Solar profits to reduce taxes

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, August 17, 2022

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With four solar projects now approved for the county the board of supervisors (BOS) set out during its Aug. 8 meeting to let their intentions known as to how funds from the project would be used to benefit the county.

All but two supervisors voted to approve a resolution stating that solar project funds would be used to reduce real estate taxes, fund schools, fire and EMS, and enhance economic development within the county.

The idea for the resolution came following the Aug. 2 public hearing in which the BOS unanimously approved a siting agreement and conditional use permit (CUP) for Tall Pines Solar.

BOS Chairman Gary Walker requested the resolution as he felt that citizens of the county needed to know where profits from the solar project would go.

Walker was absent during the Aug. 8 vote and did not cast a vote.

Supervisor Garland Hamlett Jr., who represents the Drakes Branch District, cast the only no vote for the resolution of intent.

Hamlett did not explain his reason for the no vote.

During previous votes, Hamlett voted in favor of the Tall Pines Solar yet against the Randolph Solar project.

Supervisor Hazel Bowman Smith, who also voted in agreement with Tall Pines, voted against the Randolph Solar project as well. However, Smith did cast a yes vote making her intentions known that project funds should be spent on reducing taxes and funding fire, EMS and economic development.

According to the siting agreement, the county is set to net more than $23 million over the project’s life of Tall Pines, with $60,000 coming to the county this year and the most significant payout coming in 2026 with $5.4 million.

In comparison, the Randolph Solar project approved last month is set to generate more than $300 million over the project’s life.

The first $500,000 payment to the county is expected to come in October.

Before construction begins, the county will receive $1.5 million in voluntary payments, with $5.6 million to be received in both 2025 and 2026 during construction.

The approval of the Randolph Solar project came after more than two years of public hearings, lawsuits, and negotiations and is set to be one of the nation’s most extensive solar facilities at 800 megawatts.

In addition to Tall Pines and Randolph Solar, the BOS approved Moody Creek Solar in August 2019 and Courthouse Solar in February 2021.