- Newsletter (385)
This solar newsletter was originally published on June 15, 2018.
Residential Solar Property Tax Exemption Bills Pass House
On Tuesday, June 13, two bills to clarify the tax status of distributed generation (DG) projects passed the Michigan House of Representatives. The bills, HB 5143 and HB 5680, were introduced by Representative Tom Barrett. HB 5143 would reinstate a tax exemption for “alternative energy personal property,” including solar PV, fuel cell, wind, combined heat and power, and storage systems which offset the host’s energy use. HB 5680 would add alternative energy systems to the list of repairs and household upgrades that are not considered when determining the true cash value of a property for assessment purposes, until the property is sold.
Michigan EIBC has been actively supportive of these bills.The legislation is necessary to avoid the current confusion and patchwork system of interpretation and enforcement around taxation of distributed energy systems. Michigan EIBC president Liesl Eichler Clark explained that the taxes on residential solar panels are currently assessed inconsistently across the state. “In some cases they get panels up and then get a bill in the mail and installers had no idea assessors are assessing [residential solar installations] in that community,” she said.
Even more confusing, perhaps, is the logic behind the tax in the first place: “You don’t tax my generator,” Clark explained, so “why tax my solar panels?”
Solar Tariffs Upset Solar Installation Plans
Developers say Trump administration tariffs on imported solar panels have caused developers across the U.S. to freeze or cancel $2.5 billion in large solar installations. This represents more than double the amount expected to be invested in new domestic solar manufacturing as a result of the tariffs. Among the developers affected are Michigan EIBC member companies Cypress Creek Renewables, Inovateus Solar and Southern Current.
Cypress Creek Renewables spokesman Jeff McKay said the utility-scale developer has been forced to cancel or freeze $1.5 billion in projects because the tariff raised costs to uncompetitive levels. Similarly, Southern Current’s vice president of development and strategy Bret Sowers said the company is facing a similar problem with $1 billion of projects.
“Either you make the decision to default or you bite the bullet and you make less money,” Sowers said.
The tariff has forced Inovateus Solar to shift its attention away from its home in the Midwest to places where state incentives make it more profitable, chairman T.J. Kanczuzewski said.
At the same time, the tariffs have helped to double domestic solar manufacturing by incentivizing foreign solar manufacturers to manufacture their panels in the United States. For example, JinkoSolar from China has announced plans to spend $50 million on projects to increase panel construction in the United States. Similarly, Hanwha Q CELLS from Korea announced plans to open a factory in Georgia next year.
- Michigan solar developers, including Michigan EIBC member companies Cypress Creek Renewables and 5 Lakes Energy, are raising concerns that DTE Energy is delaying interconnection requests while simultaneously planning to invest $1 billion in a new combined-cycle natural gas peaker plant.
- Michigan Radiorecently did a story on the Michigan Public Service Commission’s changes to net metering, saying that solar installers are expecting the move to hurt business.
- State Representative Yousef Rabhi says the Michigan Public Service Commission’s DG tariff plan does not fairly weigh the benefits of solar.
- A Detroit cooperative is trying to find ways to make solar power accessible to the community.
- Some Huron county officials are concerned about extending the moratorium on commercial solar projects for another year.
- The Flushing County Planning Commission drafted a proposal to limit the number of solar panels residents can have on their property. The proposal has received significant community backlash.
- The first utility-scale solar project has been approved for Raisin Township.
- University of Michigan students unveiled an off-the-grid building powered by solar-plus-storage.
- Michigan EIBC member Harvest Energy Solutions installed a new solar collector in Wolverine Power Supply’s electric grid in LeRoy, resulting in a rise in renewable energy in area.
- The Coldwater Board of Public Utilities’ solar field park, installed by Michigan EIBC member NextEra Energy Resources, will provide clean energy to residents.
- A new solar array is online at Leelanau Fruit in Suttons Bay.
- The owner of VSP North America, a Michigan company selling solar-powered generators, is accused of running a $2 million investment scheme.
- S. Senators from Nevada and New Mexico introduced a bill seeking to repeal President Trump’s solar tariffs, arguing that they burdens existing solar companies.
- The Department of Energy announced a $3 million prize to help boost domestic solar manufacturing.
Across the Country
- Renewable Energy World listed its 40 under 40 in the solar industry.
- Solar continues to outpace natural gas in new energy capacity, with 2.5 GW installed in the first quarter of this year.
- Low prices are encouraging utilities to add more solar-plus-storage projects to their portfolios.
- The U.S. solar industry employs more people than the coal, wind and nuclear sectors combined.
- National community solar capacity grew by 112% last year.
- Wall Street is warming up to investing in solar stocks.
- Greentech Mediawrote up a list of everything you need to know about California’s new residential rooftop solar mandate.
- County officials in western Illinois approved plans for a pair of solar projects owned by Michigan EIBC member company Geronimo Energy.
- Southern Illinois farmers share their experience investing in solar power.
- A Nevada utility could soon break the record for the lowest price for solar energy in the nation.
- First Solar broke ground on a $400 million thin-film solar panel production facility in Ohio that will be the largest solar factory by capacity in the Western Hemisphere.
- Madison, Wisconsin officials renewed a loan and rebate program for residents and businesses who install solar panels.
- A Madison, Wisconsin startup that installs small solar units in rural Africa won an annual state business plan competition.
- Two of Wisconsin’s major utilities are partnering on a pair of solar projects, to be completed by Michigan EIBC member companies Invenergy and NextEra Energy Resources, that will be the largest in the Midwest.
- What do Amazon, Apple, and Walmart have in common? They’re among 10 companies investing in record amounts of solar power.
Events to Watch:
The Michigan Energy Office will host an Electric Vehicle Forum, including an EV ride-and-drive and panel discussions, on Wednesday, June 20, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m, at Michigan Agency for Energy (7109 W. Saginaw Highway), in Lansing. The event agenda can be found here.
The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) invite you to Solar Power International, September 24-27, in Anaheim, California. Registration opens in spring of 2018 here.