilities," Wheeless said. He added Duke Energy recently signed contracts for 15 more solar panel plants across the country.

According to Wheeless, Duke Energy gets most of its solar panels from large manufacturers in southeast Asia.

"It'd be better if the panels were manufactured closer to our home," Wheeless said.

Silfab Solar wants to meet that need. Silfab is inching closer to approval from York County leaders to move into an existing Fort Mill facility. The deal would create 800 full-time jobs. The manufacturer's corporate office is in Ontario, Canada, but its website says its panels are exclusively made in the U.S.

Nearby, neighbors support clean energy but worry about the traffic the business would create on US-21.

"Everything over there is a one lane road in each direction," Fort Mill resident George Maloney said. "It’s going to add a lot of volume."

The facility is near land currently being cleared for future Fort Mill schools, which concerns neighbor Danielle Graham.

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"It's just a little too dangerous," Graham said. "It needs to sit in a rural area where it's got a buffer zone."

Graham said community members have raised several questions about air and water quality impacts the manufacturing facility could have and they're still waiting to be answered.

As more homeowners and energy suppliers in the Carolinas choose to soak up the sun for energy, Silfab Solar hopes to meet the demand. It’ll need one more vote of approval from York County leaders before moving forward.

The next York County Council meeting is on Sept. 5.

Contact Julia Kauffman at [email protected] and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.