Lowndes County Commission approves solar project tax abatement

Published 11:44 am Friday, September 1, 2023

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The Lowndes County Commission voted on Aug. 28 to approve a tax abatement which has the potential to bring a new solar farm project into Lowndes County. 

Thomas Ellis, president of Lowndes County Economic Development Commission, discussed the specifics of the proposed project and said that negotiations are currently underway.

“The solar company (who at this time wishes to remain unnamed) was requesting a 20-year abatement, which was similar to what they had received in other counties,” Ellis said. “They proposed an 80 megawatt solar project which would span across around 800 acres of land in Lowndes County.”

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According to Ellis, the project would require an investment of roughly $140 million, and revenue from the project would potentially provide Lowndes County Schools with around $225,000 per year in additional funding. The solar company would also invest annual donations for youth and environmental projects within the county. 

County commissioners did not, however, vote to approve the project with the original terms requested by the solar company. Instead, a counter-proposal was approved to offer a 10-year abatement for only half of the project’s taxes. The counter-proposal would also require the company to set up a $500,000 escrow account to cover any potential damage to roads during construction.

Lowndes County District 1 Commissioner Robert Harris initiated the unanimously approved counter-proposal, stating that while the solar company may not be in agreement with the terms of the request, he believes the initial proposal is simply not in the best interest of Lowndes County.

“Our county doesn’t have the tax base that we need to give those sizable types of abatements to a company that is only going to create three jobs,” Harris said. “We would be giving the house away and the land with it so that other companies of this magnitude could continue to prosper, while our county still sits in need of taxpayer dollars to provide services for our people.”

While an answer has not yet been received from the solar company regarding the approval or denial of the counter proposal, Ellis and Harris agree that the chances of the counter-proposal being accepted are slim.