On Thursday, May 4, 2017, the legislature enrolled a bill for the governor’s signature regarding renewable energy devices, such as solar panels, exempting 80% of their taxable value from county ad valorem taxation.[1] Florida law already provides a 100% exemption for residential solar installations. This bill, however, addresses non-residential solar installations, such as commercial rooftop installations and utility-scale solar farms.

The bill is commonly referred to as Amendment 4 because Amendment 4 was the constitutional referendum that voters approved in August 2016 by a margin of 73%, granting the Legislature the authority to amend the state constitution to implement the tax exemption.[2]

Who owns the solar equipment determines its characterization as either real property or tangible personal property.[3] Either way, it is subject to the same 80% exemption.

Amendment 4 takes effect on January 1, 2018. From that date until December 31, 2037, 80% of the value of a solar installation will be excluded from real property tax if the landowner owns the solar equipment, and likewise 80% will be exempted from tangible personal property tax if, instead, the solar developer, as a lessee on the property, owns the solar equipment.

Projects that Do Not Qualify

Projects under development in fiscally constrained counties and that file applications for comprehensive plan amendments or planned unit development (“PUD”) zoning in those counties on or before December 31, 2017, will not be eligible for the exemption.[4] Shumaker advises clients on prudent courses of action to ensure eligibility for the tax exemption in these counties.

Amendment 4: Topic at Solar Power Southeast

Florida’s utility-scale solar market will continue to enjoy the current surge in activity with the implementation of Amendment 4, together with continued federal tax investment incentives in terms of the Investment Tax Credit and bonus depreciation. Chris Delp will speak at Solar Power Southeast in Atlanta, Georgia, on May 11, 2017, on this and other factors underlying the increase in municipally owned utility power purchases and investor-owned utility solar roll-outs in the Sunshine State.

Informing Florida Lawyers on Amendment 4

On Wednesday, May 3, 2017, Chris Delp and Tim Hughes presented on Amendment 4’s implications on utility-scale solar development in a continuing legal education seminar for the Environmental and Land Use Law Section of the Florida Bar.

Chris Delp and Tim Hughes are attorneys in the Solar Industry Practice Group at Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, LLP, where they monitor regulatory developments and market trends and provide experienced counsel and representation in the development, financing, and construction of solar power systems.