JOHNSTOWN — The Fulton County Board of Supervisors on Monday discussed the importance of solar farms in the area, while taking action on three resolutions concerning them.
Two of the resolutions approved at the County Office Building required Payment In Lieu of Taxes agreements for two solar farm projects A resolution was approved requiring a PILOT agreement for the Kearsage Solar, LLC array farm parcel in the town of Johnstown. A separate resolution was approved requiring a PILOT agreement for the Borrego Solar, LLC array farm parcel in the town of Oppenheim.
County Administrative Officer Jon Stead said the PILOT agreements were negotiated by County Attorney Jason Brott.
“These projects have already started and are partially underway,” Stead said.
Brott told the board that the agreements are fairly standard.
In the first resolution, county officials said Kearsage Solar LLC purchased property at 191 W. State St. Ext. in the town of Johnstown to construct a 1.452-megawatt solar farm to the north and a 1.98-megawatt solar farm to the south. The PILOT agreement is between the participating taxing jurisdictions based on the amount of $8,000 per megawatt of capacity with a 2 percent escalator per year for 15 years, matching the exemption period in state Real Property Tax Law.
In the second resolution, county officials said Borrego Solar purchased property at 519 County Highway 151 in the town of Oppenheim to construct a 1.386-megawatt solar farm. Again, the PILOT agreement is between participating taxing jurisdictions based on the amount of $8,000 per megawatt of capacity with a 2 percent escalator per year for 15 years, matching the exemption period in state Real Property Tax Law.
Gloversville 4th Ward Supervisor Charles Potter voted no against both resolutions, and Gloversville 1st Ward Supervisor Marie Born voted against just the Kearsage PILOT.
“It takes an incredible amount of panels to get the kilowatt hours up,” Potter said of solar farms.
He urges landowners to “do something different” on these lands where solar operations are taking hold.
Born said she frequently gets calls from constituents about area solar farms. She said such solar operations are “popping up all over the county.” She said the message she gets from the public is “enough is enough” and residents are tired of “obtrusive” solar panels taking up space.
“I think we better think pretty hard before we let all these people in,” Born said.
Brott commented that at least these new solar operations will be bringing tax revenue into the county.
The third resolution approved by the board was one to set a public hearing for 1:30 p.m. Sept. 9 in the Supervisors Chambers at the County Office Building. The hearing is to receive public comments on a proposed county local law to allow “opting out” of state Real Property Tax Law exemptions for solar wind energy and farm waste energy projects.
The purpose of the law is to opt out of state law to capture tax revenues from the development of solar energy facilities and to ensure such facilities are treated equally with other commercial properties within the county.
Stead said he encourages the public to attend the Sept. 9 public hearing.
He said that what the proposed local law addresses is the “automatic” exemption that state law currently grants for solar farms. If the law is passed, he said every municipality will have the authority to opt out of that exemption. But he said this will only mean opting out of exemptions, not killing solar projects.
“This is not a moratorium on solar projects,” Stead said.
As long as a proposed solar project, array or farm complies with local zoning, they can be approved, Stead said.
“There can still be solar projects,” he said.
He said Fulton County’s only involvement would be whether the municipality involved wants to grant the exemption.
Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at [email protected]