The unseen cost of solar farms on taxpayers in North Carolina

WASHINGTON, N.C. (WNCT) – There is growing concern in some counties about how much solar farms are actually costing taxpayers.

Under North Carolina law, counties must give solar companies an 80 tax abatement. For smaller counties like Beaufort, that equates to around a $543,000 tax loss each year.

A planned 600 acre solar farm in the county threatens to bring the total tax lost to well over $1 million a year. The more solar farms a county has, the greater that number.

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

Beaufort County Commissioners recently voted 4-3 to halt any further construction of solar farms in the county for a year. The hope is this will give them enough time to re-work their own ordinance, and pressure state lawmakers to repeal the tax rebate counties are required to give solar companies.

Buzzeo wants to make the county ordinance stricter by increasing the distance solar farms must be placed from property lines from 50 feet to at least 300 feet. He’s concerned solar farms will impact property values in surrounding areas.

“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.

At the state level, Sen. Bill Cook (R- Dist. 1) is one of those leading the charge.

“Solar and wind in North Carolina is out of control,” Cook said.

Sen. Cook said he plans to introduce legislation that would reduce the tax abatement 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,” he said.

He said he’s all for renewable and clean energy, but it must be does responsibly.

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

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