Depending on who you ask, it’s either the best of times or the worst of times for solar energy in Arizona. The industry continues to thrive in the Sun Belt states, where there’s plenty of sunshine and cheap open land. Recent success stories locally include a massive data center that just broke ground near Kingman last week – it’s a $3 billion, 340-megawatt solar powered data center that will span 717 acres of land and create about 50 jobs. Other ongoing projects include the 11,000-acre solar field planned for north of Interstate 40 and State Route 95. Across the Colorado River, the Chemehuevi tribe hopes to become the most solar-dependent reservation in the United States.
It’s clear that solar is big business, with the potential to provide a lot of local jobs and jump start local economies, thanks to this area’s abundant sunshine and friendly business policies – perhaps a little too friendly. County tax assessors throughout Arizona contend recent state legislation that lowers the rates for solar leasing companies is unfair to other industries in the state. House Bill 2493, signed into law by Gov. Doug Ducey in May, requires county assessors to rate property belonging to solar leasing companies at about 3 percent of their scheduled depreciated value, with gradual increases over the next decade. County assessors like Mohave County’s Jeanne Kentch say the new laws give an unfair tax advantage to solar leasing companies. We’re not prepared to support that claim, but we agree it’s curious why an industry that is doing pretty well on its own needed legislative protection against paying higher taxes.
Kentch says the reduction in taxation could cost Mohave County $300,000 over the next year, and thanks to a retroactive tax calculation, which includes refunds for taxes already paid, the state could end up refunding more than $10 million, she says. Seems pretty unnecessary considering the economy doesn’t exactly need the kick-start.
Solar has a bright future in Mohave County and Arizona, with or without financial incentives. Keeping the tax rate low could indeed spur on more development, but local governments ought to have the freedom to assess infrastructure at a fair market value, not arbitrarily low number determined by a bunch of bureaucrats in Phoenix.
— Today’s News-Herald