How Arizona Could Soon Tax Thousands of Residents For Going Solar
If you lease solar panels in Arizona—now home of the world's largest photovoltaic solar facility—there could soon be a tax for that.
A new interpretation of state law regarding solar panels means that customers could be paying taxes on them by October 2015, the Arizona Republic reported.
The taxes aren't light either. According to the report, a $34,000, 7.8-kilowatt residential solar array would cost about $152 in property taxes for the lessee in year one. Commercial systems at 250 kilowatts might cost a business owner $4,485 in property taxes.
Prior to the new interpretation, homeowners who lease panels saved an average of $60 to $120 per year.
Solar companies in the area said this tax won't be imposed on them or their customers without a fight.
"We won't let our existing customers pay for this and will fight this all the way to court if we have to," said Will Craven, senior public-affairs manager for SolarCity. "That is a serious hit to many Arizonans' ability to save by going solar."
Many are already speculating that Arizona Public Service Co. (APS) is working overtime to push for the property tax. Last year, the utility settled for the ability to impose a $4.90 fee on solar customers, following the Arizona Corporation Commission’s 3-to-2 vote. The company previously wanted $50 per month.
According to the Republic, APS initially said it was neutral on the property tax, but has since written a letter to utility regulators charging that companies like Sunrun ought to be paying taxes on the distributed generation that provides services to residents, schools, governmental agencies and more. Sunrun and SolarCity officials told the publication that their leases are written in a fashion that allows them to pass tax liabilities on to the customer. Both companies say they don't want to do that.
Officials from SolarCity and Sunrun said their leases are written in a manner that passes any tax liability on to the customer, so even though the Revenue Department sent tax notices to the solar companies, they can pass the costs to customers. But that is not something the solar companies want to do.
"As in all businesses, the end consumer pays the cost of higher taxes," said Bryan Miller, vice president of public policy and power markets for Sunrun Inc. "This is true whether it's APS including the costs of taxes in electricity rates, or Walmart including the cost of taxes in the price of bananas."
Sean Laux, the legislative liaison for the state's department of revenue, said he expects to receive reports from solar companies on the value of their leased properties by May. Laux said things could change, but hinted that it's not expected.
"We believe the DOR interpretation is flawed legally and factually," Craven said. "We expect them to modify their interpretation before they end up taxing thousands of Arizonans."
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Naomi Larsson
For centuries, the delicate silver dove has been a symbol of love and fidelity.
Biodiversity and Habitat Loss<p>Their near extinction is a symbol of the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/global-biodiversity-outlook-targets-extinction-summit-new-york-pledge/a-54932895" target="_blank">biodiversity crisis</a> in the UK, largely driven by habitat destruction. Britain is now one of the countries with the most <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/future-of-UK-nature#:~:text=The%20UK%20is%20one%20of,than%20half%20are%20in%20decline" target="_blank">depleted nature</a> in the world according to the World Wildlife Fund. Half its plant and animal species are in decline and more than <a href="https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/let-nature-sing-wales/#:~:text=a%20natural%20tragedy.-,Over%2040%20million%20birds%20have%20vanished%20from%20UK%20skies%20in,unaware%20of%20the%20impending%20danger" target="_blank">40 million birds</a> have vanished in just half a century.</p><p>"[Turtle doves] are the canary in the [coal] mine because there are all these other species before it and after it," said Tree. "It's an umbrella for all the other species that are heading that way."</p><p>Turtle doves migrate south through Europe to sub-Saharan Africa between July and September, ending up in dry woodland and farmland areas of countries like Mali and Senegal for winter. </p><p>Droughts in West Africa and the Sahel region are believed to have contributed to the fall in turtle dove species recorded in northern Europe, with low rainfall reducing supplies of the seeds and insects the birds rely on for energy for the long journey home.</p>
Conservation and Farming<p><a href="https://www.operationturtledove.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Operation Turtle Dove,</a> a partnership project of charities including the Essex Wildlife trust, works with landowners and farmers to actively build turtle dove habitat.</p><p>Outten works with <a href="https://www.ebws.org.uk/birdsites/blue-house-farm-ewt-north-fambridge" target="_blank">Blue House Farm</a>, a 660-acre nature reserve in the UK county of Essex, where they have replicated weedy fallow plots. </p><p>"We work on it every year to make sure it's in the condition it needs to be with plants such as clovers and black medic," Outten said. "These plants are native to the landscape and produce the seed the birds feed on." </p><p>The birds eat a wide range of seeds from various plants that would have been abundant 50 or 100 years ago, added Guy Anderson, program manager for species recovery with The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). </p><p>"But it's simply true that with the gradual process of <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/farming-without-pesticides-how-can-we-make-agriculture-greener/a-52216796" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">intensifying our agricultural production</a>, the availability of those seeds has dropped and dropped," said Anderson.</p><p>Part of the project includes supplementary feeding — providing sources of food in the form of seed or grain. Under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme in England, farmers can receive financial support to create a turtle dove habitat. </p><p>Though they haven't recorded an increase in doves across the sites in the four years of working on the project, Outten said they are seeing improvements in how landowners and farmers manage habitat for the birds. </p>
A Turtle Dove Haven<p>The 3,500-acre Knepp Estate in West Sussex is another project taking a different approach and one of the few places where turtle dove numbers are increasing.</p><p>Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell converted their intensively farmed land into a rewilding project almost 20 years ago. They have let the land return to nature.</p><p>Just one year after they'd finished <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/uks-most-talented-architects-are-not-human/a-35952128" target="_blank">rewilding</a> the southern part of their property, they heard turtle doves for the first time. It's now a breeding hotspot for the birds with an estimated 19 pairs. Knepp is also home to <a href="https://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/rewilding/rewilding-projects/knepp-estate" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2% of the UK's population</a> of nightingales. </p><p>Tree is critical of supplementary feeding schemes that, in her view, are short term. She questions the chances of turtle doves getting to feed on scattered seeds before other mammals eat them first.</p>
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