Appraisal methodology for solar and wind energy projects
Questions and answers
G1. Where can I find the law regarding the new appraisal methodology?
G2. Will assessors use the new methodology to determine the assessment for solar and wind properties every year?
Yes. The model and discount rates will be updated annually, and assessors will use them to generate the value for every solar and wind project with a nameplate capacity of one megawatt or larger.
G3. Could an assessor use the new methodology for a project smaller than one megawatt?
No. The model is designed for projects of one megawatt or larger.
G4. Will assessors use this methodology to value a residential rooftop solar installation?
No. Those projects are typically much smaller than one megawatt. Assessors will continue to value those installations as they have in the past.
G5. How much land does a typical one megawatt plant require?
A typical solar installation of one megawatt would cover five to ten acres of property.
G6. I’m an assessor, and I have a 350 megawatt solar project in my town. Will I use the same model for that project? Is there a different discount rate for very large projects?
You will use the same model for all projects of one megawatt or larger. The same discount rate is used for all solar projects larger than five megawatts.
G7. Can assessors use the methodology for projects under construction?
No. The law requires the methodology to be used to value projects that generate at least one megawatt or more of electricity. Incomplete projects that do not generate electricity are outside the scope of the law.
G8. Why didn’t the Tax Department use the cost approach to develop the methodology?
RPTL 575-b requires the use of the discounted cash flow (income) approach.
G9. If assessors change the assessment annually, including in years that they aren’t doing municipal-wide reassessments, does this constitute selective (or spot) assessing?
No. RPTL 575-b requires the assessor to use the new methodology to value all projects of one megawatt or larger. The law also authorizes the Tax Department to annually update the discount rate and to update the model periodically, as appropriate.
G10. What will be the impact on the equalization rate, since the assessor is required to update the assessment annually?
The assessor will apply the local level of assessment to the value each year. Therefore, there should not be an impact on the equalization rate.
M1. How do I calculate the value to use for the assessment?
See pages 2 and 3 of the Instructions.
M2. Why will the model be updated annually?
The renewable energy industry is evolving and changing. Those changes will impact the forecasts built into the model’s income approach. In addition, as solar and wind projects mature, new and revised information may affect the model.
The discount rates will also change annually to reflect economic changes.
M3. Why was 25 years selected as the discount period?
The typical warranty period for a renewable energy project is 25 years.
M4. Why do the models list multiple years of income?
The present value of cash flow is calculated over 25 years. The models include a column for each year to display the components of the present value of cash flow.
M5. How is date of operation defined?
The date of operation is the date operation began or, if operation has not begun, the date construction was completed.
M6. Does the value change if the solar panels are replaced after the start of operation?
No. The periodic replacement of portions of a solar array constitutes maintenance and is already reflected in the values produced by the model.
M7. Before placing the value on the assessment roll, should the assessor round the value?
After equalizing the value, the assessor should follow their usual procedure for rounding.
M8. If a plant crosses over multiple parcels, should the assessor run the model separately for each parcel?
No. The value of the plant is the same regardless of whether it crosses over multiple parcels. The assessor should run the model for the entire plant and apportion the value among the parcels.
M9. Why doesn’t the model include battery storage?
We anticipate that battery storage in support of a solar or wind plant will be addressed in the future when there is more information about the inventory and economics of the storage.
M10. Will the Tax Department create a model for valuing plants smaller than 1 megawatt?
The development of the current model was mandated by legislation. At this time, the Tax Department does not plan to develop a model for smaller plants.
T1. How does one find the tax load for a project?
The assessor is responsible for calculating the tax load for the project. The tax load is the overall full value tax rate for the property where the plant is sited. This rate should reflect all property taxes applicable to the property, including town, county, village, school district, and special district tax rates.
To calculate the tax load.
- For each taxing jurisdiction, multiply the tax rate per thousand dollars of assessed valuation by the actual equalization rate (100, 66, 25.34, etc, not the percentage).
- Divide the product of Step 1 by one thousand.
- Sum the results of all jurisdiction.
For an example of a tax load calculation, see the instructions.
T2.How would you calculate the tax load for a solar farm that is located in multiple school districts?
The assessor should weight the tax rates based on the portion of the plant in each school district.
T3. If the property is subject to a PILOT, why would the assessor enter the tax load as opposed to the PILOT payment?
The income approach generates the estimated value of an investment based on its expected future cash flows. PILOT agreements are negotiated and, therefore, do not necessarily reflect market value. Market taxes should be used in the calculation of market value.
L1. How does the model handle the value of the land, and how should assessors value the land if it is leased or very large?
The user has the opportunity to enter the annual amount of a land lease into the model.
- If a value is entered in the Annual Ground Lease Payment field, then the model output does not include a land value. In that case, the assessor should use a standard appraisal methodology to value the land and add it to the value produced by the model.
- If the property is not leased or the annual amount of the land lease is not known, the user should leave the annual ground lease payment set to $0. The model will then value the land in conjunction with the plant itself. The present value of cash flow produced by the model, in this case, will be the full market value of the plant and land combined. To apportion the model output between land and improvements for placement on the assessment roll, the assessor should use standard appraisal methodology to determine the value of the land.
L2. A solar company owns the parcel the solar farm is located on. Therefore, the Annual Ground Lease Payment is $0 and the model includes the value of the land. How does the assessor know the value of the land to put on the assessment roll?
To arrive at a land value for the assessment roll, the assessor should value the land via standard appraisal methodology and apply the level of assessment to that value.
L3. If a plant is sited on a portion of a large parcel, how should the assessor value the excess land?
If the portion of the parcel is leased for the plant, the assessor should enter the lease payment in the Annual Ground Lease Payment field. The model will produce a value for the improvements only. The assessor should value all of the land using the standard appraisal methodology.
If the lease payment isn’t available, the model will produce a value of the plant and the land to support the plant, and the assessor should use the standard methodology to value the excess land.
L4. A developer has informed an assessor that they cannot provide the details of the lease agreement. What should the assessor enter in the Annual Ground Lease Payment field?
Enter $O for the Annual Ground Lease Payment so that the model will include the value of the land. To determine a land value for the assessment roll, use the standard appraisal methodology and apply the level of assessment.
L5. If the Annual Ground Lease Payment is $0, the model will include the value of the land. What price per acre is the model using?
In the income approach, the land value is inherent to the concluded value. Therefore, the model does not account for value for acre as an input. For instance, assessors typically use the income approach to value an apartment building and the land below it.
P1. How does the new methodology impact existing PILOTs?
The answer depends on the terms of the existing PILOT agreement. If a PILOT under the agreement is calculated based on the assessed value of the project, the publication of this model will change the PILOT because the assessed value of the property will likely change. If the PILOT agreement sets the PILOT at a specific amount(s) without regard to the assessed value of the property, the model may have no impact on the PILOT.
P2. Should the assessor use the new methodology if the town has a PILOT agreement stating that the assessment should be a certain value?
See P1 above.
P3. RPTL 487 authorizes PILOT agreements for renewable energy projects to be up to the full amount of taxes that would be owed without a PILOT. As such, should the assessor use the new methodology to determine the assessed value of a PILOT? Or should they determine in the agreement that the PILOT will be adjusted annually?
PILOT agreements are private contractual agreements, and the Tax Department cannot provide guidance on their negotiation. However, municipalities may wish to consider the values produced in the model when considering PILOTs.
P4. If a solar or wind PILOT cannot exceed the full amount of taxes otherwise owed, would a PILOT need to change if the use of the new methodology would result in a PILOT that is more than the taxes that would be owed?
You should consult your municipal attorney regarding potential legal issues specific to your municipality.
P5. If a taxing jurisdiction did not opt out of the RP 487 exemption and entered into a PILOT agreement before 2022 (the effective date of the new appraisal methodology), are existing projects grandfathered and the new methodology will not apply for the PILOT duration?
The new methodology applies to all projects of one megawatt or larger.
P6. Will some existing PILOT agreements need to be modified as a result of this new methodology?
You should consult with local counsel on the agreement(s) in your municipality.
P7. What if the town has an existing PILOT agreement that includes a lower assessment than the model?
See P6 above.
P8. Our IDA negotiated a PILOT agreement that can be extended from 20 to 30 years. How would that change as a result of the new methodology?
See P6 above.
E1. Is the exemption for solar, wind, or certain other energy systems (487) still in effect for plants regardless of their size?
The exemption authorized by RPTL 487 ¬continues to be in effect, except where a locality has opted out of the exemption. If a solar or wind plant is one megawatt or larger, you will use the appraisal model to determine its value for purposes of the exemption.
E2. If a town owns the solar or wind plant, will it still be wholly exempt under this new methodology?
If a generating facility is exempt from taxation under RPTL 406 it will continue to be exempt. Municipalities will use the new methodology to generate the value of the property, which will then be wholly exempt.
E3. Does the law establishing this new methodology (RPTL 575-b) eliminate the penalty for converting agricultural land to a solar project?
No. The conversion payments authorized by Agriculture and Markets Law Sections 305 and 306 still apply to the development of solar generating facilities.
S1. The New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) map boundaries seem to cross county and municipal lines. If it is unclear, how can the assessor know which zone a municipality is in?
The developer can provide that information.
S2. How can an assessor get specific values to enter into the model from developers?
Developers are aware of the new law, and can be expected to provide information when needed. Assessors have the authority to contact the developer for information, just as they do for other types of properties.
S3. Before using the model each year, should the assessor first contact the developers for updated information?
Assessors may wish to contact the developer annually to be aware of any changes to the plant.
S4. For solar projects smaller than one megawatt, should the assessor consider the use of websites such as PVValue.com?
Assessors have the option to use the resources and tools they deem appropriate.
S5. If the developer fails or refuses to provide the necessary information for the model may the assessor use other valuation methods to develop a value?
You should make every effort to contact the developer for the necessary information. You may wish to use the Information request letter template.
If you have exhausted all avenues to collect the information from the developer, you may email firstname.lastname@example.org for help in determining typical estimates for the type of plant in your area.
S6. Do the community or market transition credits change from year to year?
No. The amount of the credit is locked in for 25 years.
S7. Is there a way to verify that the amount of the community or market transition credit provided by the developer is accurate?
The developer does receive documentation of the credit when it is granted. You can ask the developer if that documentation is available.