Solar tax breaks will be huge--for solar


By Patsy Nicosia

Under the state’s new formula for taxing commercial solar, the 50-megawatt NextEra Energy project in the Town of Sharon will pay just $447,727 a year.
Before the state rewrote the law in October?
NextEra would have paid $2.9 million in taxes annually, a difference of $2.4 million.
“I knew it would be bad. I just didn’t think it would be this bad,” said Supervisor Sandy Manko.
Of that $477,727, the town will get about $51,520 a year. The rest will be divided between the school and county.
“That’s $2.4 million a year not being accounted for in taxes,” Ms. Manko said. “Multiply that by 20 years…it’s in the millions. All money that should be going to the taxpayers.
“Instead it’s going in the solar developer’s pockets. It hardly seems fair.”
The state rewrote the assessment law with help from Tax and Finance and NYSERDA, leaving the state Assessors Association out of the process—something the NYSAA has complained bitterly about.
The law—which sets the formula for assessing both solar and wind—rewards developers at the expense of taxpayers, the NYSAA wrote.
It also doesn’t take into account the subsidies, grants, and other incentives—paid for by taxpayers—that the usually out-of-state developers are already getting, they said in October, when the state released the updated formula.
Trying to get ahead of the tax questions, in 2020 the Schoharie County Board of Supervisors paid $62,000 for an independent appraisal of the NextEra project
That appraisal put its market value at $99 million, which would have put annual taxes at $2,889,988.
At Ms. Manko’s request, Town Assessor Dave Jones ran the numbers with the new model, which uses just 16.5 percent of that $99 million market value.
What he came up with, after checking his numbers and the process multiple times, was that $447,727 figure.
“That’s a large difference,” he said. “I’m all for solar, but why give developers millions? That’s taxpayers’ money. It should be going into the pot to offset local taxes.”
The difference in the assessment formulas will impact more than the town.
It will also mean a difference—lost tax revenues--of:
• $747,184 to the county.
• $1.34 million to the school.
• $56,000 to the fire department.
• $15,271 to the library.
Plus, Mr. Jones and Ms. Manko both pointed out, it’s going to set a precedent not only here, but across the state.
“What’s going to happen when the PILOTs for other projects expire?” Mr. Jones asked.
Ms. Manko said she can already foresee Bird’s Eye Solar, off Route 20 and Empie Road, challenging their PILOT of $26,000 per megawatt.
“Do you think they’re going to be happy with that after this?”
Pre-construction work has already begun on the Next Era project, but it won’t begin paying taxes until it’s online in 2023.
In November, supervisors budgeted $50,000 for work by the Wladis Law Firm on the NextEra and other energy development projects.
Saturday, Energy Committee chair Don Airey said they have no plans to give up on getting a fair assessment for the NextEra project.