Interest withdrawn in potential Lowndes County solar farm

Published 4:21 pm Sunday, September 24, 2023

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Plans for a potential solar farm project to begin in Lowndes County have officially been halted after a letter was received by county attorney Prince Chestnut which stated the company’s withdrawal of interest in laying roots in Lowndes. 

The project has been on the table of the Lowndes County Commission for months as commissioners worked alongside the Lowndes County Economic Development Commission to find a solution to a proposed tax abatement which was voted down by the Lowndes County Commission. 

The company who showed interest in bringing the project to Lowndes County (which has remained unnamed thus far) requested the commission to grant a 20-year, 100% tax abatement, and proposed that the project would yield a significant amount of tax revenue to benefit Lowndes County Public Schools.

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On Aug. 28, commissioners voted to submit a counter proposal to the company which would allow for a 10-year 50% abatement while also requesting the company provide a $500,000 escrow account to cover any potential damages to roads during construction of the project.

Commissioners had mixed feelings about the withdrawal of interest. Some felt the revenue for the school system was too great to pass up, while others simply felt that the project was not in the best interest of Lowndes County as a whole. 

Commissioner W. Dickson Farrier expressed disappointment in the loss of the project as it pertained to the potential financial benefit to Lowndes County schools.

“We lost a wonderful project in my opinion,” Farrier said. “The school system was going to get several hundred thousand dollars. At our last meeting we had children from one of the schools here asking for money because they need the money, so I’m disappointed. I was behind the project 100%”

Commissioner Robert Harris, who initiated the commission’s counter proposal said he had concerns about the motives of the solar company and the ability of the county to approve the abatements that would be needed for the project to come to fruition.

“Our county doesn’t have the tax revenue to provide that type of abatement to a company that will only provide three local jobs,” Harris said. “All they were going to do was provide the solar and then sell it to Alabama Power. There were no statements made about how it would help the consumers. They wouldn’t even tell us what their rate of return was going to be.”

There has been no discussion as of yet regarding whether other projects of similar interest would be approved if proposed to the commission under more favorable terms.