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Let There Be (Solar) Light: Newport Solar II LLC Seeks Payment in Lieu of Taxes

A 12-panel photovoltaic solar array is seen on a residential property in Rutland on Monday, March 25, 2019. By Dylan Marsh EAGLE TIMES STAFF

NEWPORT- A solar company based in Norwich, Vermont, has reached out to the town of Newport in regard to receiving a payment in lieu of taxes program. Newport Solar II LLC intends to utilize a property in the vicinity of Sunapee Street to set up a solar array.

The town has entered into preliminary steps for an agreement in which Newport Solar would pay 10% of their gross income to the town rather than paying the property tax. New Hampshire RSA 72 outlines the procedure in which they would be able to accomplish this with the town selectboard. Newport Solar II LLC has proposed to pay no less than $4 per kilowatt, or 10% of their gross, they expect to earn roughly $150,000 annually. This would bring in roughly $15,000 for the town of Newport and would be subject to an annual 3% inflation rate. The PILOT program would have a life of 25 years. This was determined earlier this year, by someone employed by the town, to be two and a half times the average payment for a PILOT program similar to this in New Hampshire. “We don’t own it, we don’t maintain it, we have no responsibility for it. It would just be a payment,” Town Manager Hunter Rieseberg explained. He also suggested that the purpose of the program would be “to promote solar or alternative power” and that the PILOT program would be necessary because, “If we were to assess them for the value of the array it would never work financially. You would be charging them millions and millions of dollars’ worth of infrastructure on the site.” This is in line with the town of Newport’s efforts to have a net zero carbon emission. The town also took measures to replace all streetlights with energy efficient LED lights. The installation of another solar array would continue to push the town in a greener direction, but also include savings for the taxpayers.

Newport Solar II LLC has stated that they intend to sell a portion of the energy to the grid and the other portion to the school district in town. The cost to the school district would have to be determined through an agreement between the company and the district. The sale of energy to the school district wouldn’t affect the PILOT program, as the town and school district are separate entities.

Separate from the PILOT program, the company would still be required to obtain any zoning and building permits required to build on the property. They would also be required to adhere to any restrictions that are already set on the property before moving forward. Selectboard Chair Jeffrey Kessler made certain to confirm that the PILOT program would only affect the tax structure and not authorize any construction. The town of Newport currently has another solar array, which was completed in 2020, for the purpose of offsetting the towns overall energy consumption. The property on which that array sits was owned by the town and the company is required to pay roughly $3000 each year. The dollar amount is equal to what the taxes would be for an undeveloped property and is not considered to be in the commercial market because the power goes directly to the town. As of this article being written, the solar panel array currently operating in Newport, has a lifetime production of 1.17 gigawatt hours.

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