Not the time for Putney to tax solar production

PUTNEY — While it's necessary to find tax revenue to cover expenses of the town of Putney, especially after last year's huge road repair bills, it's also important to consider the fairness of any new tax and its impact. This is not the time for a tax on solar production.

No one is making money on solar panels beyond a very modest annual return in the form of reduced power bills. According to current regulations by the Vermont Public Utility Commission, no cash can be realized if solar energy production exceeds the amount necessary to offset the electric meters the solar credits are assigned to. In fact, any unused credit is forfeited completely if not used within one year of its production.

As Putney's proposed tax would be on arrays producing 50kW or more, it will not affect smaller home systems. However, as in the case of the Putney SunFarm LLC array on Bellows Falls Road, it will affect a group of about 50 individuals who have invested together in a 144 kW array.

The panels are owned by individuals who were unable to install solar panels at their homes. Putney SunFarm LLC (whose only members are the individual panel owners) recently took over management of the facility after Clean Energy Collective's subsidiary, Lake Solar I, went bankrupt. It will be enough of a struggle to pay for insurance, maintenance, and repairs without an additional tax.

In article 14 on this year's Town Meeting ballot, the town has not stated what the tax would be in the first year if approved. It could be $2 per kW or it could be $10 per kW. Is it fair for voters to be asked to approve something without knowing the consequences?

The owner of one sizable array in town has been generously donating excess power to nonprofits in Putney for several years. Does it seem fair to tax that person or business?

At any rate, a tax on solar energy production will have the effect of discouraging an important source of clean, renewable energy that we desperately need to encourage.

Please vote no on article 14.

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