On Oct. 30, this paper published a letter (“Energy developers should not be exempt from paying property tax,” Oct. 30) in which the author encourages local municipalities to opt out of New York State’s Real Property Tax Law Section 487’s platform for entering into tax agreements with renewable energy projects. We believe opting out is a bad choice for the area.
Projects like Morris Ridge Solar can provide significant environmental and economic benefits to communities in Livingston County. These benefits are made possible through, in part, payment in lieu of tax (PILOT) agreements that make the cost of operating such projects more certain (thus enabling financing and investment) and which create long-term, certain revenue streams for the host communities and their school districts.
Currently the project area upon which Morris Ridge is proposed pays approximately $50,000 in property taxes annually. Once the project is complete, that same project area will generate approximately $500,000 annually.
During construction, the project is anticipated to create up to 200 construction jobs, plus three full-time positions when completed. It would also provide annual payments for landowners hosting project components such as solar panels, collector lines and the substation.
Opting out of Tax Law 487 is not a solution. Many other industries and forms of energy generation negotiate PILOT agreements that are meant to help stimulate local economic growth and create new investments and opportunities for years to come. Without tax cost certainty, the ability to arrange the financing and attract the investment necessary to build the project and create the revenue streams for the community is compromised.
Kevin Campbell is a project developer for EDF Renewables, a San Diego, California-based company that develops, builds and manages renewable energy production facilities, including solar and wind farms as well as biogas energy production facilities. EDF is developing the 170-megawatt Morris Ridge Solar project in Mount Morris.