Without an exemption, Goffstown resident must pay high taxes on solar energy panels
By CASSIDY SWANSON Union Leader Correspondent
Roger Beaudoin says he’s being taxed too much by the town of Goffstown for his solar panels. (COURTESY)
GOFFSTOWN — When Goffstown resident Roger Beaudoin installed a solar panel system at his home at 32 Juniper Drive last year, he thought he was doing something positive. Now, he says, the taxes he has to pay for the panels equate to “a punishment” from the town.
“I’m disappointed in the fact that I’m trying to do something good, doing clean energy, and I’m being taxed on it,” Beaudoin said Wednesday.
Beaudoin appeared before the Board of Selectmen with his wife, along with several other solar enthusiasts, on Aug. 11. In a request for appointment with the board, Beaudoin cited a request for implementation for a solar panel tax exemption for Goffstown residents.
Beaudoin told the board he wanted the town to adopt the solar exemption known as RSA 72:62, which other municipalities in New Hampshire have already adopted. The process to adopt the exemption is outlined in RSA 72:27-a and requires a vote at the annual town meeting in March.
After Beaudoin installed his solar panels last summer, he said he was “taxed dramatically” on it as it increased the value of his property. Beaudoin said on Wednesday that the estimated value increase was $18,000.
When Beaudoin questioned Town Assessor Scott Bartlett on how he arrived at the cost, Beaudoin said he was pricing on a similar solar panel system installed in Berkeley, Calif., was used.“It’s a lot more expensive (in California) than it is here in New Hampshire,” Beaudoin told the board. “I’ve also talked to several real estate agents asking them how does it increase the value of my property. They said it doesn’t. Nobody knows how to figure it out…. It would be a selling point, but it really doesn’t increase the value of your property.”
Beaudoin said Wednesday that he was saving no money with his solar panels, and that he had actually lost money buying the system, which was installed by Concord-based SunRay Solar.
Another resident who attended the meeting, Charlie Bedard, of 36 Shirley Park Road, said he would not be installing solar panels if an exemption is not enacted.
“I’m just trying to do my part with clean energy,” Bedard said. “If the town doesn’t adopt this, then it’s going to deter a lot of people from going this route. It’s a big investment on our part.”
“We’re being taxed to death on everything in Goffstown,” Beaudoin said on Wednesday, echoing Bedard’s concerns. “Why do I want to pay out all this money for clean energy if you’re going to tax me on it, so I lose more money?”
Beaudoin said he would not have installed the panels had he known how high the taxes would be. He also said that SunRay Solar told him that the state would not tax him on the panels.
Beaudoin also suggested at the meeting that solar panel owners should get a tax deduction for contributing to the grid, but that he’s not expecting that.
“We’re actually helping the town because we’re putting electricity into the grid, so we’re alleviating the consumption of energy coming into the town,” he said. “All I want is not to be taxed because I have (panels).”
Bartlett said it is not under his control to determine what is taxed.
“That exemption has never been adopted in the town of Goffstown, therefore, as the town assessor, I am obligated to assessment,” Bartlett said, adding the town has been assessing solar panels since at least 1998, but that Beaudoin’s panels were the largest so far.
Bartlett also said he sent a letter to Beaudoin in September 2013 informing him of the taxes on the panels, but that Beaudoin claimed he never received a letter.
“Also, at the same time, I gave them information how it could be exempted,” Bartlett said. “But I didn’t get a response until after the first tax bill was sent (in June of this year).”
Bartlett also said that “the town is not in the business of producing energy” and that excess energy from Beaudoin’s panels could potentially be sold to the grid owned by Public Service of New Hampshire.
Bartlett said the exemption would take effect for the 2015 tax year if adopted at next year’s town meeting.
“Because of the cost effectiveness, (solar panel installation) is becoming more prevalent ... in New Hampshire,” he said. “I do expect that the original assessment … will be reduced,” adding that he won’t have an exact figure until the Board of Selectmen sign off after his Sept. 1 deadline.