Opponents of Planned Solar Power Project Applaud Missouri Supreme Court Ruling | Policy



A sign in a Callaway County yard, pictured August 30, 2022, reads ‘Corporate solar farm will reduce property value’. Residents of the New Bloomfield area oppose a power project proposed by NextEra Energy. Photo by Kurt Erickson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Kurt Ericson

JEFFERSON CITY — Opponents of a proposed solar power project in central Missouri are applauding a new court ruling that ended a tax break for companies building the facilities.

Callaway County Commissioner Roger Fischerwho represents an area near New Bloomfield with a view to a 100 megawatt project, said he was “delighted” by the High Court’s decision earlier this month.

Fischer said requiring developers of solar projects to pay property taxes would bring in more money for the county than through a negotiated payment from the company in lieu of taxes.

“It’s a really big deal,” Fischer said.

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At issue in the county is a plan by Florida-based NextEra Energy to build a solar power generation facility on farmland in the New Bloomfield area.

The site of the proposed solar complex is on various crop and pasture sites about 25 miles west of Missouri’s only nuclear power plant.

But locals covered the town with signs opposing the project and the city council voted unanimously earlier this year to declare the solar farms a “nuisance”.

Fischer is among those who oppose the project.

“I don’t agree with covering productive farmland with solar panels,” Fischer said.

The Missouri Supreme Court’s decision, released earlier this month, struck down a 2013 state law granting a property tax exemption for certain solar energy systems. The court said the tax relief was not authorized by the state constitution.

The case involved a solar farm providing power to Springfield. The ruling means the company could owe Greene County more than $400,000 in back taxes.

Prior to the court’s decision, Callaway County had negotiated with NextEra a payment in lieu of property taxes on the land under the solar panels.

Fischer said there had been no discussions with the company about a payment since July. He said the court’s decision to end the tax credit could yield 10 times more tax revenue than any payment being discussed.

NextEra did not respond to a request for comment.

James Owen, executive director of Renew Missouri, which strives to adopt clean energy policies, said the Supreme Court’s ruling could be positive for companies like NextEra because it would eliminate the need for them to negotiate. payments with individual counties.

“Solar companies would like some consistency,” Owen said.

Lawmakers are already on track to start working toward a solution. Senate Bill 745, which took effect Sunday, establishes a task force to study taxation of solar power systems.

The panel is required to deliver a report to the General Assembly by December 31, potentially enabling the Legislative Assembly to pass a constitutional solution to the tax issue when it meets again in January.

The task force will consist of members of the House and Senate, two county assessors, two members of the state tax commission, two representatives of statewide farm organizations, two representatives with experience in solar energy development and a member of an organization that advocates for solar energy development.

Owen hopes for a resolution.

“I think that will be fixed,” Owen said.

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