Pulaski County Officials Discuss Potential Solar Farm Plans, Revenue Opportunities

Pulaski County is gearing up for solar farm development, but exactly what that might look like still remains to be seen. Community Development Commission Executive Director Nathan Origer didn’t have any firm answers about the size of a potential solar farm during Monday’s advisory plan commission meeting.

“There are no projects that are confirmed right now,” Origer said. “So we couldn’t speak for NextEra or another company and say for certain, ‘This is how many acres they’re going to plan.’ We don’t know that.”

Building and Zoning Coordinator Karla Pemberton said it will ultimately depend on how many property owners will agree to rent land to the developer. Origer added that the developer is hesitant to make any commitments until the county finalizes updates to its solar regulations. He speculated that if everything falls into place, work could begin in early 2021, with the solar farm going online in mid-to-late 2022.

Most county officials see solar development as a potential revenue opportunity for the county government, as well as landowners. During Monday’s meeting, County Council Member Rudy DeSabatine asked how exactly the county would get that money. Origer said the county might want to negotiate a payment in lieu of taxes agreement. “They’ll pay less than what their tax bill would be on paper, but a lot more than we’d actually collect because of the maximum levy,” Origer explained. “And what those numbers are remain to be determined and negotiated when there’s an actual project on the books.”

He explained that without the PILOT agreement, most of the property tax revenues from the solar panels would end up reducing the tax rate for all property taxpayers but wouldn’t bring in new revenue. That’s because the county is limited in how much money it can raise through property taxes. The agreement would also give the county more control over how much of the money it shares with townships, libraries, and school districts.

Origer said the county would also see modest income tax revenue from landowners’ rental income, if they live in Pulaski County.