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Amendment 4: Businesses investing in solar could get tax break

By Staff | Aug 12, 2016

If a constitutional amendment on the Aug. 30 ballot is approved by Florida voters, companies investing in renewable energy devices would receive a tax exemption, possibly encouraging the use of more renewable energy sources by businesses.

Amendment 4 would extend to businesses tax breaks already given to residential property owners for devices such as solar panels and wind turbines.

The amendment would allow, but not require, the state Legislature to pass laws exempting businesses from two taxes.

One would prohibit local governments from considering renewable energy devices when determining the value of real estate used for business purposes.

The other would exempt those devices from the state tax on a business’ “tangible personal property.” Things like computers and furniture are among business assets taxed by the state annually.

State Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-22) sponsored the effort to put the measure on the ballot. Florida for Solar, Brandes’ group, is overseeing the effort.

The statute defines a renewable energy source device as any equipment that collects, transmits, stores, or uses solar, wind, or any energy derived from geothermal deposits.

If passed, the amendment could also result in the purchase of more renewable energy source devices statewide, proponents say.

Sixty percent of the voters would need to approve the joint resolution for it to pass. Implementation would take effect on Jan. 1, 2018, and expire on Dec. 31, 2037.

The bill has been supported by numerous groups including the Nature Conservancy, Florida Retail Federation, Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, and the League of Women Voters of Florida.

Clara Anne Graham, president of the Lee County League of Women Voters, said one only needs to go to Miami and see the streets flooded with sea water on a dry day to see the impact of climate change.

“We believe in renewable energy and solar is one of them. Clean energy reduces climate change and we need to be very conscious of the sea level rising,” Graham said. “In Miami, there are already signs of it and they had a consortium there. We’re trying to get one here.”

Another local supporter is Fleamasters Flea Market, which has one of the largest arrays of solar panels in the state, installed four years ago.

Andrew Steele, Fleamasters owner, said he fully supports Amendment 4, as he couldn’t have installed them without some government incentives.

More would help.

“Who could spend $4 million dollars and have the county charge a tangible tax on top of it? The only ones against Amendment 4 are those stimulated by the power companies,” Steele said. “They contend solar panels interfere with their ability to make money and they want control over the power.”

Steele added the power company buys his power for 1.5 cents per kilowatt hour then charges a demand rate of $11.90 per kilowatt hour to the gas station next door.

Amendment 4 is not to be confused with a similar utility-backed proposal on the November ballot, Amendment 1. Under that proposal, local and state regulators would maintain control over solar energy.