Lawmaker: Solar farms costs to North Carolina taxpayers ‘out of control’

by WorldTribune Staff, January 8, 2018

Solar farms are costing North Carolina counties big bucks and land owners also fear having the facilities nearby will impact property values.

“Solar and wind in North Carolina is out of control,” state Sen. Bill Cook, District 1 Republican, said.

North Carolina counties pay an 80 percent tax abatement for solar farms.

Cook plans to introduce legislation that would reduce the tax rebate counties must give solar companies over several years from 80 percent to zero percent.

“They’ll have the opportunity to make decisions and not get hit all of a sudden with a huge increase in their property tax,” Cook said, adding that he is for renewable and clean energy, but it must be done responsibly.

“If it was an economically feasible thing, that would be great,” he said. “But it isn’t.”

Officials in Beaufort County say their tax loss from solar farms is $543,000 per year and will go well over $1 million per year if a planned 600-acre solar farm is built.

“Our taxpayers here are paying for that tax abatement, and they’re also paying for an increase in energy costs,” said Beaufort County Commissioner Ron Buzzeo.

Beaufort County Commissioners recently voted 4-3 to stop any further construction of solar farms in the county for a year.

Buzzeo also wants to increase the distance solar farms must be placed from property lines from 50 feet to at least 300 feet.

“The landowner who is renting their land has rights, but the landowner who is in the surrounding area, whether it’s residential or school or hospitals, also have rights,” Buzzeo said.

Three eastern North Carolina counties last year called for an end to local property tax breaks for solar farms, the Virginian-Pilot reported.

Currituck County passed a resolution – and was joined by Pasquotank and Chowan counties – calling on state lawmakers to end the 80 percent tax discount.

The solar tax breaks mean Currituck County receives $210,600 in property taxes instead of more than $1 million.

Pasquotank County officials said their county’s loss is more than $420,000 in annual revenue from 508 acres of solar farms.

Chowan County does not have solar farms, but two are approved for construction, Commissioner John Mitchener said.

Perquimans County has three solar farms, but officials have not passed a resolution on tax breaks. Three more solar farms are approved for construction, County Manager Frank Heath said. Commissioners have approached state officials about scaling back the tax breaks, he said.

“It’s been a topic of discussion,” Heath said.

The Solar Energy Industries Association said in a statement that “Repealing the property tax abatement risks damaging this still growing industry that brings much needed economic development to the state.”


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