Here’s another way facts get twisted and political debate goes downhill.
A politician, making a speech, says, ‘Solar energy gets a special tax break – an 80% exemption from property tax.’ It sounded innocent enough. It was, technically, correct. But the politician left out part of the story.
Next a blogger, bent on lambasting solar energy companies, took the politician’s half-truth and twisted it again and wrote it was an outrage solar companies only pay property taxes on 20% of the land they use.
And that’s how political debates go downhill: From half-truth. To twisted half-truth. To outright fiction.
Here’re the facts: Solar energy businesses do receive an 80% property tax exemption on the power generation equipment they own. But they receive no exemption at all on land. They pay those property taxes just like everyone else.
But that’s not all of the story.
Here in Catawba County, 35 acre solar facilities have been built on agricultural land. Prior to their being built that land was taxed at a special rate for ‘farmland’ – a special rate that set the value of the land (which determines how much tax is paid) at $300/acre.
Installing a solar facility did two things: It took the land out of the special farmland category, thereby raising the land value for tax purposes back to current land values of approximately $3000/acre.
And it changed the land use to an industrial use which pushed the land’s tax value up even more – to $10,000/acre.
In other words, the county’s tax base increased from $300 to $10,000 per acre. On 35 acres that’s an increase from $10,500 to $350,000.
Next the Solar Center adds $20 million in equipment and, after it claims the 80% exemption, ends up paying taxes on $4 million in equipment.
Which means that tax value of the 35 acre site increases again – going from $10,500 to $350,000 to $4,350,000. A 400 fold increase. Which means the property taxes the county collects on the site go up 400 fold as well.
When all is said and done the solar company has converted a 35 acre vacant field with no water and sewer service into a business that adds $4.35 million to the Catawba County tax base. And without having to build schools and police domestic disputes.
But, then, a blogger writes it’s an outrage solar companies don’t pay property taxes on land.
That’s an example of how politics becomes broken.
Thank you, Senator Wells, for making this clear. I think solar farms are fantastic assets for local communities. The town or county gets a huge boost in tax base and tax revenue as you say, without having to provide any additional services. Solar farms do not create any pollution, noise, smell, or traffic either.
Senator Wells: thank you for an excellent piece, I learned something! Your digging into the facts is impressive and important in this time of he-said-she-said politics and half-truths.