Setbacks in the real world do cost the landowner and the tax districts. As they get larger they cost more. All while consuming more land to make the desired amount of electricity.
The setback is important when you want solar but the neighboring farm does not. Setbacks are less important if you could find a group of parcels whose owners all want to lease to solar. Circles have less setback and are best but in the real world, we have rectangles. However, our area’s relatively small parcel size, along with the 10 situations where the JPC’s proposed language setbacks, make setbacks VERY important.
Let’s look at a real-world situation. As you may have guessed I (Bill Marshall) have signed an option for a solar lease on my land. One of my neighbors did not choose to sign an option. I fully support their right to make that decision. However, that means we have a participating / non-participating boundary between our farms.
Setback Calculation on boundary between two neighbors
Determine length of boundary
A reasonable 50-foot setback takes 5.7 acres out of production, while the extreme 500-foot setback takes 64.8 acres. That extra 450 feet deep setback takes 59.1 acres of potential solar production along this boundary. To produce the same amount of electricity, the solar developer must lease 59.1 more acres somewhere else in Mason County to replace the land taken by this wasteful setback.
Because the JPC’s proposed language measures setback from the outer fence, all 59.1 acres of this setback are outside the fence. Solar companies only pay to lease land “inside the fence” all of this setback land will pay real estate property tax on its value for agricultural use, not solar use.
Mason County PVA Troy Craycraft testified that solar land pays $58.90 per acre more than agricultural land each year.
Because the extra 450 feet depth of setback will be taxed at ag value, our local tax districts lose $5,071.81 of revenue each year. Over the 30-year life of the project, local tax districts will forfeit $152,364.33 in tax revenue on the excess setback land along a single participating / non-participating boundary of one farm. Excessive Setbacks DO MATER.